This week, San Francisco-based chef Reina Montenegro launched a new business, Chef Reina, which sells a variety of Filipinx dishes and meats. The online storefront offers a selection of prepared meals such as Lumpia Shanghai ($15), Sizzling Sisig ($18), Chick’n Adobo ($18), and Loco Moco ($21). The business also offers breakfast meals such as Baconsilog ($15) and Ube Pancakes with Bacon ($18; available on Friday and Saturday only). In addition to prepared dishes, Chef Reina offers one-pound “care packages” of Filipinx vegan meats, including tocino ($20), caldereta ($18), and carnitas ($20). Chef Reina will operate out of a ghost kitchen and offer delivery in the Daly City/Peninsula area, with weekly pickup times to be announced.

Chef Reina is the new incarnation of Montenegro’s chain of vegan Filipinx restaurants that are now permanently closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In 2017, Montenegro transformed the flagship location of Nick’s Kitchen—previously owned by a Filipinx family who served a meat-heavy menu—in Daly City to an all-vegan establishment and added 30 plant-based menu items that included a mixture of American comfort food and traditional Filipinx dishes. After gaining popularity for her new vegan menu, Montenegro opened a second location, Nick’s on Grand, in South San Francisco before expanding to a third location, Nick’s on Mission, last year in the center of SoMa Pilipinas (San Francisco’s Filipinx cultural heritage district). “Although it is with great sadness that Nick’s on Grand is closing its doors, it is also necessary to thrive during these hard times and make changes to how we serve our customers,” Montenegro said. “The restaurant was an incredible space and it was a great home for almost three years, and for that I am grateful.” 

Montenegro will host virtual cooking and food demos to share her knowledge of Filipinx cooking with customers. “Being an immigrant, a person of color, and not having immediate family close by has been challenging, but it has also made me courageous in times of uncertainty,” Montenegro said. “I hid behind Nick’s for so long and I’ve repeatedly exhausted myself trying to explain who Nick is, when I knew the whole time it was me. I’m delighted to connect with customers in a new way, and introduce vegan Filipino food to more families through our online storefront.”

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