Mexican Flavors / Simply Divine
Yeslin Kimball, owner of La Divina
Photos by Stephen Gabris
“Our mission is to provide something that is inexpensive and fresh, the quality is there all the time, no matter if you come in the morning or the evening or the afternoon. It’s just simple.”
2896 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo
La Divina Dos
4125 Transit Road, Williamsville
La Divina is based on traditional mom and pop Mexican taquerias, serving scratch made tacos and burritos. Food is simple and prices are low, reflecting Mexican street food.
Recommended: Barbacoa: $2.75, Lengua: $4, Asada : $2.75, Tripa: $4
What started off as a Mexican grocery store selling tacos on the side has morphed into one of Buffalo’s first and best-known taquerias. La Divina opened in May 2015 and has been earning praise ever since from the taco-starved masses, including local food writers, students, and anyone making the trip to the Kenmore storefront to fill up on authentic Mexican fare. In fact, La Divina’s popularity has grown so much that another location, La Divina Dos, has opened on Transit Road. The second location does not feature a grocery store, but it does have a full-service bar, which is a more than acceptable tradeoff. The concept is the same, order your choice of taco (or quesadilla, nachos, etc.), add sauces and garnishes at the toppings bar, including salsas, sauces, chopped cilantro, and limes, and tuck in.
Owner Yasmine Kimball sat down with Spree to talk about how La Divina got started and where it’s going.
La Divina Dos
You have this location in Kenmore and recently opened another store on Transit.
We did. We have a lot of customers who drive all the way here from Clarence and Williamsville. The only difference with that location is that it has a full bar. Other than that, it’s the same concept. You come in, you order your food, we call out your number, and you sit down and eat it, and then you go.
Is there a store there, too?
No. With that, we traded the store for the bar. We do sell some sweets and things like that. We don’t have the products that I have here.
La Divina Dos features a full-service bar: (top clockwise) specialty drinks Jamaica, Horchata, and Tamarindo; La Davina’s homemade house Margarita; Horchata–rice milk, cinnamon, and sugar (add coconut rum and pink sugar on rim to make La Mañanita)
Are you from Mexico?
Actually, I’m from Venezuela. But my husband is from Mexico. That’s how I fell in love—I always loved Mexican food. It is such a friendly scene and such a friendly food. I don’t think you can say you know someone who doesn’t like tacos, you know? Even if it’s the tacos you make at your house yourself or tacos you go to a restaurant to eat.
When we decided to open this place, there weren’t that many Mexican restaurants—they were more full-service restaurants. And then you had Mighty Taco and Taco Bell. But there was not really a taqueria. [My husband] Sergio and I said, why don’t we offer a concept that is more of an authentic concept, because, if you go to Mexico, you find these little stores. And they sell the tacos in the back. Let’s do the same thing. Let’s find a location. Our idea was a Mexican grocery store and to have the tacos on the side. Actually this whole place had stands like this full of groceries.
And we had a full cooler full of drinks and stuff and everything. But then, all of a sudden, the tacos started booming. People were actually calling trying to make reservations because, at that time, we had a little white stand and a few chairs there, and I think we had the one in the window. “Can I reserve a chair, please? I want to come in and eat.” Being in this business, pleasing our customers is all that I care about. So, I said, “You know what? Let’s go ahead and move the groceries to the back.”
There are nights when you come and you find this table and that table together and it’s a long table with a whole family coming in to enjoy a taco.
What are you hoping to achieve with your restaurants?
Our mission is to provide something that is inexpensive and fresh, the quality is there all the time, no matter if you come in the morning or the evening or the afternoon. It’s just simple. Sometimes simple is much better than something you try to dress up too much. It’s just like a woman; when you put too much make up on, you kind of lose your beauty. I think something simple is more important.
If you go to Mexico—I’ve been in Acapulco, I’ve been in Mexico City many times—and you go to these street taquerias. You walk down the street and they have a little thing like the hot dog stands here. They have little place like that that’s just tacos. Or when you go to the open mercado to buy your vegetables, there’s a lot of taco stands. That’s what they do. Pretty much, they give you just a tortilla and meat, and then they may have a salsa or two and that’s it. That’s all you need.
Where did the recipes come from? Did you create them yourselves?
Yes, we did. It was a process. It was trial and error. We have Jessica and we have Antonio from Mexico. They are from different parts of Mexico. The beef, al pastor, they make it a little bit different in each location, pueblo, or place. We put it all together and made them. We made them again. We finally came up with this version and it’s delicious. We did it with all the recipes. It was a good month of trying different recipes. You know, let’s try to make it how they make it in Jalisco, let’s try to make how they make it in Guadalajara, let’s try to combine those two together… They’re all unique.
Were you surprised by the response?
I always knew people were passionate here, and very family oriented, which is nice. We’re happy to be here and happy to be able to provide to our Buffalo people what they want. It’s just amazing the amount of Mexican restaurants that are coming up.
For someone who hasn’t been here before, what do you recommend they order starting out?
On our menu you’ll find some exotic tacos that people may not see everywhere. We do have your ground beef taco, but we also have the lengua, the beef tongue, and tripa, which is the gut.
The asada tacos and the barbacoa tacos are very, very good. If they want to step it up a little bit and go out of their comfort zone, try the lengua taco. It’s a very tender, soft meat. I can see how for somebody who had never tried something like that before, they can get taken aback by it. The texture of the tripa is unique. The lengua is a very friendly taco. It’s like cooking a steak to a point where it’s melting in your mouth like butter. If you get to the point where you’re ready to try something different, try the lengua. You’ll be fine.