PORT ORANGE – Situated behind a gas station on Ridgewood Avenue, the new La Diva Mexican Kitchen’s goal is to offer one of the freshest Mexican food options in the area.
Chef and owner Jennifer Ruiz Santiago opened La Diva in mid-August after working at the same location at 3790 Ridgewood Ave. with other partners under another name, MexiGo Mexican Grill.
At La Diva, Santiago cooks everything fresh from scratch.
“I make everything to order,” Santiago said. “If you get a taco salad or soft corn tortillas, your shell is going to be made to order. If you get a chimichanga, it’s not getting pulled out of a freezer, it’s literally hand rolled and made to order.”
The menu offers several breakfast and lunch/dinner options.
For breakfast, customers can order a Breakfast Burrito with scrambled eggs and other toppings for $5.99. Or, one can order Chilaquiles, which are tortilla chips tossed in red or green salsa, cojita cheese and topped with over medium eggs, with a choice of beans and rice or Tater Tots for $6.99.
For lunch, customers can order a 2, 3 or 4-taco combos, as well as a 2-burrito combo from $7.99 to $9.99.
The menu also offers salads, quesadillas, nachos, flautas, and even hot dogs. Every item on the menu ranges from $1.99 to $9.99.
La Diva’s tacos are ‘different from anywhere else’
Santiago said the fried flour and soft corn tacos have been popular with customers so far “because they are different from anywhere else.” Another of her best-selling items are the chimichangas.
Brandon Roy said he has been to La Diva three times since it opened.
“My go-to each time I go is the Fried Flour Chicken Taco (American Style) combo with rice and beans,” Roy said. “The ingredients used always taste fresh and the meat is always seasoned and cooked to perfection.”
Roy said he hopes La Diva is “here to stay.”
“Small businesses like this deserve definitely deserve the recognition during these hard times.”
Santiago has been in the restaurant business for almost 20 years, “cooking, serving, bar tending, busing tables, everything,” she said. As a cook, she has worked with several types of cuisine, such as Italian, Japanese and Chinese.
“The support (from customers) has been great because a lot of people knew me from MexiGo,” she said, adding that Facebook “foodie” groups have “helped tremendously” keeping the new business on the radar as it came close to opening on Aug. 18.
“My vision has always been to make food that’s reasonable for people and made from scratch,” she said. “There’s not a lot of Mexican restaurants that make stuff from scratch — they premake everything, buy it frozen. I don’t do that.”
Santiago and her husband own a home in Mexico, where she learned how food from that country should really taste.
“Now that I have been there for different spans of time and tried that food, it’s so different from the Mexican food that they serve here in the United States,” she said. “So I really wanted to do something that incorporated that real traditional, homemade Mexican food that we get when we go down to visit.”
La Diva’s operation is largely a take-out business for now, although there are a few outdoor tables.
“This location is a good start because it’s so expensive to start a restaurant,” Santiago said. “The only downside (to the location) is not having better seating.” She plans to redo some of the outdoor area to make it more comfortable for patrons.
Santiago said that she also plans to have a food truck in the future to take advantage of the busy event calendar in the Daytona Beach area.
Ultimately, she hopes to eventually use her culinary skills to open a larger fine-dining Mexican restaurant.
If you go
WHAT: La Diva Mexican Kitchen
WHERE: 3790 S Ridgewood Ave., Port Orange
HOURS: Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
INFO: (386) 238-9509, www.facebook.com/LaDivaMexicanKitchen