MERIDEN — A new Puerto Rican spot opened on East Main and is offering authentic dishes from the Caribbean island to their customers.
Puerto Rican Taste is located on 620 East Main St, the former location of El Jibarito Takeout which also served Puerto Rican food.
Iris Montes de Oca, 62, bought the business three months ago when she decided to follow her dream of opening her own restaurant.
“I have been cooking ever since I was young,” she said. “I love to cook for friends, family and the community.”
Montes de Oca was born in Manhattan but moved to Aguada, Puerto Rico with her family at just three months old. She grew up on the island, and that is where her mother taught her how to cook.
Now, owning her own restaurant, Montes de Oca serves the food she grew up cooking. She cooks at the restaurant alongside her boyfriend Eddie Gonzalez who also cooked at El Jibarito.
The restaurant serves a variety of Puerto Rican dishes like arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), pernil (pork), carne guisada (beef stew), avichuelas (beans), Papa rellena (fried stuffed potatoes) and chicken, beef, and pizza empanadas among other items.
“My favorite dish to make is the arroz con gandules,” Montes de Oca said. “It’s one of the staples at family gatherings.”
A popular item on the menu at Puerto Rican Taste is the Bacalaitos, known in English as Codfish Fritters.
“Everything is made from scratch,” Montes de Oca said. “We offer a quality experience to our customers.”
Monin Valentin, a Meriden resident, went to the restaurant to try the food.
“The place was very clean and the owner was very friendly,” Valentin said. “The food is very delicious.”
When opening the restaurant, Montes de Oca received help from her children and Gonzalez.
LiyannIes Hernandez helped her mother set up their social media account and the menu.
“We also have a whole menu of dessert that customers can choose from,” Hernandez said.
The cakes are Puerto Rican style and are moist throughout the inside. Flavors include coconut, lemon, almonds and chocolate. There are also four flavors of flan: vanilla, cream cheese, nutella and pumpkin.
“We want our customers to enjoy everything Puerto Rico has to offer,” Montes de Oca said.
Giving back to people in need on Thanksgiving
On Thursday, Montes de Oca is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for people in need.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Puerto Rican Taste will be serving arroz con gandules, Pernil and ensalada de papa (potato salad) among other items. She invites those who won’t be having a Thanksgiving dinner that day to stop by and grab a plate.
“I wanted to do something for Thanksgiving because there are families who won’t have a plate of food,” she said. “They deserve a warm plate and I have the ability to help.”