Where did all the Puerto Rican Restaurants in Queens go?


Today’s post comes from Denise Rea who on her free time plays the role of Creative Director at Queenscapes. Full time she is the Parent Coordinator at P.S.55Q in South Richmond Hill, Queens.

Denise is a born and raised Queens resident who is currently raising her own family with her husband, another proud lifelong Queens resident, Anthony Rea.

Recently, along with their two children Amal & Amaru, they ventured out to find a real Puerto Rican restaurant in Queens.

Below Denise details how the she stumbled upon the search of one of Queens’ rapidly fading cultures:

“This past week my work led me to visit The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

While there I had access to explore their Taíno exhibit and luckily for me they were exploring the importance of Taíno foods and their relevance in the foods we eat today.

Just the brief history of cassava and how the naturally toxic root has to be carefully prepared by peeling, washing, grating, pressing (to extract poison.)

To the processes of drying, sifting and pressing in order to consume and be sustainable for years to come really left me awestruck with not just the magical properties of the cassava but the arduous and ritualistic process the Taínos endured to simply, just make bread.

This made me realize two things:

1) I have to introduce my children to the magical bread that is cassava.

2) What food ritual or tradition have I taken up that I can share with my family?

Inspired, I went home and Googled "Puerto Rican restaurants near me." Usually when I Google for a spot "near me" I find what I'm looking for at least within a mile or two from my Kew Gardens Hills home.

In all, my search found three locations in Queens. Three total spots in all of Queens.

Of the three locations, I had to disqualify two places:

Pasteles Cristina - actually isn't a restaurant but a home business that caters pasteles to families during the holidays, which is super clutch.

Don Coqui - sells Puerto Rican food, but not exclusively, and is known more as a nightlife destination than restaurant.

So the only Puerto Rican restaurant in Queens "near me" turned out to be the ONLY true Puerto Rican restaurant in Queens. That distinction goes to the Freakin Rican Restaurant in Astoria.

How does the most diverse borough in the most culturally diverse city in the country only have ONE Puerto Rican restaurant? Where have the Puerto Ricans of Queens gone?”

Words and photo by Denise Rea