The Latin American “French Dip” Sandwich at Pura Vida

Located in a residential block of Northern Liberties, Pura Vida humbly brings latin cooking to the neighborhood.  The menu appears slightly Mexican, but more inclusive than that, with Guatemalan tamales for appetizers and vegetarian chorizo. Pura Vida, after all, is the Costa Rican slogan for a super chill lifestyle. Going along with that, the funky decor inside this small, corner BYOB includes Christmas lights and a raffia umbrella.

Cold lemonade while we waited for our hot food.

The first bites was promising, a summery appetizer of alternating payers of fried cheese and grilled zucchini with a spicy sauce. I would have liked a little more of it for $7.

The shredded beef sandwich, “ilachitas”, caught my attention. The tender, moist meat shreds come with a potent garlic spread and a cup of horseradish and beef juice for extra flavor. With the addition of American cheese the large sandwich comes out to $8. This is like the Latin American version of the French Dip, and it is awesome.

Tacos are $7 for 3 and come with American style toppings- lettuce, sour cream and shredded cheese. I tried the chorizo, spicy and charred, and the steak, which came as medium-well done slices. The shredded beef that came in the sandwich is also available as a taco filling. You won’t go wrong with either (or a mix of all) of the 3.

I was glad I ventured a bit north of Center City to test out this cozy spot. On a scale of El Vez to Jose’s Tacos, Pura Vida falls comfortably in between in terms of fanciness, making it accessible to a wide audience. The chef need only add some more desserts to the menu to get additional praises sung from me.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • Tasty meat in sandwich and taco form

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • Limited dessert menu (no flan!)

Pura Vida, 527 Fairmount Ave (@ N 6th St), 215 922-6433



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