The new El Colombiano Restaurant & Bakery gives diners an authentic taste of Colombian cuisine.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n neighborhood Weston, we love it when a new part of the world pops up right here in our own backyard. So when El Colombiano Restaurant & Bakery, an authentic Colombian breakfast and lunch spot, opened in late January 2016, we were excited. Located right on North Commerce Parkway, in the Comfort Suites Plaza, the restaurant was started by husband-and-wife duo Adriana Michelsen and Bernardo Grau. As delicious as it is traditional, this locale is a testament to the couple’s childhood growing up in Bogota, Adriana’s lifelong passion for cooking, and of course, the delicious flavors of Colombian cuisine.
Born and raised in Bogotá, Adriana and Bernardo first moved to South Florida nearly two decades ago, where they eventually found a home in quiet, family-friendly Weston. “We first moved to Miami, in the neighborhood of Key Biscayne, but we had small kids at the time and they needed to go to school,” Adriana remembers. “Everyone told us that the schools were great up here, so we decided to move. We ended up making a lot of friends and fell in love with the area, so we’ve been in Weston ever since.”
Much to their surprise, moving to Weston brought this husband-and-wife duo, their two children, and now their two grandchildren more than a good school district; it brought them a piece of the country they once called home. Here in Weston, Adriana and Bernardo found a vast Colombian population with whom they shared customs, history, cultural understanding and the cornerstone of all celebrations in South America, an appreciation for the same traditional Colombian food they grew up eating. “There is a large Colombian population, but before us, there was only one Colombian restaurant,” says Adriana. “We saw the need for another one here in Weston, and I wanted to open it. So I saw this opportunity and said, ‘Why not?’ Since then, we’ve liked it very much.”
And with that, El Colombiano Restaurant and Bakery was born. It originally opened as a place for breakfast and lunch, and just recently it started offering dinner on the weekends. It serves breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to noon, lunch from noon to 8 p.m. daily, and stays open for dinner until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Go there on a weekday, in the early morning or afternoon, and you’ll find the local business crowd grabbing coffee, Colombian breakfast or lunch before work or on their lunch break. Fast-forward to the weekends, and El Colombiano Restaurant & Bakery is all about meals with family and friends. Because in Colombia, when it’s time to eat, you’re always surrounded by family and friends.
So, what do you eat when you get there? Get “Cocina Criolla,” a style of cuisine common in Colombia that reflects a fusion of American, African and European cuisine. If you’re like most businesspeople in Weston and head there for breakfast before your workday, start with a cappuccino and a basket of Pan de Bono, or homemade bread stuffed with farmer’s cheese. For something more filling, kick off your day with Sencillo, a mix of rice, beans and eggs, paired with a cheese arepa.
If you’re there for lunch, munch on Chicharrón, traditional pork rind, or order the Plátano Maduro con Queso y Bocadillo, a plate of sweet plantains with guava and cheese. Bandeja Paisa, which has rice, beans, meat, egg, pork rind, avocado, sweet plantains and a small arepa, is one of the most popular lunch items on the menu. The EL COLOMBIANO burger—which is topped with caramelized onion, tomato, cilantro, a fried egg, Colombian potatoes and guacamole—is a definite must-try, but if you ask Adriana, her favorite lunch item is ajiaco. A traditional dish from her childhood in Bogotá, this chicken and potato soup comes with a side of avocado and has fast become a staple on the restaurant menu for both lunch and dinner. Speaking of the latter, El Colombiano Restaurant & Bakery offers select dinner options of global cuisine, which pairs special dishes like pasta and fish with the traditional restaurant menu.
The menu aside, however, at the heart of this Weston restaurant is a passion for food and cooking that its owner has nurtured for years. “In my house growing up, there was always food. Everyone came to our house for the holidays, or in general, because they knew that my mom was always cooking something good,” Adriana remembers. “And my mom loved it, so she was always inviting people over. I try to bring that mindset into the restaurant here.”
And when you look at their success so far, like the fact that they’re packed for breakfast and lunch every day, it’s easy to see how that mindset has worked. “We are focused on everyone leaving the restaurant happy and planning to come back,” Adriana says of El Colombiano Restaurant & Bakery. “All of our customers are regulars, and people that come in every single day for lunch. We spoil our guests, we change anything they want, and we make food anyway they want it. Everyone has to leave happy. And when they’re here, they do.”
El Colombiano Restaurant & Bakery, 2221 North Commerce Parkway, Weston, 954-451-5200; www. elcolombianorestaurant.com