Santiago Principe has been serving Puerto Rican BBQ and specialties in the neighborhood for over 20 years. What started out as a career switch after an on the job injury while working in a factory has grown from roasting a pig in the backyard on a Saturday to Lechonera Principe on Cecil B. Moore Avenue that caters to the community needs for classic Puerto Rican dishes like pasteles, fritters, flan, tostones and of course the slow cooked pork dish that is the name and the inspiration for this neighborhood eatery.
"I started with one pig. I sold it fast..." recalls Santiago with a smile as his wife Margarita, or as she is affectionately known "Mum", is taking care of the customers who stopped in for a quick mid-afternoon snack.
Margarita is more than a partner. She is the inspiration that has allowed the business to grow and hopefully expand as time passes. But 33 years ago time did not stand still as Margarita explained, "I was five minutes late to my own wedding. I had to go only across the street." You see Santiago, Margarita, and now Lechonera Principe are longstanding pillars in a neighborhood that has seen churches, factories, businesses and schools open and close. This context lends itself to Santiago's vision for the restaurant in the future.
"I want to open up a patio. With outside seating. A place that people can have parties and be with their neighbors. I want my grandchildren to go to culinary school. Learn how to run a business. I will be 69 soon. I want to leave them with something. I want to see progress in the community. I just want to see prosperity."
So for now come and enjoy the food. They serve pork, chicken, rice and beans and various pasteles and fritters. Very soon, the restaurant will be bottling and selling their very own hot sauce as well. How is the hot sauce? It's really good. It is that right mix of vinegar and hot that lends itself to a wide range of food. Be sure to take the time to talk to "Mum" and Santiago on your way through, as the food is only a part of what makes this place special.