Category Archives: Latin American

El Pollo Loco

New Peruvian restaurant in Columbus

727 Georgesville Rd, Columbus, OH 43228
614.754.6769

El Pollo Loco is a new – as in, opened yesterday (10/19/13) – Peruvian restaurant on the west side specializing in Peruvian charcoal-grilled rotisserie chicken or pollo a la brasa. If you had been to the late, lamented Fito’s on campus, you’ve almost certainly had a very similar style of chicken. Word to the wise – if you liked it there, you’ll almost certainly love it here.

pollo a la brasa in Columbus

The menu lists a wide range of options, but upon opening the chicken was just about all that was on offer, at least as far as entrees go. We did try an order of the salchipapas (french fries with thinly sliced hotdogs), and the papas a la huancayna (cold boiled potato slices in a creamy garlic sauce). Both are pleasant enough, though far from a reason to make a special trip.

el pollo loco peruvian chicken in Columbus

The special trip-worthiness comes from the chicken, which is incredibly moist and tender and wonderfully seasoned.

columbus peruvian food

El Pollo Loco also features a selection of Latin American sodas, including Inka Kola and Kola Inglesa, as well as some house-made beverages. The chicha morada, described as a purple corn drink, was particularly pleasant and had an interesting fruity, cinnamon flavor.

El Salvadoreno Restaurant


Cuisine: Salvadoran

885 Hamilton Rd
(614) 338-0552
Hours: Tue-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri 11am-10pm, Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 10am-8pm

Click here to map it!

Update, 4/30/11: Restaurante Salvadoreno has moved location (revised above), expanded their menu, and become ‘El Salvadoreno Restaurant’. More below:

They’re still the only Salvadoran sit-down restaurant in town, and they keep getting better. They’ve moved into the space formerly occupied by Indochine (who moved to a larger space down the street) and Latin Cafe, and this is emphatically to their benefit – the space is larger, cleaner, and going there at night feels far less intimidating.

The food has improved, too. While the fairly limited menu at the old location was solid, the new menu maintains the best of the old and expands upon it quite a bit. This includes the addition of more than a few Mexican dishes, but we chose to focus on the new Salvadoran preparations. We’ll highlight a couple of them, as otherwise we feel that the descriptions in the previous review still stand.

First up, the pastelitos de papa y pollo ($5.99 for 4), or, fried empanadas with potatoes and chicken, topped with curtido (a type of Salvadoran cabbage slaw) and a mild red sauce. The shell crunched like a thick tortilla chip, tasted better, and encased a delightful savory filling. Thumbs up from around the table.

Every now and again, we come upon the rare dish that a) we’ve never seen, heard of, or imagined before, b) in spite of its relative obscurity seems inevitably ‘right’ in its makeup, execution, and flavor, and c) emphatically validates our explorations. At Salvadoreno, this dish is the empanadas de platanos, or deep fried ripe plantain pockets filled with a custardy, mildly sweet cheese.

We’re usually far from dessert oriented, but this lovely little combination of caramelized plantains and silky dairy filling wowed us and had us asking for seconds… and left me thinking about a return trip upon writing this.

From 3/09/10:

As far as we know, the Restaurante Salvadoreno is the only Salvadoran restaurant in Columbus. It is (edit: was) near the airport on the same street (3208 Allegheny Drive) as El Tacorriendo. Located in an otherwise deserted strip mall it’s the only beacon of light in a very dark parking lot. The interior is basic but cheerful and the walls and menus are decorated with maps and photos of El Salvador. The restaurant seems to do a good take out business.

We had come across pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador, during our taco truck research as they are served at Mr Grill Tacos and were a feature of the short lived Pupuseria y Taqueria Usuluteca. When we heard about a pupusa restaurant we were intrigued to experience more Salvadoran food.

Pupusas are a thick corn griddle cake stuffed with a filling such as cheese, refried beans or chicharron (pork rinds). Our favorite of the three we tried was cheese with loroco (an edible flower). The pupusas were thinner and more delicate than the ones we have had at taco trucks and not at all greasy. They are served with a dish of curtido – a cabbage salad that is pickled and a little spicy, the salvadoran version of sauerkraut. You can see it in the top left corner of the photo below.

We tried a tamale and tamilito. Salvadoran tamales are wrapped in a banana leaf instead of the corn husks that are used in Mexican cuisine. This tamale contained chicken (with bones) in sauce and the corn meal was moist but dense. It was similar to the Colombian tamale that we tried at El Manantial. The tamalito was like a corn bread, very light and airy but much drier than the tamale. It was served with Salvadoran crema which is similar to sour cream but milder. Next were the platanos fritos, ripe fried plantains also served ‘con crema’. The plantains were beautifully caramelized and one of the high points of the meal.

We chose two main dishes from a long list which consisted mainly of variations of beef and chicken. There was at least one pork dish and a few of seafood dishes, including grilled fish and shrimp. There are also a few soups (sopas) and we tried the sopa de mariscos which had a rich fishy broth and pieces of fish, shrimp and shellfish. There were a lot of bones in the soup so eating it required attention but the broth was very flavorful.

Our other main was carne guisada, a rich beef stew served with potatoes, rice and refried beans. The beef was very tender and I thought the sauce was really tasty. We were also given a plate of Salvadoran tortillas which are thicker corn tortillas and I’m not sure which dish they were supposed to accompany but they were perfect for dipping into the beef stew.

The menu has very little description of the dishes so I think there is plenty more to discover. I already have a list of other dishes I would like to try including the pollo encebollado (chicken with onions) and the pupusa with chicharron. I am also tempted by their breakfast dishes. Salvadoran food seems to be less spicy than Mexican cuisine with mild, sweet flavors and is therefore a good option for those who don’t like too much heat. The Restaurante Salvadoreno is a no-frills destination with house made food, it’s a good place to head to when the weather is too cold for taco trucking.

The Restaurant is open 10am-8pm except Tuesday. It is cash only.
(614) 338-0552

Here are some references on Salvadoran Food: Whats4eats.comWikipedia.

Fito’s

Ohio state ethnic food columbus

This restaurant has closed at this location. We hope that they will reopen soon in another location. For updates check their facebook page. 

Cuisine: Peruvian
1664 N. High Street (on Chittenden ave).
614.299.2066
Website Facebook
Hours – Tues -Sat: 11am-10pm, Sun: 11am-9pm

Click here to map it!

Peruvian Rotisserie chicken or pollo a la brasa has been popular on the East Coast for some time and Fito’s, a family run restaurant, has finally brought this dish to Columbus. The restaurant opened in January 2011 and is located right by the OSU campus.

As soon as you open the door the amazing smell of the grilled meat hits you. The rotisserie is a huge indoor charcoal barbecue that can grill a whole a flock of chickens at one time and was imported especially from Peru.

fito's peruvian rotisserie chicken columbus ohio

The chicken is marinaded and then grilled for 1.5-2 hours. You can order a whole, half, or quarter chicken (quarter chicken combo is pictured below). If you order a quarter you are asked if you prefer light or dark meat. The combo includes french fries, Peruvian yellow chili sauce (aji amarillo) and a choice of salads: house, Greek or Caesar. The house salad (a little over dressed for my taste) includes radish and avocado.

Fito's columbus

The chicken skin was incredibly crispy, salty and a little spicy. The flesh underneath (I chose white meat) was moist and tender. The aji amarillo is garlicky with a kick at the end. They’re still working out how much spicy heat to add.

We were early for lunch and the chicken wasn’t quite ready. While we waited we tried another Peruvian specialty Causa. You can choose between chicken, tuna or vegetable Causa. We opted for chicken. A Causa is two layers of cold mashed potato filled with a spiced chicken salad, avocado and hard boiled egg. It was also served with aji amarillo (yellow chili sauce).

peruvian dish, cold mashed potato, fito's columbus ohio

At first eating cold mashed potato seems a little strange (especially because we weren’t expecting it), but it’s a good balance to the chili sauce and overall the dish is creamy and flavorful.

Other menu offerings include a chorizo sandwich, a chicharron sandwich (roasted pork with sweet poatoes) and dog fries (salchipapa) french fries with cut up hot dogs. The owners have plans to expand the menu and include items such as ceviche and seafood when they are more established.

Mi Bandera

1965 East Dublin Granville Road
Columbus, OH 43229-3508
(614) 888-9510
Open 9am – 9pm

Click here to map it!

Mi Bandera, a Mexican/Dominican restaurant, is perhaps not the easiest place to go through the process of getting a meal. It’s of the ‘restaurant in a grocery store’ genre, which in this case means that the cook acts as server and basically otherwise fulfills all of the other roles (including bus boy and dishwasher) that one might expect in a restaurant. Consequently, service can be leisurely – and as far as we can tell they don’t speak a lick of English on the restaurant side.

Be that as it may, it’d be a shame to pass Mi Bandera by based upon these relatively superficial difficulties, so I’m going to suggest a path of action that requires no real knowledge of Spanish and should almost inevitably lead to contentment (if not outright devotion):

First, as you enter the front doors of the grocery, turn right and look for the seating area. When there, you should see a prep line (with a kitchen further back) and a long vegetable cooler on the opposite side. Go to the counter with the heated food case (in front of the prep line) and put on your best ‘I’d like to order’ face.

Then, wait for the cook to take notice. He’ll probably make eye contact well before he’ll take your order. This is how it goes here – at this point, faith in the deliciousness of the end experience may be useful. Once he comes to take your order, he’ll probably ask, “aqui o llevar?” This means ‘for here or to go’. If you’re eating there, respond ‘aqui’ (ah-KEY), and for ‘to go’, ‘llevar’ (yay-VAHR).

Now, place your order. We’re going to direct you towards one failsafe dish – ‘chuleta de puerco’. Say ‘chew-LAY-tuh day PWER-koh’, and follow with ‘por favor’ (pore FUH-vore, this means ‘please’).

Next, take a look at the beverages at the end of the heated food case in the cooler, or if the selection there seems too limited feel free to go to the grocery side and look at their more extended offering. I’m partial to the Foco coconut juice, but anything goes.

Once you’ve got your drink, find a seat on the restaurant side and take in some of Telemundo or similar being shown on the TV. Note how the cook might occasionally come out to the vegetable case to pluck a pepper or some onions for your dish.

As the dish comes out, you should expect 2-3 thin-cut pork chops (quantity depends on size of chops), beans, rice, lettuce, and avocado on a large platter, and a basket of tortillas on the side. Cut a few generous slices of pork (don’t remove the fatty edges – they’re the best part!) and put them on a tortilla. Add some beans, and really just about anything else on your plate you’d like. Fold the tortilla up like a taco, and enjoy.

The pork chops have a smoky, almost vaguely bacon-y flavor, and the beans are as rich and delicious as any we’ve ever tried. Upon first tasting it, one of our friends declared Mi Bandera to be her ‘new pork chop place’, and we’re pretty sure she’s been back weekly. Come to think of it, we probably have as well… they’re that good.

Hope you thought so as well. Having finished your meal, now go back to the food case and ask for the check. The word ‘check’ is usually understood, but a sign language pantomime of writing with a pen on a pad will work as well. Take this check to the check-out line in the grocery and pay there.

With that, you’re no longer a Mi Bandera rookie. Probably a good time to let you know that while Mi Bandera is heavy on Mexican offerings, they’re Dominican run and also serve island specialties such as maduros (ripe plantain), tostones (unripe plantain, smashed, fried, and salted), and Dominican empanadas.

Also worthy of attention are their chilaquiles (CHEE-lah-KEY-lays):

By and large, Mi Bandera is not a stop that caters to vegetarians, with the possible exception of a few side dishes such as the plantain preparations. Prices are reasonable, with all dishes we’ve tried coming in well under $10.

Panaderia Otro Rollo

Otro Rollo Panaderia
3866 Sullivant Avenue
614 278 2339

Click here to map it!

When we first discovered Otro Rollo bakery last winter, we were instantly smitten by their fresh caramel filled churros. It was a lucky break – the fresh churros have proved to be elusive since then – and we spent months trying to work out the optimal time and day to strike churros gold again. During these repeated trips, we found plenty more to love at Otro Rollo, including the tres leches cake, pig shaped cookies and these chocolate covered, vanilla creme-filled donuts.

Otro Rollo has a wide variety of baked goods, and they supply a lot of the Mexican stores around town. They also make ‘special occasion’ cakes to order.

The breads and cakes are stored in glass fronted cupboards and you take a tray and use tongs to select what you want. Take the tray to the cash register and they bag everything for you. There are no prices displayed but it is good value and almost everything is under a dollar.

Without descriptions it can be a guessing game and freshness is also variable. The conchas (shell cakes, above) are more bread than cake, slightly sweet and are wonderful straight from the oven and not quite so wonderful when stale. I love all of the different designs on the conchas.

In July Otro Rollo opened their own taco truck right next to the store and some excellent offerings including the Mexican hamburgers and the chicken tinga. The truck is open long hours and even serves some breakfast foods including eggs and tamales. Over the winter the taco truck served champurrado, a chocolate atole (like a thick hot chocolate) – just what you need with one of the cakes.