Taste of Clay: Palermo’s Puerto Rican Kitchen brings the Caribbean to Kingsley

By Lee Wardlaw lee@claytodayonline.com
Posted 12/7/22

ORANGE PARK – Palermo’s Puerto Rican Kitchen is a family-owned “mom and pop” restaurant serving melt-in-your-mouth Latino cuisine featuring several fresh-to-order native Puerto Rican recipes …

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Taste of Clay: Palermo’s Puerto Rican Kitchen brings the Caribbean to Kingsley

Posted

ORANGE PARK – Palermo’s Puerto Rican Kitchen is a family-owned “mom and pop” restaurant serving melt-in-your-mouth Latino cuisine featuring several fresh-to-order native Puerto Rican recipes in a soothing environment that provides a great experience for any get-together, whether that be date night, a girls’ or boys’ night out, or family gathering.

The menu is full of several dishes, appetizers and specialty sides native to the Caribbean island.

Under the front of the menu, Clay County residents will find a section titled “Palermo’s Puerto Rican Classics.” Here, you will find several classic items that consist of the island’s staple table fare.

Fried breaded chicken chunks, slow-roasted pork, pork or chicken cubes (sauteed in onions), skillet chicken breast or fried pork chops all provide a sensation to the taste buds, but if you’re looking to mix it up, try the creole vegetables. The hearty, healthy dish is pan-seared and cooked with Palmero’s homemade creole sauce.

When it comes to ‘classic’ Puerto Rican dishes, though, one of the most popular options is the Puerto Rican Bistec (steak). The item features thinly-sliced sirloin steak cooked in onions. The combination of hotly-cooked ingredients provides for the ultimate flavor bomb from a staple menu item.

Prices for this section of menu items depend on which item customers choose from the following two options: rice and beans or mofongo, a dish made with fried green plantains mashed with chicharrones (crispy pork skin) and garlic.

For local foodies that like to get creative when ordering at a local establishment, you’ll be at home at Palermo's, as the “classics” are just the beginning of a long list of available order options.

Of seven items on the starter menu, highlights include two options of empanadas and a traditional Puerto Rican blood sausage dish.

Try either the Chef’s Choice seafood empanada (which is only available in an order of one, depending on availability) or the Abue’s Empanada Trio (with choice options that are limited to chicken or beef.)

For those who like spicy food, morcilla, a blood sausage stuffed with rice and seasonal herbs (with a spicy kick), is another great appetizer that is worth a try.

Alcapurria, a fritter made of green bananas and yautia stuffed with meat, along with several other options, are found on the starter menu.

But even then, you’re just getting started. Once you turn to the back page of the one-page, double-sided menu, you will be greeted with plenty of other savory surprises.

You’ll be treated to plenty of hearty, warming Puerto Rican favorites. The only downside is not being able to try them all in one sitting.

“El Bohio,” Palermo’s Christmas dish of slow-roasted pork served along with pigeon pea rice and Abue’s homemade paste, is one of three options located under the “Specialty Rices” section of the menu.

Then, ‘Palermo’s Italian Fusion,’ features several pasta dishes from the European nation known for its fabulous cuisine. Last (but certainly not least, though) is ‘Seafood’, with this menu section putting forth the top item of all gourmet options at Palmero’s: the Chef’s Choice Mediterranean Fish Filet of the Day.

Above all, I recommend trying this dish, which consists of a lightly breaded and grilled fish topped with lemon butter sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, cappers, basil and shrimp.

The fish is cooked to a lightly fried, crispy perfection on the outside, coupled with a white, tasty interior that Clay County residents should love.

The fish sits on a tasty underlayer of sauce, and there’s plenty of butter to dip it in, which is provided in a small cup. Then, a smorgasbord of toppings provides for an even-further increased aurora of flavor, with the shrimp, which might taste better than the fish itself, being the star of the show.

I chose a side of fried, sweet plantains, with the crunchy, golden goodness resembling the shape of a cookie providing the perfect “island twist” to combine with the fish.

When devouring your favorite item alongside family and friends (alongside a mouthwatering list of sides that includes tostones, fried yucca, Arroz con gandules rice and more, make sure to wash it down with your favorite beverage while enjoying the outstanding atmosphere.

Red and white wine is available for $7 a glass and $24 for a bottle, and if you want to step your experience up a notch with a glass of red or white house sangria, the cost will be $8. The restaurant also offers a large selection of foreign and domestic beers.

All-white painting is cut with black trim around doors, windows, and paintings adorned on the wall, which is with small flowers in vases on each table, which is furtherly enriched with poinsettias lining the center of the establishment, the Christmas plant placed below free-spirited paintings depicting life in Puerto Rico.

Couple that with soft, Puerto Rican soul music and Christmas tunes, and a gourmet meal from any budget coupled with an adult beverage should provide the same effect as lifting a large weight off the shoulders after a long day in the office or field for county residents.

Palermo’s offers a fine dining experience, but don’t feel the pressure of making reservations or wearing fine clothing to the establishment if you prefer to walk up service or casual dress.

You can find Palermo’s Puerto Rican Kitchen at 556 Kingsley Ave. or you can visit by visiting palermopuertoricankitchen.com/, Facebook at elpalmerorestaurant or by calling (904) 269-6935.

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