Mexican food in Bogota? This is one of the most common questions I get. Americans (gringos) are obsessed with “Mexican food” and cry about how they miss Chipotle (an American fast food chain specializing in large burritos etc.). Well, too bad. Or take yourself to Gringo Cantina on Calle 80, 12A-29 (behind the Atlantis mall — or go south on Carrera 11, turn right on Calle 80, and it will be on your left.) The facade is painted in pale pink and blue with large letters that declare: NO MAMES.
This Mexican cantina that has been open for a month now and it doesn’t suck (This is a reference for those who speak Mexican slang). The owner is an Californian with some Colombian roots. He started La Xarcuteria but has sold that concept and no longer has a connection to it. This cantina is his third concept in Bogota. Way to go, entrepreneur!
The owner, Mike, came over to talk to us. His tacos, both corn and flour, are made in house. He is excited to be in Bogota for the start of its culinary revolution (and education). His dishes are small, refined, and fresh. The best dishes are the taco al pastor, the tongue taco (get over it, it’s delicious! Look up, as it is the first one shown in this posting) which he serves so it looks nothing like a tongue for the queasy. Make his day and ask for the taco al pastor without the pineapple (it is too sweet and overpowers the meat).
The sauces are interesting with one made from eggplant/aubergine. The warm tacos are served on warm Colombian pottery which helps keep the freshness. The cold smoked scallop dish was subtle and fresh for those who do not like tacos (and those that do). I would not order the shrimp salad again and the owner admits that this dish is only there to cater to local tastes. I liked the quesadillas with their crunchy fried exteriors and greasy, cheesy, and REAL steak inside (no ground beef, no shredded beef). I enjoyed when Mike and I commiserated about the difference between hard and crunchy as I told him that I like his chicharone/pork rind tostada (an open tortilla that is toasted). Ah, the thrills of foodie geeks!
Dishes came out at a heady speed and Mike left us to eat before coming back for a chat about flavor, sous vide, freshness, seafood, and where to eat in Bogota (so I have a few more to try!). He also kept sending out free dishes for us to try (full disclosure — although this didn’t influence my opinions — it just let me try even more of the menu).
This is a new place so let’s hope it does well. And, yes, he does make a chipotle sauce.
Also: I apologize for the blurriness (and awfulness — the one above which I took quickly as I waited for tacos — to show where the restaurant is situated) of some of the photos… it’s hard to aim and eat at the same time. But, I wanted to post this as soon as possible for the masses… all 37 of you, my readers…