Take a tour of Hispanic and Caribbean food
The culinary scene on the Coast continues to diversify with the recent opening of La Lechonera el Flamboyan in Ocean Springs.
If you are not familiar with the culinary traditions of Puerto Rico, you are in for a treat. The Caribbean Islands are famous for hearty, spicy food, but each island offers variations on the theme, and Puerto Rico is at the top of my list of island food.
La Lechonera el Flamboyan, or the Flamboyant Lechonera (a restaurant that sells roasted pork), is a small restaurant on the outskirts of Ocean Springs. Seating is under a few brightly colored umbrellas, and for inclement weather, this place is best for takeout. But don’t let that deter you from missing out on this very special place — that would be a serious mistake.
Heading east on U.S. 90, look for the red, white and blue Puerto Rican flags, appropriately, along with a few of our own red, white and blue flags. Expect a friendly welcome, and, if you arrive in the evening, you will be serenaded by the famous Puerto Rican frog, the coqui (the sound it makes), and salsa, the “saucy” music that has roots in African and Caribbean culture. But I must warn you, bring your dancing shoes! Not only does this place have great food, it is fun!
The menu is not large, with just nine entrees ($12.95 to $24,95), a few plates and sides ($3 to $5), but I assure it is enough for any hearty appetite.
A few notes for the beginner: mofongo and tostones are plantain-based (looks like a green banana) and literally goes with everything. Do not hesitate to dip either in any sauce and enjoy with any of the entrees.
Rice and black beans, and green pigeon peas are staples of the diet and fundamental to the experience. Garlic is also an important part of this menu, if you are a fan, get ready to get happy. All of the food is prepared fresh daily, and with a great deal of skill.
We stared with the carne frita, delicious chunks of fried pork, and absolutely loved the crispy, hearty pork with the amazing house-made green sauce (cilantro, parsley, oil red onion and seasoning). The sides were mofongo and tostones, and the plate could have fed two. We also tried garlic chicken and garlic shrimp, both delightfully served in bowls fashioned from mofongo (creative and delicious).
If you haven’t gotten my drift by now, let me be upfront and tell you I like this place and I like it a lot. Delicious, spicy, hearty food served in a fun (and outside) environment. I love the music, service, I love the coqui, and, my oh my, the food is exceptional.
Don’t forget, bring your dancing shoes if you know how to dance to salsa and merengue!
La Lechonera el Flamboyan
Where: 7722 Bienville Blvd., Ocean Springs
Hours: 1 1 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday; and closed Monday and Tuesday