Authentic Cuban cuisine, made with love10/7/2015
When Tanya Suarez Tigner opened Ceviche Bar in mid-September, she didn’t expect people to be knocking on her locked door when she closed down the restaurant between lunch and dinner. But within a week of opening, that’s exactly what she got.
I stopped into Ceviche one Wednesday at the end of the lunch service and watched as Tigner unlocked the door for customers who stopped by the new restaurant on Walnut Street. Instead of asking them to come back for the dinner shift, she happily invited them in and took their order.
Ceviche is — first and foremost — a family endeavor. Tignor’s family is Cuban, and she grew up with the authentic recipes that now shape the menu for her restaurant.
“I always felt like there is a need for an authentic Cuban restaurant (in Des Moines),” said Tignor. “There are a lot of places that offer a Cuban sandwich, but it’s really confusing to me — (because) I’m Cuban — to see peppers on it or to see it on focaccia bread. So I’ve always wanted to do an authentic Cuban sandwich on Cuban bread with the original ingredients.”
The restaurant came to life after Tignor’s father passed away in February. Tignor and her mom, Maria, both work at Ceviche, keeping the family’s traditional recipes alive and sharing them with the rest of the metro.
“Everything’s made with a lot of love,” Tignor said with a smile.
And that includes the cocktails, which were added to the menu about a week after Ceviche’s doors opened. The bar is manned by Eric MdDuff, and it specializes in Cuban cocktails like the Cuba Libre, mojitos, El Presidente, Havana Loco and Cuban Bloody Marys, which include an optional scoop of ceviche.
The restaurant’s namesake, ceviche, is a Latin American seafood dish that’s not found at many local places. Tignor says ceviche is her specialty — although it’s hard to believe anything could beat her classic Cuban sandwich. She uses shrimp and tilapia that are “cooked” without heat and instead marinated in juices of lemon and lime. She then adds onion, cilantro and fresh avocado and serves it in a martini glass.
“You can’t find ceviche at many places,” she said. “It’s really good — it’s really fresh, and it’s a healthy option, too.”
Tignor said she fell in love with the exposed brick and wood floors of the space, and it does suit the Latin American theme perfectly. The small restaurant seats about 30, and the walls are filled with an art collection by local artist Keelia Paulsen.
“(Paulsen) has come up with a series of art just for Ceviche; it’s called ‘Latin Beat,’ and all of the pieces are for sale,” explained Tignor. “The art is really beautiful. It really speaks to our concept.”
Ceviche has already established itself as a favorite among locals, garnering nothing but five-star reviews on its Facebook page and customers who feel as though they are family before their first meal is finished.
Tignor also sells a variety of cigars, although smoking is not allowed inside the restaurant. She will host cigar and other Cuban-themed events, along with live music on weekends in the future. CV
223 E. Walnut St., 770-9795
Mon. – Thurs. 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., 5-9 p.m.
Fri. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., 5-10 p.m.