Zonia Moore / The Dartmouth Staff
Van Kirk said that tapas actually has the opposite meaning in Spanish to cover. Candela, a restaurant specializing in tapas, or Spanish appetizers, will open in early April in the space previously occupied by the Rosey Jekes basement cafe.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Van Kirk said he is committed to bringing authentic Spanish-Caribbean cuisine to the Upper Valley after opening Melaza, a Caribbean bistro, in Woodstock in 2010.
"When you have the chance to go to Hanover, you go to Hanover," he said. "You have a college, you have a hospital."
Hanover is relatively bustling compared to the rest of the Upper Valley and enjoys a high concentration of potential customers, but needs greater "international flair" in its cuisine options, Van Kirk said.
Tapas restaurants encourage group sharing and intimate interaction among guests. The room's small size, fitting around a dozen tables, will help Van Kirk to provide efficient customer service.
"I like that personal touch where I can talk to every table, see what's going on and make sure that everybody gets good service," he said.
Van Kirk and his executive chef Luis Millan are still designing the restaurant's menu. Candela's offerings will include tablas, or customizable meat and cheese platters, and entrees that range from fish to traditional Spanish paella dishes.
Each meal will teach customers something new about Spanish culture, Van Kirk said. Rabbit and ox tail dishes aim to challenge conventional food options in Hanover.
"You're going to learn a lot of terminology, learn words for foods, learn about Spanish wines," Van Kirk said. "It's going to be the very culture of Spain."
Candela's bar will house a selection of premium rums, a Spanish wine list, mojitos and homemade sangria.
Candela's name was inspired by the measurement for luminous intensity, Van Kirk said. The word also can be loosely interpreted in Spanish culture to denote attractiveness or the intensity of flavor. Van Kirk plans to add a working definition of the word to the menu to entertain customers.
"A girl may be candela,'" he said. "We use it in a variety of different ways for something fiery."
Van Kirk renovated the space, including knocking down the stairs, to create an open kitchen. A patio will be constructed to accommodate summer patrons.
The restaurant will play live Spanish music and songs with "groove," he said.
Candela will likely serve guests from 5 P.M. to 10 P.M. Tuesday to Sunday from fall to winter, and the restaurant may add a lunch menu in the summer.
Though some students were not familiar with the restaurant's location, they said they would be interested in trying Candela.
"There's a definite lack of Spanish-Caribbean food in Hanover," Jesus Moreno '16 said. "The food here can be pretty boring."
Moreno said he was curious to see if the restaurant could present an authentic representation of Spanish-Caribbean food.
Many students only visit restaurants on Main Street, and Candela might be off the beaten path, Phoebe Palmer '14 said. She expects Candela to broaden Hanover's food offerings.
Rosey Jekes' upper-level retail space remains unoccupied, town manager Julia Griffin said. Store owner Kenneth Fabrikant is reviewing tenant options to replace it.
The owners of Rosey Jekes shuttered their clothing store and cafe in December after 36 years to explore other interests. Van Kirk, who spent years in the Upper Valley, knew the Fabrikants and expressed interest in opening a business in their space when he heard of the couple's plan to retire.