Chevere derives its name from a Latin American slang word meaning hip, cool and awesome. It's a name this ambitious little Dominican/pan-Latin place in Freeport strives to live up to daily.
One day to the next, though, you may not know who's actually behind the stove, since everyone pitches in -- co-owners Jose Estevez and Andres Abreu as well as members of Estevez's family. In fact, most recipes come from Estevez's mother, Sonia Estevez Payamps.
One dinner begins with a colorful beet and greens salad dotted with mango and dressed with a bright mango vinaigrette. Empanadas, whether filled with beef, chicken or cheese, have crunch and savor. As bright and citrusy as a shrimp ceviche turns out to be, though, it calls for more shrimp, fewer tomatoes. Taquitos, presented in a clever metal serving piece, call only for admiration. The three lightly grilled flour tortillas are filled -- one with pieces of chicken, another with steak the third with shrimp. All are juicy and flavorsome, topped with a lively pico de gallo and a shower of grated cheese. Note the scalloped edges on the tortillas. A small but telling fillip.
If you've never before had mofongo, here's the place to begin. The shrimp version stars plump shellfish surrounding a mound of mashed fried green plantains laced with garlic and pork cracklings; on the side are garlic sauce and a vibrant green salad. Pan-seared salmon topped with a tropical salsa is moist, flavorsome, served with a clever mango-laced Dominican couscous. Lots of flavor in the grilled pork chops, undermined a bit by overcooking. But rotisserie chicken, one of several steam table offerings behind the quick-service counter, is all about garlicky juices.
Chimis, Dominican sandwiches, qualify as yet another forte. The irresistible chimi burger -- more like a highly seasoned meat loaf patty -- is crowned with cabbage, onion and Chevere sauce, a Dominican version of Russian dressing. Even better than the fine Cuban chimi is the sumptuous El Puerquito, a sandwich of slow-roasted pork with cabbage and house sauce. Accompanying fries, while not hand-cut, are hot, crisp, seasoned with paprika and garlic.
Plated with care and artistry, Yulissa Estevez's moist tres leches cake and syrup-soaked coconut cake (El Coco) are of a caliber you'd expect at restaurants charging twice the prices here. That point is driven home when you get your check, presented in a beautifully crafted wood mortar and pestle. How very chevere.