The Freakin Rican

Bienvenidos a Astoria to “The Freakin Rican,” home of traditional Puerto Rican cuisine as prepared by Chef/owner Derick Lopez. Chef Derick Lopez has a history as colorful as his new restaurant. Born in Puerto Rico, he then grew up in the Bronx and Queens where he stood side-by-side with his mom, learning how to prepare the traditional dishes of his sunny island country. The Freakin Rican is a name you won’t soon forget, nor will you forget the delicious, satisfying cuisine that Chef Derick prepares.

Lopez got his start in catering and participating in street fairs around the city. His food was so good, he gathered a following of fans who wanted to know the secrets of his Puerto Rican cuisine. Thankfully for YouTube and his website, Lopez created a series of simple, “how to” videos for many of his classic recipes. He soon became an internet sensation with hundreds of thousands of visitors and decided to open his first sit-down restaurant right here in Astoria. It was already full to capacity on a recent weeknight. The Freakin Rican is a petite restaurant that packs a lot of style and flavor into its tiny, tropical space. The walls are papered with lush, floral scenes and latticework, while the service bar is draped in dried grass. Puerto Rican rhythms play softly to lend more atmosphere without interrupting the conversation among the 10 white tables. The Freakin Rican opened on May 8th and they are waiting for their wine and beer license. Victor, our kind and efficient waiter, explained the menu and can make suggestions for you, should you need help.

The one-page menu offers the best of Puerto Rican cuisine, plain and simple. We started with Chef Derick’s alcapurrias, which are gently fried green plantains filled with mildly seasoned ground beef that we loved. Pasteles are packets of mashed bananas filled with pork, then wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. Once you open them, the aromas and flavors jump out at you and you just can’t eat these savory pasteles fast enough ($5). House-made empanadas are addictive and I suggest sharing a few of these delicate pastries filled with beef, chicken, or cheese, at a remarkable $3 each. Papa relleno is creamy potato stuffed with beef, while bacalaitos are tender codfish fritters that are irresistible ($3).

Moving on the main courses at The Freakin Rican, my companion and I devoured the camarones, with lots of aromatic garlic sauce. These plump shrimp were tender and juicy, accompanied by mofongo, another traditional dish of mashed plantains with garlic and mild seasonings that’s just delicious! Juicy pork chops

can be ordered fried or grilled, and are served with rice, beans, and salad for a rounded meal. Chicharron de pollo are bite-size morsels of tender, chicken, breaded and gently fried to golden crispness ($14.25). Slow roasted pork called pernil is a mouth watering treat, so juicy and succulent, you’ll want to take an order home with you, and you can. Grilled steak and onions or breaded, fried steak are great options too, or you can keep it simple with grilled chicken breast and a side order of Chef Lopez’s famous yellow Puerto Rican style rice and gandules, pigeon peas.

Wash it all down with Coco Rico (coconut soda) or cola champagne (Puerto Rican Coke) or sparkling water. For dessert we shared the cool, light coconut pudding called tembleque, and there’s also creamy flan and island style bread pudding. Check out their website for menus, videos, and more information about the history of The Freakin Rican. Let him cater your next family event, backyard party or block party so you can enjoy yourself and rest assured that the best food will be served to your guests. After all, Chef Derick Lopez has been feeding the masses for years now. Stop in at his newest venue for a traditional Puerto Rican meal, made with love and served with pride. Buen provecho!

43-06 34th Avenue
Astoria  929.349.1080

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2018-06-01 digital edition