My previous restaurant review was of Andale, the excellent taqueria in Richfield, in the south metro. With this review I go further north in the metro area, to Northeast Minneapolis (locally known just as Northeast), and further south in Latin America, to La Colonia on Central Avenue. Their specialty is Colombian and Ecuadorian food. I don’t know very much about either cuisine. My only previous encounter with Ecuadorian food was at Chimborazo—further up Central—and I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten at a Colombian restaurant before. As such I am the furthest thing from an expert on this food. I can tell you with certainty, however, that you are likely to leave a big meal at La Colonia wanting to lie down and that it may take you many, many hours to emerge from a meat coma.
We were a party of six adults at lunch a couple of weekends ago and tried a range of things; most of it was enjoyable. Before I get to the food though, a few words on the space for those who have not been before. The restaurant doesn’t seem particularly large as you enter but there’s a second, larger dining room off to the right, and yet another through it. We were seated in the first room, which was not particularly busy, but the other two rooms were quite full at noon on a Saturday. The space is comfortable and casual and the people are friendly.
So, what did we eat? A lot of things with cheese on them and a lot of things involving fried plantains. We also ate fried plantain with cheese on it.
- Empanadas con queso: These were just okay, we all thought.
- Empanadas con carne: These, however, we all thought were very good. As to whether one sort is Ecuadorian and the other Colombian, I confess I have no idea.
- Arepas con queso: These were quite good.
- Maduro con queso: This is the aforementioned fried plantains with cheese on them. I know it sounds unlikely, but it was very good.
- Bandeja Paisa: I think this is a Colombian thing. There’s a lot of saturated fat on this plate: grilled beef, pork crackling, Colombian sausage, fried eggs, fried plantains. Beans and rice and avocado as well. All of it was good; the Colombian sausage was excellent.
- Picada La Colonia: Also Colombian, I think, and also a platter laden with meat. More of the excellent Colombian sausage, more of the pork crackling and grilled beef, plus pork loin. For a twist this features battered and fried green plantain/tostones. Lots of yucca as well.
- Encocado de Pescado: This, I think, is Ecuadorian. Cod braised in coconut milk and served with rice, avocado and the inevitable plantain. We had a version of this dish at Chimborazo as well, and I think I liked this one more.
- Bandera: Also Colombian (I think) and yet another big ass plate of meat. This features three different types of braised/stewed meat with rice: chicken, beef and tripe. All very tasty indeed.
- Caldo de patas: There’s a menu of weekend specials that features a number of soups/stews and from it we got this stew/soup with cow feet and hominy. Hearty and good. Served with steamed rice.
- Caldo de Bagre: From the same menu came this catfish soup/stew. It looked identical but was altogether lighter and brighter. I think most of us preferred it.
For pictures of the restaurant and the food, please launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for price/value etc.
All of this, plus a few soft drinks, a horchata (which the person who got it said was just ordinary) and a beer, came to $26/head with tax and tip. Not cheap but probably appropriate for the amount of meat we ate (and we did take some leftovers home). The service was friendly but not always there—and there was a fair bit of confusion with the bill at the end; first, we were given a different table’s far less extravagant bill, and then there was a mixup in running our credit cards. Still, these are minor considerations at a place like this, especially as the problems were cleared up very quickly.
On the whole, it was a nice change-up meal but I’m not sure how often I’d want to eat like this—it took me a long time to get hungry again and I’m not sure my cardiologist would approve. That said, I am open to recommendations for other Latin American places elsewhere in the Twin Cities. And if you know more about the distribution of Central and South American populations and restaurants in the metro area, please enlighten me on that subject as well.
For my next couple of reviews I’ll return to Southeast Asia (well, Southeast Asian restaurants in the Twin Cities anyway), and I’ll probably soon start posting looks at more groceries around the Twin Cities that cater to (more) recent immigrant populations. But before that there’ll be more whisky!