MT. MORRIS, N.Y. (WROC) — Mount Morris is home to Letchworth State Park and the Mount Morris Dam. But you may not know, it’s also home to one of the best Puerto Rican restaurants around. Eight years ago, the owner moved to Mount Morris from Puerto Rico, leaving everything behind, except her love of food. Now she’s sharing her heritage, one delicious meal at a time.
Nestled along main street in the village of Mount Morris is The Borikén Restaurant. Melanie Álvarez is the chef, owner and operator. She came from Puerto Rico about eight years ago and brought along her cuisine. Her favorite dish to make is mofongo. A traditional dish where plantains is the main ingredient.
“It goes to our deep roots as a Puerto Rican. Since the beginning of time, we have been doing this for so long. It makes me feel so proud when I serve something like a mofongo to a customer,” said Álvarez.
Her passion for cooking started at home.
“My family, we’re very traditional with cooking. Like for families and a big amount of people. So I always liked to cook and always liked to be in the kitchen,” said Álvarez.
That passion led her to study culinary arts in Escuela Hotelera de San Juan. She then worked at the Palmas Del Mar resort in Humacao, the island’s southern east side. It was great training for her one ambition – to own her own business. Melanie ran a food truck in central Puerto Rico.
“There I was working with my husband for a whole year and selling breakfast and Lunch. It was really good. A lot of people liked our food and everything,” said Álvarez.
But in 2014, the island’s government faced a debt crisis. Many moved away because of it, including Melanie. She relocated to Livingston County with relatives.
“We sold everything that we had and moved here to start a new life. Which was the best decision that we made,” said Álvarez. “I started working at Walmart in Geneseo and moved my way up to Fresh Production supervisor.”
It was then she heard about a competition that offered grants to new businesses. A way to amp up interest in local main streets. Melanie applied and won!
It’s been five years since she opened The Borikén Restaurant. The indigenous Taíno name for Puerto Rico
“It was a good name for us because it goes deep in our roots. It has a lot of history, the same as our dishes,” said Álvarez.
Today her dining area is limited because of the pandemic. but, she continues to serve customers with joy and a smile. Offering a touch of Puerto Rico in Mount Morris.
“Con Dios por delante, todo los sueños pueden ser posibles. Con duro trabajo y esfuerzo y dedicación, todo puede ser posible de verdad,” said Álvarez. Which translates to “With god foremost, all of your dreams are possible. With hard work, determination and dedication, truly anything is possible.”
Melanie is hoping to expand and open various locations throughout Western New York.