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