When walking into Rockaway Beach Boulevard’s new taco joint/juice bar, Te Quiero, your olfactory organs will immediately be tickled with the cornucopia of spices Chef Milley Manzur is simmering for his beloved tacos. And while waiting with your mouth watering, owner Lizbeth Palomino will woo you with one of their deliciously satisfying fresh juices or smoothies. Whatever you pick, one thing’s for certain—after leaving Te Quiero—you’ll be satisfyingly exhaling, “Te quiero,” which in Spanish means, “I want you,” or “I love you.”
Te Quiero, located at 111-14 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, just opened its doors last Friday, March 22, and according to the owners, the response has been amazing so far.
Palomino, 26, said, “We’ve only been open for less than a week, and people have been continuously streaming in, curious to see what we are serving, and then returning almost every day. It’s amazing to already have customers coming back daily, and while waiting, calling their friends saying, ‘Hey, I’m at the new taco place, do you want anything?’ It’s so gratifying because that’s all we want—to bring a special love to the community with our space and offerings of tasty, fresh, healthy food and drinks.”
When asked what was the catalyst that motivated her to open Te Quiero, Palomino, who’s of Colombian descent, said, “Last summer, Milley and I went to Cuba, where we stayed at an Airbnb. The hosts gave us a taxi driver named Odelio, who from the moment we met him until the time we left, gave us so much love, and treated us like family.
“When we first met Odelio, as he got out of the car, he said, ‘Te quiero,’ and it was so baffling for a complete stranger to be so loving, and not even know us. We spent a week in Cuba, and really got to know Odelio. He even invited us to his house for home-cooked food. Odelio gave us so much love, and his warmth was so touchingly inspirational, that together Milley and I came up with the idea of bringing that same ‘Odelio-Te Quiero’ love back to Rockaway.”
Palomino, who hails from Richmond Hill, says that she is no stranger to Rockaway, as she’s been coming to the beach with her family since she was a child. “I’ve always loved Rockaway. I grew up coming to this beach, so this community always has great memories in my heart, and I always had a positive experience every time I came here. After Sandy, Milley and I would drive over here and together we explored Rockaway’s rebirth with all the new businesses like Whit’s End. It was encouraging to witness how strong this community is, knowing that I fell in love with the area as a child. So Milley and I vowed that one day, we too would plant something wholesome here and be a part of Rockaway’s inspirational narrative about never giving up, keep moving upward, even in the midst of adversity,” she said.
As a foodie, Palomino says she fell in love with the way Manzur cooks, and for a beach town like Rockaway, having tacos and tropical juices seemed like a perfect match. “When people come to visit the beach, tacos and juices are just right,” Palomino said. But she hopes to serve more than just the beach crowd. “Also, for year-round residents, we wanted to offer a community space, where they could swing by, become friends, and get their fill of something tasty and nutritious at a reasonable price. I’ve been to places where two cups of coffee cost $16. For me, that’s outrageous. That’s not our intention or desire for Te Quiero. We want people to feel comfortable buying a drink or food that is affordable, healthy and fulling,” Palomino said.
Chef Milley, who is of Dominican and Lebanese descent and also an artist, said his inspiration for cooking is his mom. “From six years old, I fell in love with cooking. I didn’t have to communicate with people, food did the talking,” he joked. There’s no doubt that Te Quiero’s food and vibe speak to the hearts of locals.
Te Quiero offers breakfast dishes including avocado toast, oatmeal de casa and banana walnut cake. For lunch (or early brunch), tacos (three for $7 or one for $2.75) come in options of pernil (pork), chicken, steak (which is off the hook!), fish of the day and vegan. Manzur loves to spice it up, and offers customers an option of hot sauce kick or donkey kick! Other dishes include salads ($8.50): sweet and spicy or avocado. They offer six different juices (all fruit, no sugar added), and smoothies ($6.50 for a small, $8 for a large) with locally-inspired names like: Beach 98-Pina Colada, Beach 108-On The Beach, Rockaway Beach-Mango Mojito, Beach 111-Serenity, Beach 120-Justice, Belle Harbor and Rockaway Park. Plus options of Spanish coffee, matcha latte, green tea and coconut water.
Palomino and Manzur decorated the space to continue that Rockaway Beach feel. The walls are awash in blue with a beautiful seafront motif and original art adorning the walls. “Both my dad and Milley are artists, and we host art exhibitions in Richmond Hill, so we’re definitely extending the same vibe to Rockaway. Plus, we want the community to embrace us for events. And for added fun, we have a book reading corner and games like chess and dominoes.
“Te Quiero has been a labor of love, and we want people to come in, eat, drink and feel the amazing energy and positive vibes. We’re sure that folks will leave here, a bit happier, loved and of course fuller than they walked in. Te quiero Rockaway!” Palomino said.