Story and Photos by Melanie Kopacz
It’s Colombian food as authentic as being in the coffee-growing capital of Pereira itself. The mountainous coffee-growing region of western Colombia is known for mild Arabica beans and a number of traditional flavorful foods. It’s those delectable recipes and other regional Latin dishes that can be found at El Rinconcito Colombiano #2 here in the western communities.
Rinconcito Colombiano is nestled at the southeast corner of Southern Blvd. and State Road 7 in the Western Plaza shopping center with Home Depot. The tricolors of Colombia’s national flag with yellow, blue and red painted outside the restaurant proudly welcome customers as they walk in.
The doors at this location opened four years ago to complement its original West Palm Beach restaurant. For many longtime customers, like Patricia Recalt and her son Giovanni, the food here feeds their soul.
“We’ve shared a lot of special meals over the years. My husband, Arnaldo, who was from Cuba, passed away two years ago. We would come here for the traditional soups,” Patricia Recalt said.
She and her friend, Marielena Hotusing, agreed it’s that soup and the many other Colombian dishes that they find both so comforting and appetizing.
“If we can’t make it, we will come and get it here, because it’s the same thing as making it,” Recalt said. “It’s home-cooked food, and it’s delicious.”
It’s delicious — and also as fresh as you can get.
“Everything is freshly made daily. We even have our own private butcher,” Rinconcito Colombiano’s General Manager Gladys Restrepo said. “We’re always busy because of the natural food and fresh ingredients.”
Fresh ingredients, like in Colombia’s national dish, Bandeja Paisa, from the Antioquia region.
The hearty meal includes grilled steak, fried egg, pork belly, sausage, sweet plantains, beans and rice, as well as a half an avocado. It and other platters range around $13.
The menu also includes flavorful seafood dishes and several chicken options, like Pechuga De Pollo Asada. The marinated and tenderly grilled chicken breast comes with rice and salad.
Tasty and very filling empanadas are enough for a meal in itself. While other areas of South America make the pockets with dough, Colombian empanadas are made from corn meal and deep fried, making for a soft-yet-crunchy bite into the full chunks of lean beef and potato mixture steaming hot inside. Aside from beef filling, you can get them with either chicken or cheese, and they are $1.59 each.
Sandwiches include the Colombian Burger topped with bacon, pineapple, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and oozing with ketchup, mustard and mayo, with a topping of potato chips and served with a side of fries.
The restaurant’s walls feature the typical street art in the city of Pereira, where Restrepo hails from, with a brightly painted mural of the mountainous landscape as a traditional bus travels along the Andes mountainside. A trellis hangs above with greenery. TVs fill the corners set to stations from the home country.
The restaurant is often filled with people from all ethnicities and ages enjoying the food and conversation. The cozy dining room features a mixture of tables of four to some booths and high tops. There’s seating for 55, as well as an outdoor patio. Or sit up at the bar and grab one of the traditional coffees, like cafe con leche, or a frothy cappuccino. There are also a number of fresh juices, like passion fruit with milk. Several imported libations are also available with a running special of a bucket of beer or Cubetazo at $19 for five.
A number of bakery items will tease your tastebuds, including cheese-filled breads like Pandebono. About a dozen delectable pastries are on display for the choosing. There are also gourmet desserts, like creamy rice pudding and more.
If it’s a meal to start out the day, breakfast is served every day until noon with a number of popular dishes. The Tamal Paisa, a breakfast tamale, is a favorite for many. A corn cake stuffed with chicken, pork, potatoes, peas and carrots, it is then wrapped in banana leaves with a side of rice or corn cake.
Latin music fills the background as people enjoy the cultural culinary delights. For many, it truly is a taste of home.
“Our staff is like family,” Restrepo said, adding that the nationally recognized Colombian food at Rinconcito Colombiano comes from many family recipes.
She wants all who eat there to feel the same love in those recipes, too.
El Rinconcito Colombiano #2 is located at 9900 Southern Blvd. in the shopping plaza at the southeast corner of State Road 7 and Southern Blvd. near Home Depot. The restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. with breakfast served from 7 a.m. to noon. For more information or takeout, call (561) 304-8650 or (561) 469-1689.