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TASTE OF PUERTO RICO: Local food truck owner celebrates heritage with traditional food

Puerto Rican Day car show on Saturday in Bakersfield to end at Philly's Best Cheesesteaks
Posted at 10:37 AM, Jun 14, 2024

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Felipe Rivera, the owner of Philly's Best Cheesesteaks, says he's inviting people to participate in a car show which ends at his food truck on Ming to celebrate Puerto Rican heritage on Saturday.

  • Video shows Felipe Rivera, the owner of Philly's Best Cheesesteaks food truck, cooking up authentic Philly cheesesteaks and traditional Puerto Rican food
  • Waving the Puerto Rican flag on the outside, while cooking up traditional Puerto Rican empanadas inside the truck, Rivera says his menu brings something unique to the community.
  • Rivera says cooking has always been a part of his life even after he moved to the States from the island, and it’s a way to share his heritage with others.

Carrying a flag like this is a staple for people celebrating Puerto Rican Heritage in June, and this island kitchen waves its flag as it brings a taste of Philly and Puerto Rico right here to Bakersfield.
“Que bonita bandera. Que bonita bandera,” Felipe Rivera, the owner of Philly's Best Cheesesteaks sang as he cooked.

Waving the Puerto Rican flag on the outside, while cooking up traditional Puerto Rican empanadas inside the truck, Rivera says his menu brings something unique to the community.

“I’m gonna start making some Boricua empanadilla, papi pa’ que tú lo sepas," he said while prepping to cook authentic Philly cheesesteaks.

“I was born in Puerto Rico and and raised in north Philadelphia," he said. "I decided to open up something different here.”

“We just wanted to bring the East Coast over here,” Myriam Barradas, the co-owner of the truck said.

Customers like James Talkington say he comes back again and again for the authentic taste.

“My first experience was actually in Philly, so I had an exceptional Philly cheesesteak my first experience, and everyone since is just a cheap knockoff until I ate here,” Talkington said.

Talkington tells me he’s here for the cheesesteaks but stayed to try something new.

“You know what, I’m going to get an empanada now that you said that,” he said.

That’s what Rivera hopes for, saying cooking has always been a part of his life even after he moved to the States from the island, and it’s a way to share his heritage with others.

“Traditionally, cooking starts in the family," Rivera said. "All the Boricua, all the Puerto Rican family, they all cook, so growing up seeing the family cooking, automatically you cook.”

In June, Puerto Ricans recognize their heritage at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York, which according to the organizers is the largest demonstration of cultural pride in the nation.

While it’s not New York, Rivera says a group of local Puerto Ricans plan to participate in a car show that ends at his food truck to celebrate.

“We’re going to have Puerto Rican flags on the cars, flying around, driving around. Let people see a different culture and they might say ‘Oh, let’s go check it out.’”

The Gag Law enacted in 1948 criminalized the possession of Puerto Rican flags as a way to suppress the independence movement.

After the law was repealed in 1957, Puerto Ricans can be seen carrying the flag proudly and Rivera does the same as he invites people to visit his island oasis.

“Come try our food," he said. "We got tostones, empandillas. We got cheesesteaks and cheesesteak fries. We got everything, chicken wings sazona'o de Puerto Rico pa’ que lo sepa.”

If you would like to grab a bite to eat or participate in the car show, you can visit Philly’s Best Cheesesteaks food truck on Saturday at noon for the celebration.


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