‘Best new chef’ Paola Velez brings a delightful Afro-Latino pop-up dinner to NYC

A version of Dominican street food staple yaniqueque stars on Paola Velez’s new pop-up menu. Photo credit: Dōekï Dōekï

First there was Doña Dona, a doughnut pop-up that raised funds for undocumented immigrants. Then came Bakers Against Racism, a grassroots bake sale that sparked an international movement. That was followed by La Bodega, a bakery pop-up that fostered community when people were isolated during the pandemic.

Star pastry chef Paola Velez (Food & Wine’s 2021 Best New Chef) was behind them all, and, after a two-year hiatus, the queen of community-minded pop-ups spotlighting underrepresented communities is back with Dōekï Dōekï. The new prix-fixe dinner series kicks off September 28 at Nordstrom’s Wolf restaurant with 6 pm and 8:30 pm seatings.

All about Dōekï Dōekï

Dōekï Dōekï is all about celebrating Velez’s Afro-Latina heritage with playful takes on classics like yaniqueque, a Dominican fried bread. “I had to sit with this idea for two years, build it out and nurture it,” says Velez. “I didn’t know if this was something the public needed or wanted.”

But to embrace the new normal we’re in and as an ode to her mom—who would tell her, “Everything will be doeki doeki,” when she was feeling low—Velez decided to go for it. “She didn’t know how to say okie dokie, but I never corrected her,” Velez says. “I found so much peace and comfort in that, and I’m taking that mantra and telling people everything is going to be OK, at least for the two or three hours you’re eating with me.”

A hand holding a fork that’s cutting into a sticky bun created by chef Paola Velez in New York City.

Velez’s famed plantain sticky buns are on the menu at the pop-up. Photo credit: Brian Bills

Velez was born in the Bronx, raised in the city and in the Dominican Republic, and wanted this latest pop-up to celebrate all of those experiences. Yaniqueque, a street food staple in the DR and one of Velez’s favorites, stars on the prix-fixe menu. “Imagine an empanada shell but fried without filling, and it is crispy and crunchy,” Velez says. Her version is topped with a citrusy ricotta spread, oranges, figs, and honey. 

Plus, fans of Velez will be thrilled to find her famed plantain sticky buns on the menu, too. “Guy Fieri called them the best sticky buns he’d had in America,” says Velez, who was inspired to create them a few years ago after watching Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives with her mom. Velez’s fluffy brioche buns are stuffed with a sweet plantain filling and topped with a rich dulce de leche drizzle.  

Where it’s headed next

The chef Paola Velez cutting vegetables in a kitchen.

This Paola Velez’s first new pop-up in two years. Photo credit: Brian Bills

And don’t worry if you can’t snag one at the pop-up—the buns are now available nationwide at all Nordstrom restaurants and cafes through October 15 for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Velez has big plans for Dōekï Dōekï. After the September 28 dinner in New York, she plans to take the series to Miami, Austin, Houston, Los Angeles, and Seattle, among other cities (the dates are still to be announced). Don’t expect the same menu, though—Velez plans to switch things up each time. “Sometimes you’ll see it as snacks, and sometimes you’ll see them as a well-composed tasting menu,” she says. “It will transform itself into many facets and formats.”

Event details

Date: September 28

Time: 6 pm and 8:30 pm

Location: Wolf, Nordstrom New York, 225 West 57th Street

Price: $120 per person, which includes beverage pairings

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Tanay Warerkar is OpenTable’s New York writer and a content marketing manager.