This new lovely restaurant opened last week and specializes in Nicaraguan food and rum cocktails. It’s from the same people who owned the now-defunct, grilled cheese restaurant Little Muenster.
Chicha’s cocktails draw on Caribbean tastes, and some feature a generous and intriguing mix of boozes. Take the “Agua-Caté-Dral,” with tequila, mezcal, pisco, and Bolivian liquor Singani 63, flash-blended with avocado, salt, and lime. Then there’s the “Nitro Cafecito” with cold brew, cherry liqueur, cacao, amaro, and nitrogen-laced Flor de Cana rum.
A lengthy rum list also means that tasting flights are available. There’s also an all-Spanish and South American wine list and Nicaraguan beers like pilsner-esque Panga. Frozen cocktails will eventually be served.
Despite the elaborate cocktail program headed up by Marshall Altier, it’s not the sole focus: a range of shareable plates draw on Palazio’s Nicaraguan heritage. The centerpiece is quesillos, a quesadilla-adjacent street food consisting of tortillas with quesilla cheese (Oaxacan-style string cheese), plantain vinegar-pickled onions, and crema — available in four mostly meaty variations.
There’s also a Nicaraguan take on rillettes with pulled short rib, smoked coconut, and cilantro jelly, and a seafood dish called conchas negras, coconut-poached clams with a pineapple mignonette.
Grub Street has more:
The people behind Chicha are culinary director Vanessa Palazio and Adam Schneider, the couple who ran the grilled-cheese shop Little Muenster. (Another partner is Fort Greene Farms’ Nathan Meshberg.) So, yes, cheese is a theme, but here they’re mining the food of Palazio’s Nicaraguan family.
Palazio has shrunk her restaurant’s quesillos down to “street-taco size,” and added toppings like lobster on a squid-ink tortilla and a pork version of the staple baho, beef steamed with plantains and yucca in banana leaves. “I think it’s something that can be done down there — maybe we can send it back down,” she says.
The rest of Palazio’s menu (see here) is a sort of greatest hits of Nicaraguan food, reimagined and tweaked. The cold meat dish salpicon is turned into rillettes with smoked coconut; the vigorón is made lighter by subbing out chicharrón for salmon skin; and the bread-pudding-like maduros en gloria turned into their maduros infernos. It’s made with caramel and lit on fire, for a little, Schneider says, “’70s bananas Foster action.”
Chicha Cafetín and Cocktails
198 Randolph St., nr. Gardner Ave.;