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Owners Hector and Jazmin Serrano opened BORICUA Restaurant during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Photo: Courtesy of Hector Serrano
Owners Hector and Jazmin Serrano opened BORICUA Restaurant during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Photo: Courtesy of Hector Serrano

The Philly native that wasn’t afraid of opening a Puerto Rican restaurant in the middle of a pandemic

BORICUA Restaurant in Northern Liberties has defied all the odds amid COVID-19 to expand in 2021.

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Hector Serrano and his sister, Jazmin, always believed that Philadelphia needed an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant whose recipes were handed down from generation to generation. 

So, after waiting an extra three months thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, they opened the doors to their own restaurant on June 11, 2020. 

They wanted their restaurant’s name to be as simple and authentic as possible and had one name that fit the picture: BORICUA.

“All of the recipes that we use are from my grandmother. Everything is made from scratch and we only use authentic Puerto Rican ingredients such as homemade sofrito and sazon,” Serrano said in an interview with AL DÍA News.

He was repeatedly told by restaurant owners that he shouldn’t open a restaurant because he would be wasting his money, but he didn’t listen to them.

“My family and friends thought I was crazy to open a Puerto Rican restaurant in the middle of a pandemic, but I knew in my heart that this was the right thing to do. There aren’t enough Puerto Rican restaurants in Northern Liberties,” Serrano said.

On the whole, he was also inspired by the lack of sit-down Puerto Rican restaurants in Philadelphia.

“I want customers to feel like they are in a high-class, but a family-owned restaurant. I want them to feel comfortable and always want to come back again,” he explained.

Another goal he had for opening a restaurant was to show people how delicious Puerto Rican food is and how they can learn about the culture by tasting the food.

That cultural sharing happens on on a daily basis.

“I have people from different backgrounds and cultures come to our restaurant and ask for Arroz Con Guandules, and Pasteles. African-Americans and Asian-Americans love our food and I am so grateful for that,” said Serrano.

Not only has his spot defied odds and become successful, but he now has loyal customers who travel all over the east coast to come to Philadelphia and order his tasty meals.

“I have people who drive from Rhode Island to pick up some food for their families, I also have loyal customers who own Puerto Rican restaurants in New York travel just to try our roasted pork,” he said.

BORICUA Restaurant on the whole, is a product of the community that has helped Serrano become successful. Amid the pandemic, he quickly understood how important it is to give back to the community that helped him. 

During the peak of the pandemic in the summer and early fall, Serrano decided to help people who weren’t able to provide for themselves.

“When the pandemic started, during the months of July, August, and September, we gave out over 50,000 platters in Philadelphia, Allentown, and Reading,” he said.

Thanks to his supporters who believed in him, Serrano will now be opening his second restaurant that will be located in the Hunting Park section of North Philadelphia, around Mother’s Day.

“Our second restaurant will have more than 80 seats that will serve people and give them an amazing experience. We will have more traditional meals and appetizers,” Serrano said. 

His second restaurant will provide more delicious treats such as Alcapurrias, which are fritters made of green bananas, yautia (taro root), and stuffed with ground beef, and Empanadas, a pastry stuffed with ground beef, chicken, or corned beef.

“I am thankful that my restaurant is successful and I plan on doing more in the future,” he said.

Please support Latino-owned small businesses such as BORICUA Restaurant by checking out their menu.

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