The Pan American Reawakens in Nolita
The Pan American is back: after a fire two floors above shuttered the new Nolita hotspot in the spring, the team that made Spanglish-speaking sparks has come back for round two. The bones are the same: a chic space that encourages playful cuisine, owners with enough heart for all the geographic regions they aim to represent, and a dynamite menu with flavors North and South of the border. But much is new: The Pan American is wearing this season’s flavors—quite literally modernizing and polishing itself by serving honest, locally-sourced ingredients.
“To us, it makes sense,” says co-owner Fernando Riquelme, who opened the Latin/American spot after making his name as a founder at Agua Dulce and as General Manager of Rosa Mexicana. “Our Cuban family members and the rest of the Latin world are just as American as the citizens of the United States,” he says, exploring that age-old pet peeve of South and Central Americans. It’s with that mindset that Riquelme set out to execute a concept he’d dreamed up ages ago: an American eatery through Latin eyes. And while The Pan American’s playful vision of incorporating the flavors of both Americas (North and South) is large in its scope, its latest iteration is sharp and successful, refined and with a dash of wit, resulting in a must-try experience that begs diners to return again and again. The uniqueness of The Pan American’s concept is evident before a single dish is served: its bright colors are eye-catching from across the street, with shades of lime green, yellow, and turquoise outfitting the retro-meets-tropical dining room. Between an accent wall the texture of giant candy buttons and 50’s-inspired, diner-style chairs upholstered in tropical hues, the Welly Lai designed space is a clear hybrid of American and Latin vibes; so too is the music overhead, which alternates swiftly between salsa and classic rock. It all comes together to create an upbeat ambiance that keeps diners effortlessly engaged and entertained.