Little Columbia a.k.a. Añoranzas Columbianas is one of Newark Ave’s treasures. Añoranzas Columbianas translates roughly to yearnings or nostalgia for Columbia. The bright blue, yellow and red façade stands out on this otherwise drab stretch of Newark Ave. and makes you feel like you are visiting a warmer, more tropical land.
Inside, the interior is equally bright. The staff is busy but friendly and the atmosphere is jovial. Telenovelas play on the large, flat screen TV for diners to enjoy. The menu boasts homemade Columbian dishes with no shortage of well-flavored, hearty meat dishes on the cheap. Each weekday there is a different lunch special ranging from $5-7. The meals generally come with a choice of beans and salad or rice.
On my recent visit I was lucky to be joined by the great musician Andrew Mancilla and my Dad. I ordered the Carne Salteada (pepper steak) as my entrée for $6.95 and shared the Tostones con Guacamole appetizer for $5.25 with my Dad. We ended up with wayyy more food than anyone should ever eat for lunch, but finished most of it nonetheless. So much for self-restraint.
The Carne Salteada came accompanied with yellow rice, a few platanos, and a bowl of soupy frijoles. The steak was sliced thinly and was fried so the strips curled ever so slightly. The marinade was salty and delicious and provided more flavor than sauce. Fried onions and peppers were tossed with the meat. Together the rice, beans, meat and vegetables produced some incredible flavors.
As for the guacamole tostones, these morsels of ecstasy cannot be outdone. This gorgeous dish consists of four tostones (green plantains mashed and fried together into little panqueques) topped with a dollop of guacamole surrounding a light salad. The guacamole here is legit and has all the qualities of a refreshing guac- chunky creamy avocado, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, and just the right amount of onion and jalapeno. Aye, que rrrrrico.
To wash everything down, I ordered a café con leche for $1.50. Not only does this place have really awesome tropical juices such as Guanabana, Lulo, Guayaba, and Maracuya, but they have a real espresso maker and milk frother. It doesn’t get much better than this ladies and gentlemen. Añoranzas Columbianas would give any froufrou Manhattan espresso bar a run for its money.