Hector Santiago opened in April of 2001. Santiago was working at different restaurants in town and on a trip to the Highlands one day decided that the neighborhood would be a great place to open a Latin American restaurant. Instead he opened three.
Pura Vida is actually three concepts in one. Pura Vida itself is a tapas restaurant. Super Pan takes over the lunch aspect, making sandwiches during the week. Burro Pollo picks up on the weekends as a burrito stand. All three of the restaurants operate out of the same building.
Patch: What are some of your most popular dishes?
Hector: At Pura Vida, the tuna poke, porque no? is very popular. It's a tuna with coffee and sour oranges. It has the flavors of the mountains of Puerto Rico. It's inspired from when I was in Puerto Rico. A friend of mine actually took a tuna and seared it with coffee grounds on the outside. I took that experience and brought it here.
Patch: What is the atmosphere you have tried to create for your restaurant?
Hector: For the dining rooms we have good service and good food with a nice presentation on the plate. It's the attention to details. At the bar, we want a similar atmosphere but more down to earth. A place where you can wear shorts for example. Right now we are really trying to separate our bar from our dining room.
Patch: What makes Pura Vida unique?
Hector: I really want to push all Latin American products from food to drinks to the actual spirits themselves. Even the people that work here are mostly latino. I want to put a foot forward for my culture as a whole. I can also get really great, local products. They're going to be the freshest and it's what we have become attached to here. It's very personal to me and the attention to details is very important.
Patch: What is something guests may not realize on their first visit to Pura Vida?
Hector: That we have parking across the street. It's a plus because parking is so tight in the Highlands. That's one thing that a lot of people miss. Also that we have a multiple personality restaurant. At night we have Pura Vida, at lunch we have Super Pan and also Burro Pollo on the weekends.
Located at 565 N. Highland Ave., Pura Vida is open Monday through Friday from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 5:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. Super Pan is open Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Burro Pollo is open Saturdays from noon until 3 p.m.