The Greater Boston area has a very large number of South American restaurants, with most of them being Brazilian, Peruvian, or Venezuelan. Sadly, other South American cuisines can be a little tough to find, with some countries really not represented very much at all (for instance, Bolivian food and Paraguayan fare). One type of cuisine that can be found in a relatively limited fashion is Colombian, thanks to a handful of restaurants in and around Boston, including El Paisa Restaurante, a charming and cozy dining spot in the Orient Heights neighborhood of East Boston.
El Paisa is one of many hidden gems in East Boston that features South American or Central American cuisine. But unlike many of its fellow dining spots in this part of Beantown, it is comfortable and roomy, with the type of atmosphere that lends itself to a leisurely sitdown meal rather than takeout. A hardwood floor, exposed brick walls (with parts obscured by paintings and splotches of colorful plaster), ceiling fans, and a mix of couches and chairs give El Paisa a homey, warm feel. Service is friendly and helpful, and more than willing to help describe dishes on the menu that may not be familiar to folks unfamiliar with Colombian cuisine.
Although the menu at El Paisa indeed has some items that are specific to Colombia, most of the items will be familiar to diners, including a delicious sauteed chicken with mushroom sauce and rice, a grilled steak in a wine reduction sauce, fried pork chops, chicken piccata, pan-seared sea bass, fried shrimp, and grilled pork loin. Some of the dishes less familiar to those who haven't tried South American food include a variety of soups such as beef tripe, hen, and oxtail (note that not all soups are available at all times here); appetizers such as fried yucca, sweet plantains, fried meat turnovers, and fried chicken turnovers (the latter of which is simply wonderful, with nicely seasoned shredded white meat chicken and potato pieces and spices mixed in); and entrees such as fried red snapper and grilled steak with fried pork rind and a fried egg. There is also a dish on the menu called a fried green plantain with everything; this dish can be ordered with steak (lean and moderately tender), chicken, or pork, and comes with flattened plantains placed under the meat, buttery rice, a heaping pile of beans, guacamole, and a salad. A children's section is also within the menu, and a number of beers and wines are offered, including several Argentinean wines.
If you like Colombian food, El Paisa is one of the only choices in the Boston area, but what a choice it is. The food is authentic, the waitstaff is gracious, the prices are very reasonable, and the crowds are mostly nonexistent. Sure, East Boston can be a bit of a haul for some people (especially further up the road in Orient Heights), but it is surely worth the effort if you like South American food in a nice setting.
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