Bingen's Boricua en la Luna
By Jacob Bertram for Hood River Eats
A taste of Puerto Rico is only a short drive away this time as Halley Morera has been offering authentic cuisine from the Caribbean island since early this year out of a food truck in Bingen.
The business is the culmination of Morera’s passion for cooking, pride in her heritage, and love for her family.
If the intense savory and spicy flavors emanating from the truck didn’t give away her pride in her Puerto Rican background, the business’ name surely would. Boricua en la Luna, literally “Puerto Rican on the Moon,” is an ode to a popular anthem on the island of the same name, and an expression of her joy in sharing her culture.
Morera was born in San Juan, and grew up south of the island capital in Caguas. Since she was a little kid Morera had found joy in helping her grandmother in the kitchen and exploring different flavors. “Since I was little, I loved really strong flavors,” She said. “I’m like a little four year old eating blue cheese with my grandpa … all the things you think a four-year-old wouldn't eat.”
She started really experimenting in the kitchen as a teen, a hobby which grew into a passion.
She moved to the Gorge 10 years ago, and in the back of her mind, she was staking out ideas for a restaurant in the area. So finding the food truck was a serendipitous moment for her.
In January, the owners of the Huck Truck, Erik and Jessie Stenberg, beloved in the community for more than five years, put their food truck up for sale. When Morera saw the listing on Facebook, something about it spoke to her, so she shared it to her personal page.
“People just started going crazy, and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, this is for you. This is it,’” she recalls.
That instant decided her fate. Before she knew it, she was filing paperwork for a business permit, putting up the money for the truck, and preparing a menu — which she said could not be done without the support from her family, including father José, who she says has been a helpful business partner.
For instance, when preparing the menu Morera admits she was being a bit too modest, starting off with simple dishes that she knew could please customers, such as the pollo a la plancha — marinated chicken breast, grilled and served with rice and beans.
“I think I’ve always been very hard on myself, but I feel like we are our own worst critic,” she said.
Her father, who resides in Puerto Rico, started to push her outside of her comfort zone, inspiring her to start making skirt steak, churrasco, and Chicharrones De Pollo, fried chicken, which she says are now best sellers at the truck.
She says each day is beyond busy for her, from prepping and cooking for her walk-up business to creating dishes for the catering side of the business, so she is glad to have the help of her mother, Kara, and sister Isabella. Her 8-year-old son, Sebastian, also helps out bringing drinks to customers from time to time.
“I’m very thankful to have family and just a lot of support, because I don’t know that I would be able to do it all on my own,” she said.
In the future she hopes to expand her business, but for now she is focused on creating great food.
“It’s been incredibly hard, but it’s been super rewarding,” she said.
Boricua en la Luna is located at 415 W Steuben St., in Bingen. They are open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, and are now accepting catering and delivery orders.