Wednesday, July 24, 2024

WilmiRicans food truck owners open cafe featuring authentic Puerto Rican fare

WilmiRicans food truck owners will launch the new Bori Café in Hampstead with a grand opening this Saturday. (Courtesy Itzia Maldonado)

HAMPSTEAD — The owners of the WilmiRicans food truck will launch the new Bori Café in Hampstead with a grand opening this Saturday. 

READ MORE: From food truck to beer cottage: WilmyWoodie owners to launch bottle shop in Hampstead

Puerto Rico natives Itzia Maldonado and her husband Luis Vargas wanted to bring their cuisine from home to southeastern North Carolina in 2022 by opening the food truck WilmiRicans. Now, they are introducing Hampstead to imported Puerto Rican coffee and traditional pastries.

The café is located at 14280 Highway 17 in what was formerly a Port City Java and has a soft opening throughout this week from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The new location will also be the permanent home of the food truck, which has been serving food across the Wilmington area at breweries such as Waterline Brewery and Wilmington Brewing Company, and in neighborhoods like Marsh Oaks and North Chase.

Maldonado said part of the initiative to open Bori was to provide a place for customers to always have access to the truck. He added it will simplify the mobile truck’s whereabouts, making it easier for customers to keep up with for the schedule. 

The truck will stay at the Bori location for most of the time except for Latin Nights at Waterline Brewery, held the first Saturday of each month.

“It’s like a little taste of the Caribbean in Wilmington and we really want to keep that going,” Maldonado said.

Maldonado described the cafe’s menu items as a reflection of nostalgic memories of growing up in Puerto Rico.

Customers can enjoy quesitos, a popular Puerto Rican cream cheese-stuffed pastry, that Bori makes from scratch.

“So many people came to us and said, ‘Oh my gosh, this reminds me of home, this reminds me of my grandma’s cooking,’” Maldonado said, “Stuff like that really makes your heart full.” 

Bori’s coffee is also true to the Puerto Rican culture — strong and made fresh daily. The coffee beans are shipped from Café Lareño, a family coffee business in the mountains of Puerto Rico where beans are grown 3,000 feet above sea level, providing an enhanced and more pronounced flavor.

Hector Escobales, Maldonado and Vargas’ business partner who moved to the U.S. with his wife and son in 2014, said Bori is going to bring different styles and types of coffee grains to the café, including caramelized-flavored coffee that is between medium and dark roasts. 

“We always say Puerto Rican coffee is normally stronger than regular coffee,” Escobales said. “We all loved Café Lareño, and we normally use it in our houses and our parents are always sending that coffee to us. We wanted to have something like that here for other people to have that same experience.”

Escobales, who previously worked for a vending machine coffee company and is currently a cell phone technician, always had a passion for coffee and started practicing latte art after his wife, who is also a part of the Bori team, bought him an espresso machine. He has always wanted to open his own coffee shop as well.

Bringing a piece of home to Wilmington has always been important to the WilmiRicans owners, who moved to Wilmington in 2020 through a nursing program called RDC. It recruits certified nursing assistants from Puerto Rico and Mexico to come to the U.S. and pass the NCLEX exam to become registered nurses. 

Maldonado and four others in her program from Puerto Rico, one including her future husband, were working in Wilmington and missed food from home. The closest Puerto Rican restaurant at the time was in Fayetteville.

In the summer of 2021, Maldonado, Vargas and former business partner Omar Canales started a small frappe and piña colada truck called WilmiRicans. They still deaired to bring Puerto Rican dishes to the community.

Six months into WilmiRicans, Maldonado and her team looked into the permits and registration for operating a full-fledged food truck. After purchasing a new and larger vehicle, WilmiRicans re-opened as a food provider on Jan. 7, 2022. 

The truck began to grow a following of people who enjoyed the authentic cuisine unique to Wilmington – including Escobales. 

“Basically everything started in the food truck, I was a customer of theirs, always going there, always talking and then we started going out together and we started this family friendship,” he said. 

Escobales’s coffee interest was perfect timing for Maldonado and Vargas, who were looking for a spot to park the truck for good.

The truck and café will serve breakfast and lunch. Customers order off the truck menu from inside the café and pick up their food outside at the truck window. Eventually, the goal is for the truck and café to serve beer and wine.

Hours are Thursday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. until 8 p.m.

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