As the sound of salsa music wafted through the the speakers in El Cafetal Colombian Restaurant in Nampa, I sat down for another visit to them. Maybe I like El Cafetal because they remind me of my visits to Cartegena, Colombia, or maybe because the food is just plain good. Either way, it is a good place to get some unique, different food in the Treasure Valley.
Two famous staples in Colombia are arepas and empanadas. Arepas are corn cakes, sort of like a corn tortilla on steroids. They are a base or a side for many Colombian dishes. Empanadas are a turnover, filled with all sorts of good things and very popular in many Latin American countries. At El Cafetal Colombian Restaurant, the empanadas are available as either an appetizer or a combo meal. They are stuffed with either shredded beef or chicken and mashed potato. Almost every table usually has an order of them to start the meal, along with their delicious green salsa to spice things up. Another popular appetizer seems to be the papa rellena (stuffed potato), which many tables also ordered.
The arepas are a canvas to hold many different toppings or fillings. On one visit, it was served with a chiccharon (fried pork rind) on the side and a lime to squeeze over it. This simple but tasty dish was full of porky goodness. Another version was the arepa con camarones, a nice thick corn cake slit open and filled with a mixture of sautéed shrimp and hogado, a mushroom tomato and garlic mixture that is simply delicious. This is on my short list of things to order over and over again. Cheese, chicken, chorizo and ham are also fillings for the arepas at El Cafetal Colombian Restaurant.
There are several combos on the menu with empanadas or arepas and a side and drink. The combo with empanadas and aborrajado (stuffed plantain) was very good. The stuffed plantain was a huge deep-fried ball of goodness with a creamy filling, making for a very filling meal. A few combos also are used as kid’s meals, with hot dogs and fries as well as mini beef or chicken kabobs. Salchipapas is also on the kid’s menu. Salchipapas is an immensely popular fast/street food in Latin America, essentially cut up hot dogs in a dish mixed with fries and topped with a ketchup and mayonnaise sauce.
Several tables were ordering big platters to share, making for a fun way to enjoy many items. The bandeja paisa consists of portions of rice, kidney beans, pork rind, chorizo, grilled meat, sunny-side up eggs, avocado, sweet plantains and arepa.I could hear one table talking and ordering in Spanish so it is easy to assume this is a popular way to dine in Colombia. Soon, another platter went by to their table, with an amazing array of items on it. The picada valluna platter is considered an appetizer platter. Fried plantains (tostones), beef, pork rind, chicken, yucca, baby yellow potatoes, arepas, pork sausage (chorizo), sliced tomatoes and limes fill the platter with plenty to share.
There are plenty of other main dishes to order also. Grilled chicken and grilled beef flank steak are nice choices for a full meal. The fried tilapia is an impressive dish, the whole fried fish full of flaky bits of fish, while a fried pork chop makes for a nice tender pork dinner. The Colombian tamal is huge, a whole meal in itself. Looking at it on the plate, I wondered how anyone could possibly finish this huge, wonderful-looking tamal.
El Cafetal Colombian Restaurant is located in a shopping mall in Nampa and is easy to get to with plenty of parking. It is a good choice if you want to try something different and fun with a group of people where you can get the platters and share many tastes. The pricing is reasonable and the staff friendly, very willing to describe the different Colombian dishes and help you decide what to try. That is a good way to try, since you’ll be wanting to try many dishes and enjoy the cuisine of Colombia.
3116 Garrity Blvd., Suite 114
Nampa, ID 83687
Phone: (208) 467-1254