If you pop into this Fells Point corner noshery to chat with owner Rosalyn Vera, you might have a hard time holding her attention. Not that she doesn't want to say hello or talk about the family memories and cooking that inform her spot's homey atmosphere and soul-nurturing fare. It's simply that customers continually stream through Cocina Luchadoras' door, keeping the compact kitchen and staff busy.
In the mornings, it might be street workers and laborers coming in to grab breakfast. After work on weekdays, it's people grabbing dinner on their way home or neighborhood residents stopping to sit at the outdoor picnic tables. A wide variety of Baltimoreans pop in on weekend afternoons, enjoying the vibe while waiting for their meals. You'll see Vera, often in an apron, through the cutout into the kitchen working with another woman making the food while another young woman takes orders.
As Vera told Baltimore magazine's Local Flavor podcast, she was born in the New York area to Mexican immigrants, spent some time growing up with her grandmother in Mexico City, and food and family have always been central to her identity and values. Back in the winter, a sign in the restaurant criticizing the president resulted in her receiving death threats; her customers responded with overwhelming patronage and support.
In recent memory, a true Baltimore local hang means a place that both black and white people, middle and working class, like to frequent. Cocina Luchadoras—a name inspired by hard-working women wrestlers—adds Baltimore's Latinx population to that mix, and if it's a harbinger of Baltimore's increasingly multiethnic future, bring it.
So don't be too bummed if Vera's too busy to chat. Order a torta—don't sleep on the kitchen's piquant carnitas—grab a bottle of Jarritos' mineral water out of the small fridge, and take a seat in the seating area. Enjoy the Tejano music coming from a pair of speakers. Smile at the tapestry featuring Frida Kahlo wearing a Daft Punk T-shirt. And wait for the toasted, Mexico City-style tortas to arrive wrapped in foil and paper, and try not to pass out after taking that first bite.