Story by: Michael Outlaw, Community Liaison, City of Erie | Photos by: Monica Z. Gustin, Digital Media and Design Specialist, City of Erie
The moment you open the doors of Erie’s Flagship City Food Hall, you will be greeted with the subtle, authentic culinary aromas of the Dominican Republic: Pollo guisado (stewed chicken), cerdo guisado (stewed pork), and carne de res guisado (stewed beef). All of these are great when paired with rice and beans, or green pigeon peas.
For those with a sweet tooth, make sure to try the flan carmel custard cake, dulce de coco (coconut candy), or arroz con leche (rice pudding). These Dominican delicacies all can be experienced at Dina’s Authentic Dominican Kitchen.
“If anyone asks where to eat,” said owner Dina Csir, “Just say, ‘Vamos Donde Dina’s.’”
Dina Csir, 32, was born and raised in Hato Mayor Del Rey, Dominican Republic. She met her husband John while he was on a missionary trip there in 2012. They married in her hometown in 2013, and eventually moved to Erie, where John is from, to start their business and raise their three children. “Erie is where we have chosen to call home,” said John.
Dina said her passion for cooking traditional dishes came from watching her madre (mother) and abuelita (grandmother). As a child, she remembers family, friends, and neighbors gathering around the kitchen table to eat; even strangers felt like family.
But now, as a small business owner, resources are limited. Thanks to a $2,500 American Rescue Plan (ARP) grant from the City of Erie, Dina was able to purchase necessary kitchen equipment, including calderos, which are the type of pot used to cook most of Dina’s authentic Dominican food.
The Csirs also used the ARP funds to broaden their market outreach through billboards, social media, and online advertising. Dina said that outreach helped to draw travelers to Erie from cities like Buffalo, and as far away as the West Coast.
Dina and John are thankful for the community’s continued support and their customer’s love for authentic Dominican food.
Dina’s restaurant journey hasn’t always been easy, but she has persevered.
“If you have a dream,” she said, “Work hard, and go for it.”