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July 26, 2022

South Philly Barbacoa to host block party with free food to celebrate James Beard Award

There will be live music, free horse rides and a petting zoo on the 1100 block of South Ninth Street on Sunday

Family-Friendly Festivals
South Philly Barbacoa Steph Irwin/South Philly Barbacoa

South Philly Barbacoa owner Christina Martinez and her husband Ben Miller, above, are holding a block party Sunday to celebrate Martinez winning the James Beard Foundation's award for best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The Italian Market, which has become one of Philadelphia's most eclectic restaurant destinations, will have a Mexican vibe Sunday, with a block party featuring free food from the award-winning South Philly Barbacoa, horse rides and live music.

The event will celebrate South Philly Barbacoa's 10-year anniversary and owner Christina Martinez's prestigious James Beard Award as the best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The 1100 block of South Ninth Street, where South Philly Barbacoa and Casa Mexico – Martinez's other restaurant – are located, will be closed to traffic between 3-8 p.m. for the free, family-friendly celebration.

Martinez will be serving complimentary food from her restaurants. There also will be free pastries from the People's Kitchen, an organization that provides meals and other aid to Philadelphians in need.

Animals will be a big part of the event, too. Free horse rides will be provided by the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club and there will be a lamb petting zoo. Martinez's signature dish, the barbacoa, is made with lamb.

The Latin Vibes Group, a salsa and reggaeton band, and DJ Jersey Dan will provide live music. There also will be Mexican dancers performing. 

Teremana Tequila, a company owned by actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Croydon's Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co. will be selling alcoholic drinks. 

There also will be local goods for sale, including coffee from Center City's Vamo Brewing Co.

The Philadelphia Department of Health will provide COVID-19 testing and have Spanish-speaking staff on hand to provide information about the coronavirus.

Martinez started South Philly Barbacoa as a food cart in 2012 and opened the restaurant in 2014 after she arrived in Philadelphia from her native Capulhuac, Mexico in 2009.

The undocumented immigrant needed to earn money to support her four children, so she got a job as the pastry chef at Amis, a trattoria in Center City. Although the restaurant has since closed, it's where she met her current husband and business partner Ben Miller.

Martinez has become an activist for the undocumented immigrant community, sharing her experience on "Mejor vete, Cristina," a Spanish-language podcast about her life produced by Univision. She also helped create a support group, called the Popular Alliance For Undocumented Workers Rights, which provided meals and other aid during the pandemic.

Before she won the James Beard Award this year, Martinez was nominated four separate times.

Casa Mexico & South Philly Barbacoa 10-Year Anniversary Block Party

Sunday, July 31
3-8 p.m. | Free
1100 block of South Ninth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107