Phantom Gourmet: Vida Cantina In Portsmouth, New Hampshire

PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire (CBS) — When a chef like David Vargas at Vida Cantina starts with great ingredients, sometimes there’s not much more that needs to be done.

“My philosophy as a chef is let the ingredients do the talking, and that’s basically what I do,” says Vargas, who is also the Cantina’s owner.

vida6 Phantom Gourmet: Vida Cantina In Portsmouth, New Hampshire

A taco from Vida Cantina. (WBZ-TV)

Vargas serves up bright, bold, authentic flavors made from family recipes straight out of Mexico.

“I’m raised in Southern California,” he says. “My mother is from Guadalajara, my father’s from Jalisco. My parents opened a restaurant when I was young, a little Mexican restaurant and it’s kind of been in my blood.”

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A torta from Vida Cantina. (WBZ-TV)

And here at Vida Cantina, there are both traditional dishes and some more inventive options, from colorful and crave-able tacos to super stuffed tortas and ultra fresh salsas and guac.

“Fresh food, fresh produce, fresh ingredients, everything about fresh,” Vargas says. “It’s all about the fresh feeling and that’s what we’re bringing.”

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A taco at Vida Cantina. (WBZ-TV)

And David is also bringing new life to a building that happens to be an old Friendly’s restaurant. While he changed as much of the decor as possible, adding vibrant rainbow ceiling tiles, bright festive walls, and a cool wooden bar, there was one element of the old space that he thought could still come in handy.

“So if you come in as a bigger party than four we’re able to pull the dividers out and kind of seat you, so that’s one of the biggest features that Friendly’s has left their mark here and we embrace it.”

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Elotes from Vida Cantina. (WBZ-TV)

And serving your family with the recipes of his family is what makes David happiest of all.

“This is what I love to do,” he says. “It’s an art, and I love being an artist and I love being able to put it out there every single day and I think that’s the best feeling I have.”

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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