A visit OTP for Colom­bian food

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

I ad­mit it: I’m an in­side-the-Perime­ter ho­mo­sex­ual. Dur­ing the years I dined out three or more times a week to re­view restau­rants, I was in­fa­mous for avoid­ing the hin­ter­lands of At­lanta. Lately, though, three weekly din­ing pals who live north of the city have con­vinced me to journey to Ma­ri­etta. Fre­quently.

Last week we vis­ited

La Car­reta (1252 Roswell Rd., 770-579-2963, www.lacar­reta.co).

This pop­u­lar restau­rant is con­fus­ing. Its Face­book page iden­ti­fies it as Mex­i­can. Its web­site says it fea­tures a fu­sion of Cen­tral and South Amer­i­can cui­sine. All of this is true, ac­tu­ally, but the most in­ter­est­ing im­print is the own­ers’ na­tive Colom­bian cui­sine.

If I were a sar­cas­tic ass­hole, I’d say La Car­reta’s pop­u­lar­ity is ev­i­dence of Ma­ri­et­tans’ ig­no­rance of Latin cui­sine, be­cause, frankly, much of what I sam­pled here was pretty meh. The fact is, though, that the area is densely pop­u­lated with Lati­nos and there are some un­com­pro­mis­ingly won­der­ful holesin-the-wall like La Du­ranguense. So we can’t blame the Ma­ri­etta palate. I’m guess­ing part of the ap­peal is the full-ser­vice, com­fort­able din­ing room. We ate on the pa­tio, a big plus since we were able to not hear the live mu­sic. It wasn’t rau­cous, but friends tell me they’ve been there when a mari­achi band played. You know – the Mex­i­can bands that stand by your ta­ble, blar­ing “Be­same Mu­cho” un­til you pay them enough to go away.

Back to the food. A dis­ap­point­ing ex­am­ple was a Colom­bian-style tamale, a fist­sized hunk of steamed corn­meal con­tain­ing green peas, car­rots, pota­toes, chicken, and big hunks of pork. The prob­lem for me was the texture. The outer edges were fine, but where the con­tents clus­tered, it turned into a su­per-gooey mess. A smaller, Mex­i­can-style tamale with the same pork (chicken avail­able too) was bet­ter.

Ta­cos – avail­able with seven fill­ings – were av­er­age. I was dis­ap­pointed to learn that the restau­rant’s al pas­tor – pork sea­soned with adobo and pineap­ple – was not pre­pared au­then­ti­cally on a spit. None­the­less, fla­vor was de­cent. Ditto for the car­ni­tas – not the real thing ex­actly, but good enough. Both ta­cos were topped with an av­o­cado salsa. If you’re The al pas­tor (l) and car­ni­tas (r) ta­cos at La Car­reta. (Photo by Cliff Bo­s­tock) veg­e­tar­ian, you can get a taco made with tofu al pas­tor. Try it. Let me know. A mys­tery on sev­eral plates was an arepa quite dif­fer­ent from the fluffy-ish Venezue­lan ones I’ve eaten. Th­ese were like bis­cuits com­pressed by ge­o­log­i­cal forces over sev­eral thou­sand years.

My fa­vorite dish was my beloved, heart­clog­ging chichar­rones – hunks of deep fried, crispy, juicy pork belly (in ur­gent need of a strong tomatillo salsa). A de­li­ciously sea­soned skirt steak was grilled and ten­der. I’d call it the best en­trée-sized dish on our ta­ble. While I can’t rec­om­mend the restau­rant’s wa­tery cheese dip or bland salsa, I loved the to­stones (fried, smashed plan­tains) with gua­camole.

We did not try the restau­rant’s most pop­u­lar item, the Colom­bian ban­deja paisa. It’s a graz­ing plate with rice, beans, a fried egg, chorizo, chichar­rones, av­o­cado, and an arepa. The restau­rant also serves three very pop­u­lar soups, each avail­able only on a week­end day. The most com­pelling is Satur­day’s san­co­cho, a Colom­bian stew made with beef ribs, pota­toes, plan­tains, yucca, and corn.

Is it worth vis­it­ing? Yes. I doubt I’d make the drive from Mid­town again – ex­cept for Satur­day’s stew – but if you live in the area, do visit. Send your in­town friends a post­card.

Cliff Bo­s­tock is a for­mer psy­chother­a­pist now spe­cial­iz­ing in life coach­ing. Con­tact him at 404-518-4415 or cliff­bo­stock@gmail.com.

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