A new wave of island flavor at affordable prices is available to the DeLand community’s palate.
Chofán Island Grille opened March 23 at 1702 N. Woodland Blvd., Suite 118, in DeLand, close to Chili’s Grill & Bar and Walmart Supercenter in DeLand.
Owners Rafael and Julia Vasquez are from the Dominican Republic. They met in the city of Santiago de los Caballeros when they were 14 years old, and they’ve been together ever since.
The Vasquezes left the island and moved to New York before moving to Orlando, where they opened the restaurant Lechonera El Barrio on Semoran Boulevard, which has been in business for 14 years. It’s a very popular Dominican restaurant where President Barack Obama stopped in to eat in 2012.
The couple moved to DeLand in August 2017.
“We were starting to feel like we were back living in New York City with all the traffic, and when we found DeLand it was so beautiful and peaceful, we loved it,” Julia Vasquez said.
In the location formerly occupied by Aunt Catfish, Chofán Island Grille has its own little corner oasis with a palm tree and small outside patio, with tables shaded by umbrellas. The exterior has an easy-to-read sign in fluorescent green and orange, surrounded by brick.
Inside, you can grab a menu as you walk down a hallway lined with flat-screen TVs. A wall with a light-brown wooden-trim border and foliage separates the dining room from where you order.
At a cafeteria-style display of options, you are greeted by one of Chofán Island Grille’s employees. The restaurant has a popular all-day special for $5.95, which lets you choose one of six meats, such as jerk chicken, steak, and pulled pork.
After selecting your meat, you choose your rice, such as arroz con gandules, white rice or chofán rice. Chofán rice is the Dominican version of Chinese fried rice, which people in the Dominican Republic learned about from Chinese immigrants who came to the island in the 19th century.
Next, you select the type of beans and other sides you would like, such as fried sweet plantains, fried yuca, fried sweet potato, tortillas, and a variety of salads.
Lastly, you pick which toppings to go with your medley, including cheese, corn salsa, vegetables, hot sauce, jalapeños, and many more.
Chofán Island Grille recently added sandwiches and Mofongo. Mofongo, according to the Google dictionary, is a Puerto Rican dish of deep-fried green plantains mashed with other ingredients, such as pork or seafood.
I chose the tripleta, which consists of steak, chicken and pulled pork lathered with mayo-ketchup, cheese and lettuce. The sandwich is served hot and steaming with a nice selection of hot sauces, including a Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce.
My all-day special plate included Caribbean honey-mustard wings, gandules rice, red beans, grilled veggies, fried sweet plantains, and a side of the house hot-sauce mixture. It was fresh, filling and island-flavor-abundant, and I was impressed with the size of the meal for the price.
Dessert choices include flan, Dominican cake, cheesecake, tres leches, and other cakes, such as Oreo mousse cake.
Chofán Island Grille serves an authentic Dominican drink called Morir Soñando, which literally means “die dreaming,” consisting of orange juice, evaporated milk, and a secret ingredient the restaurant wouldn’t divulge.
“We want the community of DeLand to be able to eat good Dominican cuisine without having to go on vacation,” Julia said as we laughed.
A wonderful addition to the DeLand food scene, this 48-seat restaurant run by five employees offers fresh Dominican-style cuisine at affordable prices for lunch and dinner.