Dallas pop-up Picadera dishes Dominican street food at its patio parties
A pop-up restaurant is bringing something truly unique to Dallas: Dominican street food by way of New York. Called Picadera, it's a one-man show specializing in Latin street food from owner Michael Tavarez, a New Yorker whose parents were from Dominican Republic, who grew up eating Dominican food every day.
Once or twice a week, sometimes more, Tavarez sets up camp at buzzy spots around town, creating a space where he can give Dominican people a taste of home.
He launched Picadera after moving to Dallas, when he discovered he could not find a single Dominican restaurant in town.
"I'm not a chef, but I missed my culture, and the food I grew up eating was part of that," Tavarez says. "First, I called my mom and got her recipes. I taught myself how to make popular Dominican street foods, and got my mom to share her tips and tricks."
He started by cooking for friends at his apartment. The response was so enthusiastic, he decided to turn it into a business.
He wisely partnered up with buzzy places like Strangeways, Pegasus City Brewery and Peticolas Brewing.
In addition, his pop-up schedule is consistent and reliable, with regular appearances typically on Fridays and Sundays, which he diligently shares on Instagram and through a mailing list from his website. He's always down for a festival as well.
He's also social media-savvy. Picadera's Instagram page has attracted a huge following of bloggers and influencers, far beyond the tiny Dominican population of less than 1,000 people in Dallas.
He did all this in the thick of COVID, and has been one of the rare success stories during the pandemic, when many restaurants were forced to shutter. But the timing worked in his favor: People were eager to embrace small startups, and also had a growing appetite for new cuisines and experiences.
Picadera is the word for a Dominican finger food or appetizer, like Spanish tapas. ("Picar" is "snack.") His total menu has more than 50 items that rotate. At any one time that might include a couple of appetizers, a few entrees, five sides, and two desserts, including their popular tres leches cupcake.
Frequent items include:
- Tostones locos de pollo guisado: Fried plantains topped with Dominican chicken, tropical grated cheese, pickled red cabbage, cilantro and their secret sauce.
- Yuca sticks and Yuca fries.
- Chimi-sliders: Chimi-burger served on sliders bunds or plantains, original or spicy.
- Empanadas, filled with stewed chicken, Dominican beef picadillo, or a vegetarian black bean & cheese.
Beyond the food, Tavarez strives to provide a total experience, to make his pop-ups a hub for people to hang out, listen to music, and have a good time.
"Over the summer, we did a bar takeover every Friday at Strangeways, and had live Dominican music, DJs, Presidente Dominican beer, and a curated Dominican cocktail menu that we collaborated on," he says. "We moved the tables and created a dance floor, we had catered hookahs on the patio, and we had salsa and bachata dance instructors do free lessons."
"I've seen that our long lines have brought people together, friendships have been made," he says. "One of my former customers, Jason Ortiz, even started to help out with the cooking every weekend as his second gig, and has become a big part of the incredible Picadera team, I wouldn't be able to do these events without them."