Home is where the heart is for Jenny Chong, manager of Chiquitita Mexican Grill, a small but stand-out eatery that the mother of two has been pouring her heart and soul into for more than five years.
Inspired by a friend’s big city restaurant, Chong, then a recent immigrant, immediately wanted to try her hand at the trade, all while serving up her favorite authentic Mexican-style dishes and still keeping it simple.
“I love this community,” said Chong, a local resident, who opened Chiquitita in 2009, a year she said was easily the hardest, economically, for a first-time restaurateur. “It wasn’t easy. It’s baby steps every day, but I wanted to do something good for the community, and that’s why I do what I do.”
Draped in brightly colored curtains and wallpapers, the Fifth Avenue eatery delivers not only unbeatable taste but also, a uniquely authentic atmosphere. Specializing in Mexican rice and beans, chili con carne, enchiladas, fajitas, house-made guacamole, and even Mexican pizza, Chiquitita covers all the bases, while keeping those bases flavorful and affordable.
A single chicken con carne fajita (one fresh flour tortilla stuffed with sautéed bell peppers and onions) will run you just $2.75 while a family sized portion of fajitas (one pound of boneless chicken, steak – or both – with 12 freshly made tortillas, sautéed bell peppers and onions, black or pinto beans and salsa) will cost you anywhere from $17.85 to $28.95.
Every day, Chong, her business partner and their dedicated staff serve Ridgeites and their families the “best of the best.”
“Everything is good quality because, not only do my own children eat here, but everyone who eats here is like my family,” said Chong stressing that, even though romaine lettuce is notably pricier than iceberg, she splurges on it, not only to perfect her dishes but also to provide the healthiest options for hungry eaters. “No matter what, I try and do my best.”
Just one block down from big name competitors like 86th Street’s newest addition, Chipotle, Chong considers herself lucky to call Bay Ridge’s Fifth Avenue her home.
“I have been very blessed,” said the manager who, over the last five years, has seen customers continue to choose Chiquitita, and recommend it to loved ones. At Chiquitita, it’s not about the competition. “At the end of the day, we’re going to be here, and those who eat here, leave happy and come back.”
That could be because, like Chong, each staffer pours his or her heart and soul into every order, every dish and every customer’s personal experience.
“I would give my last breath to secure Chiquitita,” Chong said of her home away from home at 8321 Fifth Avenue, noting that she considers it a blessing to have stayed in business for as long as she has on the ever-changing strip. “Either way, I have no regrets. I do my best, because I love what I do, and that’s that.”
Chiquitita Mexican Grill is open seven days a week – weekends are busiest – from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. with delivery (free of charge for orders over $10) ending at 9:30 p.m. For more information, to order, or see a full menu, visit www.cmgtacos.com.