Teaming up with the fleet of food carts specializing in Latin American cuisines at Portland Mercado, Carlito’s Cocina will unveil mofongos, croquettas, empanadillas, ceviches, and other Puerto Rican plates when it opens this Friday, June 30. Though some Portland restaurants and food carts dabble in Puerto Rican cooking, Carlito’s Cocina will be the only Portland establishment dedicated to serving Puerto Rican food — the closest alternative is Beaverton’s Boriken Restaurant — sharing the unincorporated U.S. territory’s unique flavors, shaped by French, Spanish, African, and Native American Taino traditions.
Born in Puerto Rico, chef-owner Karlo Prado has experience cooking in Portland at Pambiche, Tasty N Sons, and Clyde Common, and among the plates he’ll serve at Carlito’s Cocina are three versions of what is perhaps Puerto Rico's most defining dish, mofongo. Mofongo is fried green plantains, mashed with different seasonings and lots of garlic, and typically served with meat or seafood.
For instance, Carlito’s serves the smoked pork masitas mofongo, with fried marinated pork shoulder, mojo de ajo (a potent sauce of garlic and lime), and chicharrons. And as with other menu items, like its croquettas and empanadillas, there’s a vegetarian version.
The rest of the well-priced menu is rounded out with fresh fruit salads topped with cojita fresca, ceviche made with the day’s fish, fried snacks like bacalaitos (codfish fritters), and peach and berry drinking vinegars. After the opening day celebration, the Carlito’s Cocina food truck will operate Wednesday through Monday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., at the Portland Mercado.