By Lauren Paulet
The Partnership is thrilled to introduce our new blog series, Voices of Downtown Frederick. In this series we’re highlighting communities that help to make Downtown Frederick special. This month’s blog celebrates Hispanic Heritage and features Lauren Paulet, a recent transplant to Frederick.
Everyone has a reason that Frederick is special to them. Some families have lived here for generations, watching Frederick grow from humble agricultural roots into a bustling hub for technology and innovation. Others have migrated across thousands of miles, crossing international borders to seek refuge and build a new life for their families. For me, it’s simply the charm of Downtown Frederick, and the warm sense of community I feel here.
I start off every conversation with a little disclaimer: I’m not from Frederick. I moved here a little over a year ago, and this lovely city has become my home. I’m originally from Miami, FL and the moment I disclose that everyone asks, “Why the heck did you move here!?” It’s a long story that starts with a group of very hungry friends.
On a whim, I visited Frederick a few years ago with my closest college buddies. We decided to embark on a little adventure to Western Maryland for some fresh air during lockdown. After hiking for a few hours at Cunningham Falls State Park, we were desperately craving some grub in a pinch. A Google search brought our grumbling stomachs to Frederick, and you bet we were satisfied.
Like most tourists we wandered our way around town. Cacique Restaurant caught our eye with its colorful storefront and aromatic Latin food. Isabella’s Taverna had some marvelous tapas too. But my life changed the minute I whipped around East Patrick Street and caught a glimpse of the ‘Sabor De Cuba’ sign.
Disclaimer #2: I am Cuban-American, so there’s bias here. However, when I first moved to Maryland in 2017 I set out on a mission to find authentic Cuban food. Sampling every Cuban restaurant I could in the DMV, I tried overpriced Cuban pastries in Gaithersburg and was repeatedly disappointed by gimmicky Cuban restaurants in D.C. and Baltimore. It truly felt like most of the establishments I visited elsewhere were commercializing my culture because it was exotic or trendy. In other words, I didn’t have much faith when I walked through Sabor’s red doors.
I ordered my favorite Cuban combo: Ropa Vieja – a shredded steak stewed in a tomato-based sauce – with a side of tostones and frijoles negros. While we waited, our server brought out warm, homemade slices of Cuban bread. I couldn’t believe it! But the true moment of judgment came when the entree followed: I took one bite and was instantly transported to my childhood kitchen table. I’ve sampled dozens of Ropa Vieja dishes in my life, but I had never experienced one that tasted exactly like my Mother’s recipe. I asked the owner to give my compliments to the chef because he absolutely nailed it.
So I came back time and time again. Whenever I got homesick, I ventured out to Frederick. I gradually realized that the Latino community of Frederick had great depth. There’s something comforting about the diversity within the Latino community itself. Growing up in Miami, I was always surrounded by people from all over Latin America. Frederick isn’t too different! Over the past year I’ve developed friendships with Salvadorans, Hondurans, Ecuadorians, Venezuelans, Peruvians, and yes, other Cubans too.
Restaurants Downtown introduced me to a community with vibrant roots, extending far beyond the confines of cuisine. Now my friends and I regularly dance Salsa on Friday nights at Delizia Cafe, expanding our community circle everytime. This past September, the Alive @ 5 outdoor concert series even featured Movimiento – a 8-piece live salsa band. I was so delighted that I couldn’t help but Facetime my loving Abuela to show her that a little piece of our culture thrives here too.
It warms my heart when I watch people of all ages and backgrounds learning to dance salsa. There aren’t many cities of this size that offer several dance venues to learn salsa most days of the week. Regardless of your ethnicity or level of dance experience, I encourage you to check out some of the upcoming salsa lessons in Frederick:
Wed 10/11 – 10PM-1AM – Latin Night at Agave Restaurant – Introduction to Salsa lesson from 9-10pm. This is a weekly, free event. 137 N. Market St. Frederick MD 21701.
Wed 10/18 – 7-10 PM – Frederick Salsa at Sky Stage- Introduction to Salsa lesson at 6:40PM. All ages welcome. $5 Cash Cover. 59 S. Carroll Street, Frederick MD 21701.
Fri 10/13 – 7-11PM – Salsa Night at Delizia Cafe – This is a weekly, free event. 14 E. Patrick St, Frederick, MD 21701.
Wed 10/25 – 7-10 PM – Frederick Salsa at Carroll Creek – Introduction to Salsa lesson at 6:40pm. All ages welcome. Free. 36 S. Market Street, Frederick MD 21701.
Even if you have two left feet, there are still plenty of ways to experience and immerse yourself in Hispanic culture this month. This weekend, Centro Hispano De Frederick is hosting the annual Frederick Hispanic Heritage Festival on Carroll Creek. Featuring live music, Latino food, and traditional folk dance performances from Argentina, Bolivia, Honduras, Peru and Spain you won’t want to miss out! Check out the full lineup of festivities here.
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!
Lauren Paulet is a Cuban-American woman working in Frederick. Paulet has a marketing and communication background, and is currently serving the City of Frederick as a Sustainability Outreach Coordinator. In her free time, Paulet enjoys hiking, beach volleyball, and salsa dancing around town.