77B W. Merrick Rd, Freeport
(516) 218-8686 |

Chévere modern Latin kitchen in Freeport is one of a kind on Long Island. Its Dominican dominated menu offers Central and South American dishes, a number of which are not widely available elsewhere in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. In addition to the commonplace ceviche, calamari and pasta carbonara, there’s corn-a-liza, mini and maxi fongos, cicharrones de pollo and an el coco dessert (more on these later).

The recipes for these housemade dishes come from Jose Estevez’s mother and aunt. Estevez is one of three owners along with his uncle Andres Abreu and John Skiadas.

Chévere (it means cool and awesome) is a bright, cheery, yet modest storefront along Merrick Avenue with orange walls, oversize flower pictures and table candles. Home kitchen preparations and more sophisticated fare featuring contemporary touches are both available. Portions are huge, prices are small and service is attentive (sometimes a bit too attentive).

While it’s possible to steer a course that yields all winners there is a significant gap between dishes that satisfy and those that don’t. Actually the food and beverages here fall into three categories: outstanding, average and disappointing. Natural juice drinks ($3) and fruit milk shakes ($4) are the way to go for beverages. (The skimpy wine list features only two whites and four reds.) The sweet passion fruit juice and the thick banana shake are recommended.

There are two suggested appetizer targets: those chicharrones ($7), or vibrantly seasoned deep-fried chicken bites (think: a Latino version of chicken fingers), and the four colossal, hearty, meaty melaztillas, or grilled pork ribs ($8). The beets and greens salad ($8.50) is nothing special and the corn-a-liza ($9.50) is a dry sausage on a stick surrounded by far too much batter. The tilapia and shrimp ($17.50) is at best unexciting while the very generous portion of bistec encebollado ($16.50), thin grilled seasoned steak with sautéed onions, is tasty but very chewy. A better steak option is the bountiful skirt steak ($23.50) with crisp, flavorful yucca fries.

The soft, moist, tres leche cake ($6) is the best bet at dessert time though the flan and el coco (both $6) are also respectable choices.

richard jay scholem

Richard Jay Scholem practically invented the Long Island restaurant culture through 800+ reviews of the region's eateries both on radio and in print over the last 30 years. He is a former New York Times Long Island Section restaurant reviewer, has contributed to the Great Restaurants of...magazines and Bon Vivant, authored a book, aired reviews on WGSM and WCTO radio stations, served on the board of countless community and food and beverage organizations, and received many accolades for his journalism in both print and broadcast media. He is currently available for restaurant consultation. Reach him at (631) 271-3227.