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Latin Soul Grille combines Puerto Rican food with an American favorite

It's Hispanic Heritage Month! First Coast Foodies is celebrating by finding some of the best Hispanic restaurants and food trucks.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — It’s Hispanic Heritage Month, and we are celebrating through food!

Ever walk into the counter at lunch, and you don’t know what to order Puerto Rican food or barbecue? At Latin Soul Grille, you get the best of both worlds.

Gary and Maritza Lathion are the ultimate fusion of cultures, celebrating 26 years of marriage and seven years as the Latin Soul Grille owners.

“It’s the common denominator that brings people together," Gary said about food. "I can’t tell you how many people have said wow, this reminds me of my abuela… my grandmother’s cooking. It took me back to Puerto Rico. It took me back to New York.”

Tostones, chicken stew, yellow rice with pigeon peas, and empanadas are served all day. Maritza makes them the Puerto Rican way.

The barbecue is all Gary from his days as a U.S. marine.

“I was in the marines from 89 to 93 during the time of Desert Shield Desert Storm. I was stationed at Okinawa, Japan," Gary said. When Desert Shield Desert Storm broke out, well, I was 19 years old being marched to a church at three in the morning to fill out my last will and testament."

"Kind of like your life flashes before you like oh my God I’ve never lived. I haven’t done much. I wanted a last meal request," said Gary. "I wanted some barbecue, but here I am on the Pacific on an island. There are no barbecue places.”

He and his fellow marines got crafty and started making their own barbecue. That’s where his recipes first started. 

When he met his wife Maritza, he fell in love with her and her cooking.

They thought, why choose when you can have both? Now, their dishes combine authentic Hispanic food with slow cooked barbecue.

They travel to different locations in Jacksonville in their food truck. You can find their schedule here. They post their schedule every week.