I ventured out to Jackie's Latin Kitchen in downtown Middletown, NY. The restaurant piqued my interest as a newly opened dining option and I was excited to try it out.
Upon entering the restaurant, I was immediately impressed with the mix of trendy interior design with traditional art on the walls. The atmosphere is much like a cool cafe and the corrugated metal siding, reclaimed wood table tops set the tone for old world meets new.
After choosing my seat, I was greeted by the owner Jackie and a young waiter in training. There was a friendly warmth to Jackie’s Latin Kitchen which was the right side of comforting, feeling like a well-cared for family business rather than a casually gritty diner.
I quickly realized that Jackie is no stranger to the Middletown dining scene as she had a popular catering and take out joint directly on East Main Street a few years ago. This reincarnation definitely feels like an upgrade with an expanded menu and a the aforementioned great atmosphere.
The menu is fairly expansive but not overwhelmingly so. Newcomers to latin cuisine may need a suggestion or two but Jackie is great at answering any questions you may have. I found this out as I inquired about the non-traditional rice pudding empanada, a dessert pastry covered with cinnamon. The menu is a mix of Spanish and English but everything is clearly marked and non-Spanish speakers need not worry.
I started out the meal with a beef empanada. I was pleasantly surprised to find a nice meat to dough ratio with pastry which is beautifully flakey. The flavor profile is not overwhelming sweet and is thankfully remiss of the olive slices which plague so many empanadas. It’s evident that empanadas are a mainstay at Jackie’s Latin Kitchen. The empanada flavor of the day is half priced and there’s a promotion on all flavors where if you buy more, you get a discount.
The wonderful aromas which fill Jackie’s Latin Kitchen became even more evident when my food was cooking. Luckily, my order came out without too much of a wait. I must confess that it smelled so good that I dove in without giving second thought to taking a picture. I quickly remedied this but my dinner is missing a few bites from it’s presentation.
I ordered one of the dinners where you can choose an entree with two sides for a reasonable rate. There are quite a few different combinations and I was happy to see that the choices included everything from mainstays like rice, roast pork, tostones (twice fried, flattened, plantains) to lighter fare like salad and garlic chicken.
I mixed it up with my choices of garlic chicken, yuca and onions ( a potato-like root vegetable) and maduros (a sweet, one fried plantain). I can’t exaggerate how much I enjoyed every bite. The tender garlic chicken is off the bone and in a creamy garlic sauce. The yuca was perfectly seasoned and the maduros were so tasty that they made me question why I ever disliked them growing up.
Finally, I split a dessert of toasted coconut bread pudding. Jackie graciously served my part of the dessert on a plate as my compatriots wanted to take theirs home. In general, desserts come a la carte and are the perfect size for two to share. The toasted coconut bread pudding is an occasional offering and I was glad to have come at the right time for it. The consistency had a magnificent lightness and it was a fantastic tropical twist on a classic.
Jackie’s Latin Kitchen is perfect for a date night, lunch or just to try something different. It quickly has become one of my favorite places to go in Middletown with new favorites being the beautifully seasoned breaded chicken and the cheesy goodness of the chicken empanadas.
If you’re looking for authenticity with a sense of finesse, look no further. Jackie’s Latin Kitchen is a must-visit with stellar flavors and modern atmosphere. You’ll be glad you made the trip.
If you go:
Jackie’s Latin Kitchen
36 James Street ( entrance on Henry St.)
Middletown, NY 10940