Global Eats Q&A with Randy Hernandez of Tropical Picken Chicken

Q: How long have you lived in Raleigh?

A: I lived in New York City, specifically Spanish Harlem until 2011. I’m originally from New York City and learned how to cook from my grandmother while growing up. My grandmother was Puerto Rican and made some of the most delicious food!

Q: Tell us more about why you decided to open a restaurant in Raleigh.

A: For one, Raleigh doesn’t have many restaurants that offer Latin/Caribbean food. Second of all, I wasn’t happy with my former profession and wanted to do something I loved. So, I jumped at the opportunity to buy into Tropical Picken Chicken in 2011 after seeing the void in the Latin offerings in Raleigh.

Q: Describe the atmosphere of Tropical Picken Chicken.

A: Tropical Picken Chicken feels like you are home or at Grandma’s house. Going to Tropical Picken Chicken is like being transported to Puerto Rico. The music and atmosphere is meant to feel like you are in Puerto Rico from the moment you step out of your car!

Q: What type of cuisine does your restaurant offer?

A: I grew up learning to cook from my grandmother, who was Puerto Rican. My recipes are not from a cookbook but from the soul, which was instilled in me from my grandmother. Tropical Picken Chicken’s menu focuses mostly on Puerto Rican cuisine with a few twists from other types of Latin cuisine like Colombian, Venezuelan, and Cuban, for example. 

Q: Tell us more about some of the offerings on the menu that are a fusion of different types of Latin cuisine.

A: One thing that I brought with me from New York City is the concept of serving a platter with a fusion of different Latin cuisines. For instance, we have a Taco-rican (Puerto Rican taco), Colombian platters made with Puerto Rican style meat, and arepas filled with Puerto Rican type fillings. We always add a Puerto Rican flare to each platter.

Q: What would you tell an attendee of Global Eats who has never tried your restaurant’s cuisine? 

A: Be open! Everything is delicious but some of the things I recommend include mofongo, Puerto Rican pork, yellow rice, sweet plantains, red beans, fried pork chops, and tastellas (tamale made using banana instead of corn). Coquito is a coconut based alcoholic beverage, which we will have at Global Eats for people to try!

Q: Are there any traditions your culture has based around food and beverage? 

A: Yes, and you’re going to love this! Parrandas is something we do in December. People will go door-to-door singing to neighbors for the holidays, usually at 2am. Once you wake up your neighbor, they will invite you in for singing, food and drinks! Tropical Picken Chicken will have an event that is similar where customers can bring an instrument and sing and play along with music. We are planning to do three events based off this holiday celebration. 

Q: Are there any other ongoing events at Tropical Picken Chicken?

A: The fourth Friday of each month is Salsa Night, Wednesday is Karaoke night, the third Saturday is comedy night, and the first and third Sundays are all you can eat buffet. 

Q: Why is the restaurant called Tropical Picken Chicken?

A: The name was kept after I bought the business in 2011. The Picken part of the name is actually a style of preparing meat in Cuba, which went along with the Caribbean/Latin vibe of the restaurant.