Two Couples to Open Nagueños Filipino American Diner in Essex Junction | Food News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Two Couples to Open Nagueños Filipino American Diner in Essex Junction

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Published December 6, 2022 at 2:46 p.m.
Updated December 7, 2022 at 10:22 a.m.


From left: JR Perez, Áine Perez, Emma Perez, Jerrymay Lopez and Paul Lopez of Nagueños Filipino American Diner - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • From left: JR Perez, Áine Perez, Emma Perez, Jerrymay Lopez and Paul Lopez of Nagueños Filipino American Diner

Heart n Soul by Mark BBQ left a hole in Essex Junction when the restaurant closed earlier this year. But its former space won't be empty for long. This month, Nagueños Filipino American Diner will open at 34 Park Street, Suite 8 — with plenty of heart and soul.

Married couples Jerrymay and Paul Lopez and Emma and JR Perez plan to open their new restaurant on Wednesday, December 14. The menu will feature Filipino specialties and classic American dishes, all made using local ingredients.

"We want to give the people good-quality food with a twist of our Filipino culture," JR told Seven Days.

Turon from Nagueños Filipino American Diner - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Turon from Nagueños Filipino American Diner

Diners can expect traditional dishes such as turon, a snack made with banana and jackfruit in a fried spring roll wrapper; Bicol Express, a spicy pork stew; palabok, stir-fried rice noodles in garlic and shrimp sauce; tortang talong, grilled eggplant dipped in egg and panfried; and Bacolod chicken inasal, a dish from Jerrymay's native city.

"We want to show people in Vermont that we can make these dishes using the local products," Paul said.

"And we want to make our own signature dishes to represent ourselves," JR added.

The American side of the menu will feature burgers with a housemade seasoning mix, New England clam chowder and classic breakfast foods.

Tortang talong - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Tortang talong

JR and Paul are both from Naga City, Philippines; the restaurant's name is a reference to their hometown. The two chefs came to the U.S. to work in restaurants: Paul at the Lodge at Spruce Peak in Stowe and JR as a chef-trainee at the Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain and, later, at Burlington's Kismayo Kitchen.

JR, Paul and Jerrymay all hold degrees in hotel and restaurant management from the Philippines; Emma, who is from upstate New York and came to Burlington to attend the University of Vermont, has a background in small business.

The couples will work together to run Nagueños, offering lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday and breakfast on the weekend.

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