Nestled right in between Che’s Lounge and U.S. Fries on North 4th Avenue lies a colorful little sandwich shop serving Brazilian and Peruvian fusion cuisine. You may hear playful shouts from the Echeandia family or smell roasting pollo cilantro floating out the door before you even see Latin It Up.
Born in Peru, Irene Echeandia owns the family-owned restaurant that opened just about four months ago. She previously owned the first Peruvian restaurant on Congress from 1997 to 2005 before a tragedy struck the family. Irene’s daughter pushed for the idea of opening a new restaurant in Tucson to restrengthen the family.
In the kitchen, secret family recipes are taped to the ledge above the prep counter.
“We are really a South American and Latin fusion restaurant,” says Isaac after noting that one of their most popular items is the Cuban sandwich. Other best-selling items are the pollo cilantro sandwich, the chicharrón sandwich, and coxinha, a traditional Brazilian chicken dumpling of sorts.
A substantial vegetarian menu sits alongside about ten types of chicken, beef and pork sandwiches.
Unique dishes like papa a la huancaina, Peruvian potatoes with a spicy cream sauce, and salpicao, chicken with corn, peas, apples, carrots and raisins, grace the menu.
Each sandwich comes with a side of potato, plantain, yuca or sweet potato chips.
Irene’s son passed us a tall glass of chicha morada, a sweet drink made from purple corn boiled with pineapple, cloves and cinnamon, while we were waiting for our food.
We ordered the pollo cilantro sandwich with yuca chips, the quinoa burger with plantain chips, the Salpicao salad, and an avocado banana smoothie and flan for dessert.
As a vegetarian, the quinoa burger was my favorite by far. The burger is made of black beans, corn, corn nuts, sweet potato and quinoa, and is topped with lettuce, tomato, cheese and salsa criolla (sliced onions, chili and lime).
“The menu is continually evolving,” says Irene. The family has so much to put into the menu at Latin It Up but a limited kitchen space, so the family narrows down the menu. They offer daily specials that you will find written on the chalk board outside of the restaurant.
“My life is cooking, music, and family,” says Irene. “And that’s just what we do here.”
Latin It Up is located at 344 N 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ, 85705.
Hours: 11:00am-9:00pm Sunday through Wednesday, 11:00am-1:00pm Thursday-Saturday