Normally closed on Monday nights, Villains Wicked Heroes now features a pop-up restaurant of the month. For February, executive chef Jared Lee will be working with guest chef and Puerto Rican native Carlos Collazo to host PR 184. Inspired by the Puerto Rican “pork highway,” PR 184 focuses on cuisine from “lechoneras,” or South American restaurant shacks centered around roasted pig. PR 184 will run until March 3. Look for a paleo-concept starting March 10.
We got in touch with Lee and Collazo to get the details on the pop-up and its future.
What is the concept behind the pop-up?
Jared Lee: In 2008 I went to Puerto Rico on vacation and was immediately inspired by the food culture. We traveled across the island eating everything we could and finally made our way to the 'pork highway' (PR 184). It was the best pig I have ever eaten and to this day is the best. I wanted to bring that experience to Atlanta.
Carlos Collazo: I grew up eating this food, and I love it. What I want is to give a different dining experience, to bring the flavors and the culture that they used at the lechoneras to the city of Atlanta.
Carlos, can you tell me more about PR 184 in Puerto Rico and how it and your background have inspired this project?
CC: PR 184 is the main highway and only access point to the famous lechoneras. I was born in Puerto Rico and lived there for twenty years. Being there and learning a lot about the flavors and food culture inspired me to do this project here in Atlanta because there is not a place in the city where you can sit down, relax, have fun, and eat good Puerto Rican food.
How did you two get together for this? If I recall correctly, Villains started as a pop-up at Cruzado.
JL: Carlos starting working with me at FLIP Burger way back when. He is a great chef and just needed the right outlet to cook the food he grew up with. Enter PR 184. And yes, Villains did a pop-up in Cruzado, where at the time I was working as a consultant chef. I mainly took that job to gain experience with that type of food. I brought Carlos on later to run the kitchen.
CC: Yes, Villains did a pop-up in Cruzado. Like Jared said I met him and started working with him at FLIP Burger. Later he brought me to Cruzado to run the kitchen where we worked together for a couple months.
What will the menu be like?
JL: It will feature marinated pork roasted to perfection and braised pork belly that is fried crispy on the outside yet juicy on the inside. The sides will be our take on Puerto Rican classics like moros (black beans and rice), mamposteao (red beans, rice, and homemade bacon sofrito), tostones, and whole fried ripe plantains. Either simply cooked properly or tweaked a little.
Food only or will there be inspired drink specials as well?
JL: Yeah, we have some drink ideas like the '184 Mimosa' made of Puerto Rican rum, Kola Champagne, and orange slices to Pina Colada Jello shots and the authentic Puerto Rican drink "Coquito."
What is the future of pop-up night at Villains?
JL: We are doing our own "Pop-Up Series,” starting with PR 184. Down the pipe we have everything from a paleo pop-up to a Japanese Izakaya.
Are there any future plans for PR 184?
JL: Yes. This is just a glimpse into the concept. The goal is to have its own location where we are cooking whole pigs just like what you would find on the "pork highway" PR 184 in Puerto Rico.
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