Closed Tuesdays. Open Wed - Monday, 11 AM - 2 AM
(609) 393-5900 Website Google Maps
Gravitas: Decor: Cost: Proximity:
(Covid Update Dec 2021 – in business) Central American immigration is one of the big reasons that Trenton is now reviving. Chambersburg, which used to be predominantly Italian, is now decidedly Latino.
Sabor Latino is a friendly Dominican bar and restaurant located on the eastern fringes of the ‘Burg.
I’m not at all familiar with Dominican food, but judging from the menu, it tends more towards stews and soups than the grilled items I associate with Guatemalan cooking; or the various, creative packaging (tacos, burritos, tostadas, etc.) that characterizes Mexican cuisine. That said, it’s all here: as its menu points out in Spanish, it “also serves the cuisine of Guatemala and Costa Rica” and Mexican items show up on the menu under the piquant heading of “International Dishes” along with a single, lonely Italian offering of Fettuccine Alfredo.
I was lucky enough to visit the restaurant for the first time with a group of 4 people, and we sampled a range of dishes, including chicken stew, a fish stew, Carne Adobada (which is a Guatemalan marinated and grilled pork dish), and chicken fajitas.
First, a pet peeve. A basket of chips and salsa were brought to the table. The chips were homemade, and reasonably fresh. The salsa was out of a jar. The best Latino restaurants in town make their own salsas in-house and some, like Restaurante El Mariachi’s, are fantastic. Since I love spicy food, I generally slather it on my entree, not just dip it. So, for me, the quality of the salsa is a big deal and jarred salsa is deeply disappointing. On the other hand, the guacamole we ordered was fabulous: freshly made, lemony, and seasoned with cilantro.
We liked 3 of the 4 entrees we sampled, the only exception being the fish stew which tasted overly fishy and might have been freezer burned. All entrees came with rice and nicely flavored red beans, and a fresh salad with tomato and avocado. Portions were not enormous, but ample. Prices were slightly on the high side for Trenton Latino joints ($10/platter instead of the $8 or $9 you might find elsewhere) but incredibly reasonable by ROWOT* standards.
The service was friendly and helpful, and spoke reasonably fluent English (which isn’t always the case in Trenton Latino restaurants). It included the owner, who stopped by our table several times, and brought us a sample of roast pork with fried plantains (which was good, though it was missing the au jus which might have accompanied a full dish and would have made it superb). It’s clear they get very few anglos at Sabor Latino, and the owner wanted to be sure we were happy and passed out menus and business cards on our way out. She probably suspected something was up as we photographed all the food, but certainly didn’t know we were from HiddenTrenton, as we never introduce ourselves on the first visit.
Why go to Sabor Latino, which is another restaurant in a pretty crowded field? First, its Dominican/Costa Rican focus is a little different from the Guatemalan/El Salvadoran/Mexican focus of most restaurants in Trenton. If you eat Latino food often, it’s nice to have a little variety. Second, it’s open very late (we’ll try to find out when the kitchen closes. I would venture it’s before 2 AM, but later than most places around). Third, if you want to eat in a bar atmosphere. We came at lunch time, and the place was mostly empty. But at night, I suspect this place jumps.
Note, however, that this place is by any definition a “dive”. Be prepared for a cross-cultural experience!
*ROWOT – Rest of World Outside of Trenton. Trenton is a little anti-inflationary bubble located in the heart of Mercer County.