Gringo Cantina – Mexican Food in Bogota, Colombia

IMG_0115Mexican 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.

12697005_10153882395389618_2852105833918525714_oThis 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!

IMG_0113The 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).

IMG_0117The 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!

12322775_10153882397639618_3827255297755253606_oDishes 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).

IMG_0118This is a new place so let’s hope it does well. And, yes, he does make a chipotle sauce.

12694644_10153882386614618_6500633435312192372_oAlso: 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…

A Food Adventure in DC – Oaxaca Off the Map

“Are you up for a food adventure?” YES!

The most photogenic dish - a tostada with chicken.
The most photogenic dish – a tostada with chicken.

While there are thousands of restaurants in Washington, DC, few of them truly transport you overseas with one bite of huitlacoche. Sitting around the card table at Taqueria Jugalita will make you feel like you are on an adventure. If you want to go too, here’s how:

1. “Atencion: Solamente Sabado y Domingo, 7 am A 7 pm”

2. Choose your teammates… exclude anyone who cannot handle sitting on a plastic chair in someone’s living room.

3. Cash only. BYOB if you want B. Otherwise, they sell soft drinks.

4.Go to 1445 Park Road, #211, Washington, DC 20010 (That block of Park Road is a tiny example of world fusion with Los Hermanos and a pho restaurant side by side). Ring on the doorbell, wait for the keys to be thrown down to you. Go up to apartment (do not take elevator as it may not work).

5. Try something “bizarre” like beef tongue taco, corn smut (“huitlacoche” – “wheat la coach eh” in my non-phonetic phonetic), or organ meat. Try the sauces on the table. The portion sizes are also “normal” so not as huge (for example, the quesadilla is about the size of a taco since it’s made from one home made corn tortilla — see photo below).

Two servings of quesadillas.
One pork skin quesadilla and one potato and pepper quesadilla.

6. Expect to pay $3.50 per taco (so $7 for a plate or around $14 for a meal). It’s not dirt cheap food and not as cheap as street food from a food truck.

7. Practice your Spanish. Enjoy.

This green "salsa" is spicy!
This green “salsa” is spicy!

Three Amigos ~ Mexican Food In Dhaka

Americans are obsessed with “Mexican food” of which there is a dearth of in Dhaka. But, as I have tried 100 restaurants in Dhaka, here are the three “Mexican” places (and my review rating of them):

Uno ~ El Toro, Gulshan 1 (3/13): Mexican. Must try: going on a night when they have avocados (!!!). This is the only real contender and yet…

Dos ~ Quesadilla, Road 11, Banani (3/13); The quesadilla was actually okay. Edible and not greasy. The “Mexican pizza” was a basic frozen pizza with some charred crumbled beef added plus a few loops of green pepper. The nachos were a plate of fried wonton skins covered in brown beans, cheese, and decorated with swirls of “mexican” sauce — a slightly sweet pink sauce. The garlic bread with melted cheese was so tasteless as to be useless.

Tres ~ Rush Tex Mex, Road 6, Banani (3/13): Burgers and fries. The advertised Mexican dishes were mysteriously not available… small place with two booths. Fries were okay.

As I mentioned in a FAQ, Panini has the best nachos I’ve had here.

Chips and salsa are so easy to serve in the U.S.
Chips and salsa are so easy to buy and serve in the U.S.

Like a lot of things in the expat life, if you want it, you gotta make it. So we started our own Mexican Monthly Club. Getting enough avocados is the hardest part of making Mexican food in Dhaka. Let us see how it goes. Buen provecho!