Hot Chef: Edgar Alvarez is happy with the changes at Cantina Avenida

Edgar Alvarez of Cantina Avienda in Mt. Airy. Credit: Kim Alvarez Edgar Alvarez of Cantina Avenida in Mt. Airy.
Credit: Kim Alvarez

Nearly five years ago, husband and wife team Edgar and Kim Alvarez opened Avenida, a Latin restaurant in Mt. Airy. Earlier this year, after a brief closing, they reimagined the space and reopened it as Cantina Avenida. We spoke with Chef Edgar Alvarez about the rebranding, and got the details on his plans for Mt. Airy Brunch Session on July 12 and 13 — a weekend of prix fixe brunching throughout the neighborhood.

You recently reopened Avenida as Cantina Avenida. Why the change?
When we opened Avenida we were very excited to have a Latin restaurant in the area. And that worked for four and a half years. People started looking for something that was more fun and more casual. No need for ties! Most of the time change is for the good. This time it was for the great.

Your wife is also a chef. Do you guys work well together in the kitchen, or butt heads?
We work very well at putting ideas together.

You guys moved out of the city after having kids, right?
We bought a house in Havertown and had another business. We decided to open a restaurant, but didn’t want to go back downtown because of the commute and the competition. We wanted to do something different, and in a place that needed it.

What will your menu be for the Mt. Airy brunch session?
I’ll make a small menu: $16 a person with two courses. And I’ll have something for the kids, like challah French toast, but I mix it up with a little Mexican chocolate. There’ll be salads, huevos rancheros, taco fritz — stuff that people love.

The building you’re in was built in the 1700s, and there are rumors that it’s haunted. What do you think?
Oh, you heard about the little girl! She likes to make a lot of noises, but it’s all fun. Sometimes when we close, we stick around to do inventory and she turns the music off on us. Usually right around midnight. You can ask any employee. It’s like she’s telling us to go home. After five years you get used to it.