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Puerto Rican cuisine finds home at Watertown eatery

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Caribbean cuisine found at restaurants in Puerto Rico now has a home at Watertown eatery that opened last week.

A Lo Boricua, which translates as “Puerto Rican style” in English, opened at 527 Coffeen St. The menu allows customers to pile on authentic ingredients of their choosing: yellow and white rice, roasted chicken and pork, beans, yuca, mofongo and plantains — green cooking bananas smashed up and fried. Every meal comes with mayoketchup, a Puerto Rican sauce made with ketchup, mayonnaise, garlic and a touch of lemon.

“People put it on everything in Puerto Rico,” said 17-year-old employee Krystal N. Colon, a third-generation Puerto Rican American.

Daily lunch specials from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. include chicken and beef stew, grilled pork chops, chicken salad and cube steak. At the dining area, diners can also get a sampling of Puerto Rican culture by listening to upbeat salsa and merengue music and gazing at native photographs that line the walls. One picture shows a woman in a traditional dress performing a native plena dance by moving underneath the clasped arms of men that form a tunnel.

“We want to make people feel homey, like they’re on the island,” said Miss Colon, who wore a red and blue shirt and matching hat—the colors of Puerto Rico’s flag.

The eight employees who work here all have Puerto Rican roots, said manager Norma I. Pacheco, a first-generation Puerto Rican American who immigrated to Watertown in 2000 with her husband, Carlos. The couple, who also run D Style Barber Shop at Salmon Run Mall, hatched the plan for the eatery in the fall.

“We heard people for many years saying there’s no place to eat Puerto Rican food,” Mrs. Pacheco said. “There’s Mexican food here, but it’s much spicier than Caribbean food.”

The Pachecos jumped on the opportunity when the Coffeen Street building — previously the Cocoa Café — became available to lease. Launching the restaurant provided an opportunity to employ Puerto Rican Americans seeking jobs in the community, Mrs. Pacheco said. Employees are members of a multicultural church in Evans Mills called Nueva Vida Iglesia Cristiana, mostly composed of Puerto Rican natives.

“We prayed for this chance years ago, and God opened the door,” she said. “It’s been a blessing because we have been able to hire Puerto Ricans who speak only Spanish. It can be hard for them to get jobs.”

The eatery has already become a popular stop among people with Caribbean and Spanish roots, Mrs. Pacheco said. It’s one of the few places in the community that reminds them of their native country.

“They hear the music and tap their toes to it,” she said. “It reminds them of their homeland. Hispanic military guys came in every day last week. I told them they’re my lunch crowd.”

Hours are 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call the restaurant at 804-3008.

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