This past Sunday, Picadera, a local Dominican street food pop-up set up shop in the courtyard of Deep Ellum Distillery. A DJ played Latin-inspired hip-hop as customers, most wearing at least one piece of clothing with the Dominican flag, worked through paper boats of ginormous chicken sandwiches. They were celebrating Dominican Independence Day, which is technically Feb. 27, but I learned quickly any day is a good day for a chichachimi.
Michael Tavarez, the founder of Picadera, is Dominican; both of his parents are from the Caribbean nation, although he was raised in New York City. Growing up, his family would often have parties and serve platters of Dominican street food, called picadera. Those childhood experiences inspired him to bring that food culture to Dallas.
“Picadera is meant to be shared and eaten with your friends and family at events on the streets, at parties, etc. Hence, our name Picadera,” Tavarez explains on his website.
After moving here and with help from his mom, Tavarez started working on recipes and ingredients to re-create Dominican-inspired dishes. The menu rotates each day, allowing Picadera's crew to focus on doing a few things very well. Sunday the main item happened to be the chicken sandwich, the chichachimi.
Other strong players include the empanadas, and the chimi burger is one of their most popular items. Sides include yucca fries, fried plantains and fried chicken bites called chicharrones de pollo. But, it's hard to imagine anything beating that chichachimi.
“I first boil the chicken with onions, parsley, lime and spices,” Tavarez explains. “Then, I make a marinade and rub it into the chicken and it sits overnight.”
As orders are received, the chicken is dredged in a spice-laden flour before being plopped in a fryer. The chicken comes out with a thick, crispy crust that is dark, but not burnt. Pickled onions, slaw, tomato and a zig-zag of their house-made sauce are piled on top. You can order your chichachimi spicy or regular.
The bread, which is pushed within an inch of its life to hold the sandwich together, is a Mexican bolillo bread. Tavarez says is it's the closest thing to the bread that is traditionally used. The finished product is lovingly stabbed through with a Dominican flag toothpick.
Sunday in Deep Ellum the line to order snaked into the alley. With about 10 people ahead of me, I was prepared for a potentially long wait, but Tavarez is running a well-oiled machine. Each worker had a different station and everyone worked with an air of controlled urgency. And the bar inside the distillery will gladly help you pass the time.
The courtyard is great for a warm day, and with drink in hand, watching them work and nodding with the music, I heard my name called before I had much time to think about it. I can’t emphasize how much this is worth the wait.
Follow Picadera on Instagram to find where they'll pop-up next and be prepared for a shift in your chicken sandwich loyalties.
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