In downtown Erie, the Flagship Food Hall is host to one of the city’s newest culinary destinations, Dina’s Authentic Dominican Kitchen.

Dinanyili Jimenez de Csir is a native of Hato Mayor del Rey in the Dominican Republic, not far from the tourist destination Punta Cana. She came to Erie in 2015 with her new husband from Erie, who she met while he was on a mission trip there.

As the couple describes on the kitchen’s website, she honored both her new husband and father when becoming a U.S. citizen.

“When I was going to become a U.S. citizen, my dad asked me, it was the first him he asked me, if i was going to keep his last name. She just became a citizen this year and they gave her an opportunity to change her name at that point, and she said no, no, totally cool,” said Dinanyili Jimenez de Csir, from Dina’s Authentic Dominican Kitchen.

Dina’s business goal is to bring families and friends together around authentic home-cooked Dominican food.  

“We have a very small menu because we don’t have much space. We were trying to get Erie people used to the food first, because it’s different from what Erie people are used to,” Jimenez de Csir added. “We brought some of the most popular dishes that are eaten daily in the Dominican Republic, like the mixed rice, beef and chicken. And we make our own seasonings here. We prepare them, like our vegetables and stuff, and put it into the meal and the meat and rice.”

While looking at all the options for lunch or dinner, like fried plantains, and cassava, a root vegetable, we asked Dina if her mission was serving up comfort food to local Hispanics or turning Erie onto a new taste sensation.

“Both. Yes, I was trying to get both. I didn’t know that the population of Hispanics in Erie was so high. Yes, it is. We’re growing here. We have been supported by both, Hispanics and American people too,” said Jimenez de Csir.

Dina’s Authentic Dominican Kitchen opened its doors when the Flagship Food Hall opened here in downtown Erie. It’s been going very well, and she said if she had to do it all over again, she would.

Dina’s does a brisk lunch and dinner business. It’s a mix of downtown residents, local workers, and people like the visiting Spencer family from Fort Worth, Texas. They enjoyed Dina’s food.

“A lot of flavor. Really good. Very tasty. (And you probably, being from Texas, are used to a lot of spice.) Yes, it’s not really spicy, but it’s got a lot of flavor,” said Ken and Melissa Spencer, from Fort Worth, Texas.

The menu at Dina’s changes often, with daily specials, and on weekends only, the always popular chicken, beef and vegetable empanadas.