Beloved Jamaica Plain restaurant El Oriental de Cuba has shuttered its doors after nearly 30 years of business.
The restaurant, located at 416 Centre St., opened in 1994 and became both a neighborhood gathering place and spot to enjoy renowned Cuban food. El Oriental de Cuba also received countless recognitions over the years, including one of the city's inaugural Legacy Business Awards.
After owner Nobel Garcia died in 2021, his daughters Yvonne Torres and Lissette Garcia took over the business. In August, they came to the decision they were not able to keep the business open. The pair shared a statement to El Mundo Boston about the closure of the restaurant.
“We would like to begin by thanking our dedicated employees for all their wonderful years of service and their loyalty. We would never have done it without you,” the sisters told El Mundo Boston. “... While this decision was difficult, we owe it to the community to step aside and make way for an amazing new restaurant that will continue to contribute to the vibrancy of Jamaica Plain and Boston.”
Abuela’s Table, a Mexican restaurant, will soon be taking El Oriental de Cuba’s place. Owner Adolfo Alvarado is also the owner and executive chef of Somerville’s Tu y To restaurant.
Celina Miranda, executive director of the Hyde Square Task Force, said in an upcoming episode of GBH's Basic Black that El Oriental de Cuba was truly an institutional gathering place. She said elders would gather there every morning to have their cafecito, and community members would have meetings at the restaurant.
“You think about the importance of place and what this has meant for the community for over 40 years. ... Yes, there are other restaurants, but no, not another one like El Oriental,” Miranda said.
She said often, with small businesses run by the Latino community, they are so busy trying to survive and thrive that owners don't think about who they will pass along their business to.
“What happens when that founder — that person who dedicated their whole life to making that business work — is no longer around? And that's the story of El Oriental, unfortunately, you know, the family could not keep the business going,” she said. “So it's a huge loss for us.”
Jeffrey Sánchez, a former state representative from Jamaica Plain, said he started going to El Oriental de Cuba as a child and fondly remembers feeling happy to bring his own children there. He said the closing signals “the end of an era.”
“[Garcia] created this incredible environment,” Sánchez said. “And it's a sad day to see that the doors are closed and that institution is closed. But at the same time, it just tells you how this community of Jamaica Plain has changed. You know, it's a different time.”
“I'm hopeful that some of the traditions that Nobel established in that physical location will carry on,” he continued. “But make no mistake about it, Jamaica Plain, it's not the same place that we grew up in the '70s, '80s and '90s, a very different place.”