Who are the fabbest foodies in little ol’ Delaware? The Delaware Restaurant Association has named Javier Acuna of Hakuna Hospitality Group as its Restaurateur of the Year and Brew Ha Ha! as Cornerstone Award recipient for 2014. The awards honor restaurateurs for their innovation, creativity, excellence in service and commitment to the community. The awards will be presented during an event at World Café Live at the Queen Theater in Wilmington on Nov. 17.
Columbia-born Javier Acuna opened his first restaurant, Santa Fe, in Wilmington in 2007 and has been steadily expanding the Hakuna Hospitality Group ever since. The restaurant group now includes two Santa Fe locations (Wilmington and Newark), the newly opened Del Pez in Newark and La Taqueria Santa Fe in the Wilmington Riverfront Market, and includes La Bodega catering company. The cuisine at Acuna’s restaurant is a creative and upscale Latin fusion, focusing on traditional Mexican ingredients blended with recipes from Cuba, Costa Rica and Argentina. Acuna is also involved in community charitable organizations, co-founded the Wilmington Craft Beer Festival in 2014, and has won numerous Best of Delaware awards from Delaware Today magazine and Reader’s Choice Awards from The News Journal.
Brew Ha Ha! Espresso Cafes have thrived in Delaware for over 20 years, remaining a neighborhood staple for coffee and espresso enthusiasts. The cafes consistently receive Best of Delaware Awards from Delaware Today Magazine and Readers Choice awards for their handcrafted espresso-based creations and coffee drinks, baked treats, breakfast and lunch items, and catering services. Founder Alisa Morkides is credited as bringing the first espresso bar to Delaware after being inspired by the premier espresso bars in Italy during her travels in 1993; less than six months after her return the first Brew Ha Ha! was open for business in Greenville. The nine locations throughout Northern Delaware are tightly wound into the community that surrounds them; each café is nestled into a distinct neighborhood where they serve as gathering place, creative space and philanthropic center. Morkides has worked with many charities and local organizations over the years, organizing fundraisers, drives, and collecting donations for The American Cancer Society, DCCA, Fresh Start Scholarship Fund, Ministry of Caring, Nemour’s Children’s Hospital, Toys for Tots and the United Way of Delaware.
The Cornerstone Awards event will feature food and drink tastings from Delaware’s top restaurants and will live music from Joe Baione, featuring Nadjah Nicole. Restaurateur of the Year and Cornerstone Award winners will be recognized, and scholarships will be presented to Delaware high school ProStart students and university students enrolled in secondary education hospitality programs. Tickets for the event can be purchased online at delawarerestaurant.org/events or by contacting the DRA at 738-2545.