PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (CBS) — Fresh, fun, and full of flavor. When a chef 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 David Vargas.

A torta from Vida Cantina. (WBZ-TV)

A torta from Vida Cantina. (WBZ-TV)

At Vida Cantina in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Vargas, the chef-owner, serves up bright, bold authentic flavors made from family recipes straight out of Mexico.

“I’m raised in Southern California,” Vargas says. “My mother’s 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.”

Tacos from Vida Cantina. (WBZ-TV)

Tacos from Vida Cantina. (WBZ-TV)

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

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

Tacos from Vida Cantina. (WBZ-TV)

Tacos from 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.

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

A meal from Vida Cantina. (WBZ-TV)

A meal 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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