BY VINCE REMBULAT

VINCE REMBULAT/209 Business Journal
Masa Latina owner Arturo Zarate and restaurant manager Isis Alfaro.

Masa Latina is not another taqueria.

Rather, this new Latin American restaurant in Manteca offers up dishes closely related to that of the familiar Mexican fare.

Take guasacaca, which is a Venezuelan avocado sauce akin to guacamole.

Along those lines, Masa Latina doesn’t have chips and salsa on the tables of this refurbished building with an interior consisting of a backroom that can double up as extra dining space and catered banquet space for special or private events.

“What we have is comfort food from Latin America made with fresh masa,” said owner Arturo Zarate.

Masa is made from ground corn soaked in a lime and water solution.

Masa Latina is in a familiar free-standing lot at 1800 W. Yosemite Ave., directly across from Kaiser Permanente Manteca Medical Center. There’s been a number of businesses at the place from over the years. Zarate, who is from Tracy, spent over a year with the remodel. “We gutted, tore down, and rebuilt the inside of this building,” he said.

Zarate also saw plenty of potential.

“I like the place and I like the location,” he said.

Newly placed sliding wooden doors allow for the separate dining areas in the back room – both have a seating capacity of over 100. An empty patio in what used to be part of the parking lot is now gated for outdoor dining that’s part of the future plans.

The front room consists of dining and a bar – Zarate is in the process of waiting for his liquor license for the latter.

The plans call for a full bar with beers on tap featuring some of the local microbrews. From there, he’s also looking to extend his business hours past the current 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays; and 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays.

Zarate is also the owner of Mile Wine Co., a neighborhood establishment on Stockton’s Miracle Mile. He took over the place at 2113 Pacific Ave. in November 2017 at about the same time he purchased the Masa Latina.

Masa Latina is also a family restaurant with Latin American décor using the work from local artists.

He had a soft opening, bringing in curious customers who spread the word on the new business via word of mouth or social media (Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, etc.) during the past month.

“The food is very fresh and presented well in its plates – everything was fresh and pretty good-sized portions,” said one Yelper post.

Masa Latina offers up papusa – an El Salvadoran street food – a thick, griddled corn cake with a savory filling.

Empanadas, arepas and puffy tacos are also on the menu.

Empanada is a Spanish-influenced pastry turnover filled with savory ingredients.

Arepa is a cuisine of Columbia and Venezuela made of ground maize dough and accompanied with cheese or avocado.

The puffy taco originated in San Antonio – an uncooked corn tortilla is quickly fired in hot oil and then filled with meat, cheese, and veggies.

Masa Latina, in addition, has a variety of “Twisted Fries,” including Asada Fries, BBQ Pork Fries, Taco Fries, Buffalo Chicken Fries and Veggie Fries.

As for the grand opening, Zarate was officially welcomed as a new business in town by the likes of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce, elected officials, and police and fire personnel, to name a few.

For more information on Masa Latina, call (209) 647-4928.