Homey Latin Food in Park Slope

On a recent Saturday, my husband, our daughter and I headed out for a day in Prospect Park. After a fun day in Park Slope, we ended our outing in a homey restaurant called Colombia.

It was one of the first times that we spent a majority of the day outside of the house since our daughter’s birth. Now that she’s 12 months old, being mobile has become easier (or maybe we’re just more experienced and lenient about some things, like naps.)

Now, I love to dine out and eat foods that I wouldn’t do justice cooking at home, but I also love to picnic. Maybe it’s the city in me that likes the opportunity to whip out the picnic basket and get down on the grass. So, I prepared a nice wheat berry salad and some fruit for lunch and ate in a shady spot in Prospect Park.

After a few rides on the carousel, we made our way to 5th Avenue. We played in the sprinklers in the recently renovated park on 3rd street (I was happy to have a child with me so I didn’t look so silly checking out the park’s cool new additions.)

Tired and hungry, we stumbled upon a cozy Latin restaurant called Colombia. It was small and homey, with a few tables embellished with beautiful tiles and bench seating. There was also a large china cabinet that held traditional Colombian serving ware (or at least that’s what it looked like to me.) The interior was warm and inviting, but we wanted to dine al fresco on this beautiful night.

The backyard seating area was perfect for us. It is small, but the simple, clean appearance transports you to another world. White fences, lush vegetation and beautiful flowering vines along fire escapes make an attractive backdrop.

We were only one of two parties in the restaurant, which did not seem too odd to me since it was early on a Saturday night (5 pm) and it was on Labor Day weekend. Several Yelp reviewers expressed similar concern over a seemingly empty restaurant, but quickly dismissed these thoughts after receiving personal attention and enjoying the food. And I like being able to pick where I’d like to sit, especially when navigating a City Mini in teeny areas.

The only information I found on the history of the restaurant was that it opened in March 2011 and one Yelp reviewer stated that the owners are from Cauca de Valle. Lou C. said, “there is surely a mix of Colombian cuisine, both coastal and mountain” on 6/11/2011. There were mixed reviews regarding the authenticity of the cuisine and I am certainly not one to comment on that.

My husband had the Bandeja Paisa (country platter) which was a large dish of typical Colombian food: crispy chicharron and grilled steak over rice with an over easy egg, beans, sweet plantain and a small arepa. This dish originates from Antioquia and is made with several ingredients depending on the location.

Although it had a beautiful presentation, as a dietitian, it took everything in me not to snatch every piece of chicharron (fried pork rinds) off my husband’s plate before it coated his arteries. That being said, the chicharron was fried perfectly and the dish was very tasty. The steak was a bit overcooked, but this is hard to avoid when it’s so thinly sliced.

To counteract this not-so-healthy dish, I ordered the Planchas Vegetarianas. I must say, I was slightly disappointed at the site of my dish of simple sautéed vegetables to my husband’s country platter (yes, I know I just made a stink about the saturated fat in the country platter, but even I am temped by fried foods).  That is, until my accompaniments of guacamole, sour cream, rice and tostones arrived. Mixed together, I had a very flavorful dish.

The menu is fairly large, with appetizers (like empanadas, guacamole, and arepa con queso – which was delicious), larger combination plates and several chicken and seafood dishes. There is a kids’ menu (and children’s books to help entertain hungry kids), as well as Colombian coffee and a selection of desserts – they offer figs in syrup with sweet milk, coconut flan and chocolate tres leches cake). There is also a selection of natural juices, including lulo, which they apparently import from Columbia. Lulo is a subtropical plant from northwestern South America, which has a citrus flavor…I’ll keep this in mind when I come back next time.

According to several Yelp reviews, there is also live music and salsa dancing during the week – as if the good food, cozy, homey atmosphere and attentive service wasn’t enough!

Colombia is located at 376 5th Avenue, Bklyn, NY 11215. Visit them at www.colombiany.com.

Theresa Gentile MS, RD, CDN is a dietitian at Maimonides Medical Center, adjunct faculty at CUNY Brooklyn College and counsels adults and children using sound science and holistic approaches to eating.

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