After a turbulent six months, the storefront that formerly housed Ay! Salsa welcomed a new restaurant last week.
A new Latin American restaurant, Rubamba, has opened at the High Street location on March 14. The store’s opening marks the return of Rubamba’s head chef and owner Ernesto Garcia to High Street, after he left his position as head chef of Ay! Salsa last September following familial and professional disagreements with Ay! Salsa’s previous owner, his then sister-in-law Yani Acosta. Garcia left Ay Salsa along with four other employees, with whom he founded Ay! Arepa, operating out of a food truck on Elm Street.
Garcia said he decided to return to High Street after he heard in January that Ay! Salsa was shutting down, eager to run a restaurant again.
“I am a chef, so all the time I am trying to get a restaurant,” says Garcia.
Yani Acosta, the previous owner of Ay! Salsa, said the new restaurant has no connection to Ay! Salsa, and no one from the Ay! Salsa that vacated in January is involved in Rubamba.
Rubamba has seen numerous student customers in the week since it opened, Garcia said, many of whom previously frequented Ay! Salsa or Ay! Arepa. Garcia said many have told him they are happy to see him in the restaurant business again.
“They say thank you for coming back, and I say thank you guys for coming back,” he said.
The interior of the restaurant remains unchanged from its Ay! Salsa days. Because of the restaurant’s limited space, Garcia will continue to run it in Ay! Arepa’s take-out style. Rubamba does not currently accept credit cards, but Garcia said: “I’m working on that.”
Rubamba’s menu will also remain largely unchanged from that of both Ay! Salsa and Ay! Arepa, featuring burritos, quesadillas and other staples of Latin American cuisine. But unlike his time at Ay! Salsa, Garcia is now the owner as well as the head chef. He also has a new business partner, John Smith, with whom he started Rubamba.
The two Ay! Arepa carts are still in operation at their locations on York and Cedar Streets.