This curious little triangular building on the corner of Penn Avenue and Main Street in Bloomfield seemed so forlorn and neglected that we wrote about in a story, wondering why this otherwise excellent location had been abandoned for so long.

Then we heard from Rebecca Avila.

She and her husband Henry Avila are co-owners of El Sabor Latin Kitchen, opening this spring (April, they hope), after a very long and difficult wait.

“We started from scratch,” says Rebecca Avila. “It didn’t even have heat. It was really like a blank canvas, albeit a triangular one.”

Now it’s a warm, green-walled space arranged around a triangular bar, mimicking the shape of the building. It won’t be large, seating about 42 people at most. Two sides feature large windows, letting in a panoramic view of this busy pedestrian nexus near UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

“The shape of it, and the windows, are fantastic,” says Rebecca. “We’ve had paper on the windows for so long. I can’t wait to tear it down and let the natural light in. I remember sitting here, just watching — if you count foot traffic, it’s hundreds of people walking by.”

Henry and Rebecca Avila, El Sabor Latin Kitchen. Photo by Mike Machosky.

The windows — and the liquor license — were the main attractions to the building. The pair originally looked at the old Del’s restaurant space nearby but thought it was too big.

The two met while working for Emiliano’s Mexican Restaurant & Bar. Mexican food, tacos in particular, will be featured prominently on the menu — but that’s not all.

“We’re going to be a Latin kitchen,” explains Henry Avila. “El Sabor means ‘the flavor.’ We’re going to try not just Mexican, but food from all the Spanish-speaking countries: Honduras, El Salvador … ”

Henry Avila is from Honduras, so expect to see that influence featured prominently. A friend, Rafael Castillo, is moving from Maryland to be the chef.

The dishes they’re working on include empanadas, plantains, tamales and baleadas, a Honduran dish made from thick tortillas folded in half over beans.

As far as drinks go, expect margaritas, mojitos and micheladas. For the latter, “the closest thing is a Bloody Mary, but instead of using vodka, you’re using Mexican beer,” says Henry.

Rebecca used to be in the insurance business and currently works at Andora in Sewickley.

Getting this space ready has taken more than a year of hard work and learning entirely new skill sets. It was a very raw space when they moved in, without even a working gas line.

“Combined, we have a lot of experience,” says Rebecca, “But all the mechanicals — I feel like we installed a spaceship inside a 1,500-square-foot restaurant.”

Michael Machosky

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.