A blanket of smoke unravels from a parking lot in Woodbridge, inviting diners to stop and taste what awaits. They’ll find a trailer filled with meaty delights — a bronze-skinned pig turning on a spit, chickens dripping their juices as they hang from the ceiling alongside a pineapple, Rubenesque ribs that repose on the grill. This is Lechonera DMV, the region’s only source of a Southern Puerto Rican tradition with which island natives Richard Torres and Mario Ernesto Corona Ruiz grew up.
The pair met at the North Miami location of culinary school Johnson & Wales University, but Torres says, “It’s important that everyone knows that we’re a family.” That includes wives and fellow Johnson & Wales alums Keysi Torres and Amy Molina.
After college, the chefs settled in NoVA, where Torres was head of kitchen operations for the Founding Farmers chain and Corona was executive chef for DC’s Yardbird.
Like many food trucks, Lechonera DMV was birthed by the pandemic restaurant slow-down, but also Torres and Corona’s nostalgia for childhood pig roasts, resulting in a dish known as lechon asado.
“We wanted to eat lechon,” Torres says. “And no one was doing it.”
Ironically, the chefs note that in their first foray with their new setup, they sold out so quickly that they didn’t get to try their wares.
Lechonera DMV is currently open only on Saturday and Sunday, but Corona and Torres start prepping the four to six 65- to 75-pound pigs each Wednesday.
“It’s a 72-hour process from start to finish,” Corona says. The result is cubes of herbaceous pork that fall apart on contact with teeth. Meats are served with rice dotted with al dente beans, tangy yuca en escabeche, sweet plantain relish, and pasta salad. “Straight-up Puerto Rican sides,” says Corona.
Guests must save their appetites for the chefs’ tembleque, a panna cotta–like dessert that the team changes weekly. It might be a deep green and flavored with pistachios, then topped with raspberries one week, then the next, it’s Nutella flavored and covered with candied hazelnuts. The thing to know is that it’s more compelling than most restaurant desserts.
But a restaurant is the ultimate goal. The two say they hope to have a full-time restaurant space in the next year, all the better for a serious group of chefs to get even more ambitious with its trade.
Occoquan Commuter Parking Lot: 1325 Old Bridge Rd., Woodbridge
Feature image by Tyson Bateman