Lawrence restaurants: Manager says La Tropicana is full of family history
This Q&A appeared in the Jan. 22, 2020, edition of the Journal-World’s Crave food supplement. More from that section, including interviews with Lawrence restaurateurs, can be found here.
Catalina Martin del Campo, manager of La Tropicana in North Lawrence, recently told the Journal-World more about her family’s tradition as restaurateurs and about trends in Latin cuisine.
La Tropicana, 434 Locust St., is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays.
Q: What’s your favorite item on your restaurant’s menu?
A: Carne con chile served with Spanish rice, refried beans and warm flour tortillas. It has a touch of spice with chunks of pork fried in a skillet on low and slow on the stovetop. It has flavorful and tender textures and colors with fresh peppers and red tomatoes.
If you like spicy (food), this is truly an authentic Mexican dish.
Q: How did you get into this profession?
A: Our family business opened in 1967. I believe we are the oldest family-owned restaurant with original owners in the same location in Lawrence.
Our mother, Severina, and late father, Jesse Sr., taught us how to cook their very own recipes. I, Catalina, being the youngest daughter, started in the kitchen at the age of 10, cooking side-by-side with my parents. Laura (the second-oldest daughter) has been managing the kitchen for 30 years. Now she is adding her very own flair to dishes we serve today.
Q: What is the one trend in food that you are most excited about right now?
A: That there is an explosion of mixing Latin recipes that combine old and new flavors that bring a new taste to Latin cuisine
Q: Other than your own restaurant, what restaurant would you most like to eat at in Lawrence?
A: Papa Kenos, 715 or 6 Mile Chop House and Tavern.
Q: How do you go about trying to balance the ideas of healthy eating and creating a really flavorful dish?
A: We really don’t have that issue. We cook everything fresh daily.
Q: What’s your best advice for someone who is trying to become a better cook?
A: Don’t be afraid to try new recipes and practice, practice, practice.