“We’re busy, we’re staying as busy as we possibly can.”
Lynda and Tomas Prado have only lived in Charleston since March of last year, but the culinary couple has already brought their Cuban American concept, Spanglish, to downtown, West Ashley, Mt. Pleasant, and beyond. And soon, you’ll be able to devour their meaty cheesy crispy sammies on Spring Street, with Caribbean inspired cocktails to wash it all down.
The Prados will be providing the food for Dalila’s, a Caribbean-inspired cocktail bar and lounge set to open in the old Crooked Crown space by (hopefully) the end of January.
The brains behind Dalila’s are two L.A. transplants, Michael Whiteley and Timur Dmitriyev. Whiteley, who got his start bartending in southern California at Umami Burger, says that he and Dmitriyev have had their sights set on Charleston “for some time.” Belarus-born Dmitriyev, who cut his teeth at Hatchet Hall and The Chestnut Club in California, spotted the posting for the Crooked Crown space online. The two, noting how Spring was a “gateway to the great scene on Upper King,” jumped on the spot.
[embed-2] Whiteley says that the aesthetic of Dalila’s will be “reminiscent of the cafes and lounges of the Spanish Caribbean in the ’50s. We want the place to have a naturally lit and elegant feel to it, with floral wall paper, lush greenery, and beautiful brass antiques adorning the walls.”
So how did the itinerant, hustling Prados team up with this spirit-forward West Coast duo? Tomas says Michael Shemtov, their old boss over at Workshop where they got their start locally, reached out to them after Whiteley and Dmitriyev approached Shemtov seeking Cuban food. “We hit it off,” says Tomas. “They had sandwiches at our pop-ups, they said we’re the sandwich they want.”
Lynda says she’s excited to see Dalila’s take off, especially because she knows the guys are going to be thoughtful about their food and drink pairings. This won’t be greasy, thrown together bar food playing second fiddle to carefully crafted cocktails — Lynda and Tomas will be in the bar/restaurant training staff on how to cook real deal Cuban American food as soon as Dalila’s opens.
“The space is really small, they wanted us to provide a couple sandwiches, a couple snacks that they could execute themselves,” says Tomas. “We’ll be there initially to provide them with support and to be sure the consistency is the same,” adds Lynda. “Whether you have our Cuban with us or with them, it’s the same quality product. We want always for there to be consistency.”
Whiteley says they already have a drink in mind to pair with Spanglish’s famed Cuban. “We want to keep the menu balanced and intriguing,” says Whiteley. “One example would be the Manu Park Swizzle, made with mango infused Pisco, green chartreuse, orgeat, fresh pressed pineapple, lemon juice, and mint. The bright acidity and herbaceous notes will be perfectly balanced with the savory smoke from the pork in Tomas and Lynda’s classic Cuban Sandwich.”
[image-3] Whiteley also says they’ll carry the Elvis in Miami sandwich, made with peanut butter, bacon, and sweet plantains on medianoche bread. Order with it the Union Road, a “spirit-forward” old fashioned-style cocktail made with bourbon, pimento dram, banana, falernum, and absinthe. “The slightly bitter spice from the pimento and falernum balance out the natural sweetness from the bourbon and banana,” says Whiteley.
Whiteley says they’re “confident that we will be open by the end of January, with the 23rd being our goal.” They’ll be open from 2 p.m. til midnight daily, with plans to stay open until 2 a.m. depending on how much of a late night crowd they draw. The Prados are hustling until then, with a pop-up each Friday night in January at Daps, a couple of events at Collective Coffee in Mt. Pleasant as well as at Palmetto Brewing Co.
“It’s been a lot of heavy lifting, not only the physical but the mental — but it’s worth it,” says Lynda. “At Workshop, Tomas was there seven days a week … between the last week of October until now, we feel like we’re really getting to know people and meet people and interact with everyone in the food and beverage community.” Providing the food at Dalila’s is one step closer to the Spanglish brick and mortar the couple says, “we’re working really hard for that.”