Before our friends (hola Britani y Jarrett!) recommended this place, I had never tried Colombian food. That might be because this is the only Colombian restaurant in San Diego proper, and it's not exactly in a part of town I find myself in often.
About that... so... it's not exactly in the best part of town. The neighborhood is called Grant Hill and it's main thoroughfare is Imperial Avenue, to the East of downtown. It's the barrio. It's part of "Southeast San Diego", a designation that I remember used to make the suburbanites I grew up with tremble in fear. I remember one of my teachers telling a kid to take of his beanie and pull up his pants because "this isn't Southeast San Diego!"
However, I seem to have lived to tell the tale, so maybe it's not so bad after all. Maybe the only thing we truly have to fear is fear itself. Maybe suburbanites are paranoid (they are paranoid). With reasonable precautions, there's no reason not to go here to try out delectable and cheap foreign food.
Oh, right! This is about food, not Sociology. FOOOOOOD!
We met up with Britani and Jarrett and sat in a corner at the small restaurant. They had prepared us for a meat bonanza, and they were correct. Meat on meat on meat on reasonibly-priced meat!
These were filled mostly with the aforementioned MEAT (ground beef), though supposedly there were also potatoes inside. They came out piping hot, fresh from the fryer, which gave the corn pastry a nice consistency. The green onion salsa was a nice accompaniment, though I must admit I prefer I would have preferred a salsa with a little heat to it -- something that I was quickly learning is not necessarily standard in Colombian Cuisine.
I decided to go for broke and get a dish where I could sample several things. This mighty combo platter contains a flat beef steak, chorizo, chicharron, beans, rice, a fried egg, fried plantain, avocado, and arepa (a type of corn flatbread - I had to look that one up). Lots going on here! There was no way I could eat all of it, so I made sure to eat at least a little of everything. My favorite thing was the fried plantain, which was a sweet delight and a good contrast to all the meaty meats that were happening around it. The chorizo, beef, beans, avocado and eggs all went nicely together as well. I wasn't crazy about the chicharrones - they were a bit dry and gristly. The arepa was also a bit too much on the dry side. Overall though, I was happy with this meal because it offered so many different tastes in one and was a DIRT CHEAP way to take a risk trying a new type of cuisine.
Arroz Con Pollo
Britani got this. Because I am immature, I thought the plantains looked a lot like poop in this context. Our waiter gave us a pro-tip: try the rice with ketchup. Everyone was a bit surprised at how good that combo is! Ketchup: it's not just for little kids eating Mac-and-Cheese, it's also good on Arroz Con Pollo! Heinz can thank me for that succinct and pithy slogan.
Picada for 1
Jason got this. It's a mixture of chicharrones, chorizo, ribs, potatoes, plantains, and the aforementioned arepa. His take was "it's basically a plate full of bacon!" and he meant that only in the most loving way. He demolished it.
This is where I should mention the friendliness/general awesomeness of the service. Jason was last to get his food and our waiter apologized and said they were all out of it. He offered to bring out the menu for Jason to look at. When he came back, he had the food! "Gotcha!" This was especially funny since Jason was probably the hungriest of all of us. (It doesn't sound that funny now that I'm typing it out. Maybe you have to be hungry and sweating in an un-air-conditioned little restaurant where everyone around you is speaking a foreign language for it to be as funny as it was. YOU HAD TO BE THERE, GUYS.)
Jugos Naturales (Strawberry)
This tasted like a very light milkshake. The sweetness is a nice contrast to the saltiness of the food. Also shown: Britani, professional drink model.
Colombiana-brand soft drink
Tried this out to stay in theme. It looks and tastes a lot like Irn Bru, the national soft drink of Scotland. I wouldn't get it again, just because soda is not really my jam, but it was refreshing enough (especially because it was very hot in the restaurant).
Overall, it was a really enjoyable experience getting some exposure to authentic Colombian cuisine. We'll return, but will we fall for the "gotcha!" trick again?
Verdict: I'm ready for Further Studies in Colombian Cuisine 202!
2851 Imperial Ave.
San Diego, CA 92102
Side note: Britani and Jarrett's patio, on a canyon overlooking MIssion Valley, is the best thing in San Diego. All you other patios can go home crying.