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La Vecina ghost kitchen returns February 7th; in-person dining planned for spring

Newport Restaurant Group’s La Vecina, which began as an authentic Mexican pop-up restaurant from Bar ‘Cino’s Executive Chef Mariana Gonzalez-Trasvina, will return as a ‘ghost kitchen’ at Bar ‘Cino on Monday, February 7th, in advance of its brick-and-mortar opening this spring.

Starting Monday, takeout and delivery will be available daily from 4 pm to 9 pm. 

In case you’re wondering what a ghost kitchen is, it’s much less spooky than it sounds. Sometimes called a cloud kitchen or virtual kitchen, it’s defined as a professional food preparation and cooking space set up to create meals solely for take-out/delivery. Often, as in La Vecina’s case, the ghost kitchen exists within an already established restaurant. 

Ghost kitchens have grown in popularity nationwide as an innovative way to save costs and meet high demand for delivery food during the pandemic era. Locally, another example of a ghost kitchen was Green Dragon, a weekend concept that existed inside Midtown Oyster Bar until early 2021.

La Vecina, however, will only exist as a ghost kitchen inside Bar ‘Cino temporarily and will get its own dedicated kitchen when it opens for in-person dining this spring. Shawn Westhoven, Newport Restaurant Group’s Beverage Director who’s led the vision behind many of the company’s restaurant concepts including La Vecina, said the new taqueria will be able to seat up to 40 people.

“While we put the finishing touches on La Vecina’s brick-and-mortar location, we’re excited to bring back Chef Mariana’s hand-crafted Mexican street food through a ghost kitchen until we open our doors this spring,” Westhoven said.

What’s Up Newp had a chance to chat with Westhoven at La Vecina’s new space next door to Bar ‘Cino and get an exclusive sneak peek inside, including a first look at the vibrantly colored murals by artist Sam Malpass of Badway Creative.

A first look at the vibrantly colored murals by artist Sam Malpass of Badway Creative. Photo Credit: Sarah McClutchy
Photo of mural inside La Vecine Taqueria. Photo Credit: Sarah McClutchy

Westhoven said he also worked with Tracey Moore of Moore Stylish Spaces to help with other details of the space such as stools, tiles, and colors.

Tracey Moore of Moore Stylish Spaces helped design the interior. Photo Credit: Sarah McClutchy

In addition to the eye-catching artwork, another aspect of La Vecina —  which means “the neighbor next door” or “the girl next door” —  that will set it apart from other eateries is its tech. 

Westhoven explained that you’ll be able to walk into the restaurant, seat yourself, and place your order on your smartphone through a table card QR code. Your food will be delivered to your table directly from the kitchen, and you’ll have the ability to pay your bill as a group or individually, all through your phone on La Vecina’s website. If by chance, no tables are available when you arrive, you’ll have the ability to scan a QR code to add yourself to a waitlist and receive a text when seating becomes available.

As for La Vecina’s menu, expect to see more of the hit Mexican street tacos crafted by Chef Gonzalez-Trasvina, a Mexico City native, that honor her family’s generational recipes: Pollo a la Salsa Verde, Spicy Marinated Shrimp, Pastor Pork, Braised Short Rib, and Street Corn Style Squash & Mushrooms served in hand-made blue corn tortillas. As a bonus, the authentic Mexican fare is also friendly to people with special dietary needs and plant-based eaters.

“All tacos are gluten-free,” Westhoven said. “The squash and mushrooms taco is vegetarian and with the omission of cotija cheese, can be made vegan.”

Photo Credit: Erin McGinn

For a sweet tooth, the dessert menu features enticing indulgences like Tres Leches: vanilla sponge cake, three milks, cinnamon, and whipped cream and Mexican Spiced Hot Chocolate Torte with dulce de leche and whipped cream. 

At the bar, where the bartender is equipped to handle cash, you can expect to find some interesting and unusual tequilas and mezcals alongside spirits sourced from local distillers like The Industrious Spirits Company and Rhode Island Spirits.

The bar at La Vecina Taqueria. Photo Credit: Sarah McClutchy

Westhoven estimates it will be at least a month before in-person dining begins at La Vecina, but in the meantime, you can enjoy take-out and delivery starting Monday.

More of What’sUpNewp’s reporting on La Vecina

Feb. 5, 2021 – La Vecina to continue at Bar ‘Cino, will offer take-out and delivery

Jan. 12, 2021 – La Vecina Taqueria popping up at Bar ‘Cino Jan. 18 – 31