PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- When Peru native Alessandra Cupe moved to Philadelphia a year ago, she was surprised to find the city had a familiar Latin feel.
"I never thought there was this huge and lovely community of Latin people in Philadelphia," she said of the welcoming community that she joined.
Working as marketing manager for El Merkury restaurant in Center City, she gets to connect with others who are seeking a taste of home.
The restaurant serves food from countries throughout Central America.
It's also one of 26 Latino-owned restaurants participating in Dine Latino Restaurant Week.
"We don't ask them to create a special menu, but we ask them to provide a free appetizer or dessert with the order of two entrees," said Maria Cristina Rios, marketing & communications manager for the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce started Dine Latino Restaurant Week in 2020 as a pandemic pivot.
"It began as a promotional campaign called Latino Takeout Weekend during the pandemic," she said, noting that many of the Latino-owned businesses in the area didn't have the tools or the bandwidth to promote takeout or delivery services which were in growing demand at the time.
It was a necessary step during the pandemic as COVID disproportionately affected Hispanic and Latino business owners - some of whom are still recovering.
"Latino businesses overall were impacted because they did not see access to capital as quickly as other business owners," said Rios.
The lack of access to capital is one reason Dine Latino Restaurant Week doesn't charge business owners any fees to participate. Instead, the mission is to help Latino-owned restaurants to boost their profits.
"A healthy business creates jobs, and through that job creation, they're giving back to the community," said Rios.
That community is growing. According to Census Data, Philadelphia's Hispanic Population grew 14.5% percent from 2016 to 2021. Some people within that population look to restaurants for a taste of home.
"We have food from Central America - from Guatemala, El Salvador," said Cupe of El Merkury's menu.
Dine Latino Restaurant Week, though, goes beyond Latin foods to support all kinds of Latino restaurant owners.
"It's not pegged to just tacos," said Rios. "We have a Greek restaurant. We have a vegan restaurant."
The authentic eats at El Merkury, though, are hard to resist during restaurant week or any week.
"It's a big bag, back to the office," said Rios of the takeout order she was picking up.
Dine Latino Restaurant Week continues through Friday, April 7.
View the full list of 26 participating restaurants offering a free appetizer or dessert with the purchase of two dinner entrees at PhilaHispanicChamber.org