A couple of months back, I was doing one of my "drives" to check out what's new....this time it was on Imperial. I hadn't been around since they started construction on the "Farmer's Market" site which is going to become a Wal-Mart. During my drive east on Imperial, I noticed some of the food stalls that used to occupy the market, like El Guero had set-up shop on the street. Then something caught my eye. Right next to El Salvadoreno was what seemed to be a Colombian Restaurant, called Antojitos Colombianos.
Actually, this was the original location of El Salvadoreno way back when. I mentioned the place to the Missus and even one of my coworkers, "AaronF" who is from Bogota. It took us a while, like three months, the shop closes at 7 pm, so it's hard to hit after work sometimes, but we finally made it there a couple of weeks ago.
There was one woman working the shop that day...doing everything, taking orders, bussing, making the food, but man she worked impressively! She also seemed a bit unsure of us when we entered, but soon warmed up to us. In fact, during our meal, she came by a couple of times to tell us (as much as she could) about how things were made, while still serving the other two tables, cooking, and cleaning....amazing.
We just had to start with the Empanadas ($1.50 each), which were a nice yellow and still sizzling when they hit the table.
The empanadas looked a bit greasy at first glance, but were not. The texture was crisp at first, with a bit of a chew. The filling, a combination of seasoned beef and potatoes, with hints of spices like cumin was very tasty. The aji that came along with the empanadas was more sour than spicy. I enjoyed the extra dimension it added to my empanada, this Missus just loved Hers straight up.
The Missus also loved the Chorizo con Arepa ($2.99).
I half expected the arepa to be stuffed with a chorizo mixture, but even though it was not, the Missus loves Her cornmeal products and that arepa went down in a second. This chorizo was also quite good, more of a firm sausage, with a mild smokey heat from peppers, along with other good seasonings. Had me wondering where they got this from....I wanted some for my own stash!
The Missus also ordered a true Colombian dish Aborrajado ($2.99), basically a fried plaintain stuffed with cheese.
The plantain was very ripe...which the Missus loves. Me, I'm not a big fan of sweet-milky-sour flavors, so this wasn't my thing. On a future visit, the plantain wasn't quite ripe enough and it was very starchy which the Missus didn't care for, but I didn't mind.
I went all in and order the Bandeja Paisa($12.49), the classic Colombian gut busting platter(bandeja) of protein and carbs that many consider the national dish of Colombia. One does not fool around with a plate of food like this.
The first thing the Missus said when this arrived was, "there's nothing green on the plate!" Of course, I quickly pointed out the avocado, which also provides over 20 essential nutrients I might add! As a whole this was much better then the version I had at Tropicafe. I was probably most impressed with the carne de res....the slice of beef, which looked like it was going to be shoe leather, but was surprisingly tender, if a bit under-seasoned. The chorizo on this plate was more of a Mexican style sausage and totally different from what came with the arepa, which we preferred. The Missus poached the plantain, which She loved. The fried egg was a fried egg, the chicharron on the hard side, but still better than Tropicafe's version. This was served with rice and peruano beans which had nicely absorbed all the flavor of it's cooking liquid....which also nicely included bits of pork.
The woman working really made us feel at home as did the food, so we decided to return for another dinner. This time there was a gentleman working the kitchen who greeted us from behind the counter when we arrived. When we sat, a well dressed man brought us menus...we thought he worked there but he was just another customer who wanted us to feel at home....this is the kind of place Antojitos Colombianos is.
Of course we had to have the empanadas, which were even better this time around.
The Missus also ordered Aborrajado which I mentioned earlier disappointed Her as the plantains weren't ripe enough for Her. The Chorizo en Arepa was still good though! The Missus also ordered this baseball looking thing......
Which is the Papa Rellena ($3.99). The exterior was nicely crisped, while retaining the wonderful potato flavor. The filling was rice and chicken, which could have had a bit more flavor. But this was still good. I was told that the filling can vary from day to day depending on what's available.
Meanwhile, a nice tall gentleman whom we saw on our last visit entered. I believe he's the owner...he smiled and came over to shake our hands and chat.
Earlier, I had asked the friendly gentleman cooking what I should order, the chuleta (pork cutlet), sobrebarriga (flank steak), or the lengua? He smiled looked me up and down and said, "the lengua, you will like the lengua". So I ordered the Lengua en Salsa ($11.99).....
This was indeed the right decision. The beef tongue was very tender, mildly gamey, with that condensed beef flavor that well prepared lengua has. Missing was the waxy texture with a strong offal taste that poorly prepared lengua has. The onions, peppers, and tomatoes added pungency and acid to the dish. The yucca frita was crisp and almost light and disappeared quickly into the Missus's mouth. In fact, the "non-meat eater" in the family loved this as well and almost finished half the lengua!
As we left the place, the Missus told me, "you know, we just had five different starches with this meal. Corn, plantain, potato, rice, and yucca. So much for the plate lunch three starch rule, huh?" In spite of eating a seemingly vast amount of food during our two meals, at no time did we feel stuffed, which is kind of strange.
2851 Imperial Ave
San Diego, CA 92102
Open Daily 11am - 7pm