DINING REVIEW 07-30
La Pequeña Colombia
83-27 Roosevelt Avenue
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Monday – Friday: 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Saturday – Sunday: 8 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard and American Express
Everything’s big at La Pequeña Colombia
For 25 years, Colombians throughout the tri-state area have known that they should head to “La Pequeña Colombia” in Jackson Heights for its family-style environment and good quality food. But the Colombians couldn’t keep this jewel hidden away too long, especially once the little secret got out – the portions are huge!
“It’s pequeña only in name,” said the friendly Greek manager, Jimmy. Pequeña means small in Spanish. “Nothing’s small here,” he added.
Considered the oldest Colombian restaurant in New York City, La Pequeña Colombia, located on the corner of 84th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, began by serving traditional Colombian fare but then expanded the menu to include typical South American dishes as well as American staples like burgers.
And aside from the expanded menu – that now includes breakfast on weekends and daily light lunch options of soup, salad and a sandwich – to mark its 25th anniversary the restaurant underwent a stunning transformation to add a large dining room expanding the space to seat 200. This large dining room has been used for birthday parties, meetings and even weddings.
But none of these events would be possible at La Pequeña Colombia if the food didn’t keep people coming back.
“Our Entraña (skirt steak) has been compared to Peter Luger’s,” said co-owner John Panas, whose family founded the restaurant, about the U.S. Prime Certified Beef they serve. “It cost more money but we don’t raise our prices because we feel that the quality of the food will keep people coming back.”
To start, get the sampler meat platter Picadas that brings fried beef, pork rind, juicy and spicy chorizo prepared by a local Jackson Heights butcher, yucca fries and fried green plantains. The lightly-breaded and tender calamari appetizer is a nice option for the non-red meat eaters as is the shrimp ceviche – tangy sushi-like raw dish marinated in lime, onion and salt – or the arepas grande con queso, a large corn cake with cheese, for the vegetarians.
For its main dishes, La Pequeña Colombia does not hold anything back with its “surf and turf” options.
According to Panas, most of the meat comes from a butcher in New Jersey while all of the fish is hand selected and delivered fresh everyday from the Hunt’s Point Fish Market. This attention to detail becomes apparent in the Paella Valenciana, the Pargo Rojo, a red snapper, and the Entraña dishes.
The colorful paella had many individual flavors – shrimp, mussels, chorizo, chicken, and squid – that made every bite a unique surprise but there was a consistent goodness, richness and moistness throughout the dish too. It’s an excellent and memorable choice.
The very juicy and meaty whole red snapper is steamed, fried or grilled, and when you bite into it easily comes off the bone. Along with it comes a fish broth that tastes as if grandma made it.
The skirt steak, a must-have, was delicious, unbelievably mouth-watering and tender. And though the steak comes with a chimichurri sauce made with finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil and vinegar, the chimichurri sauce was completely unnecessary, a testament to the chef’s skills in the kitchen.
If you stop by for breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays make sure to try the Agua de Panela, a typical Colombian breakfast tea made from sugarcane and served with cheese and the Colombian hot chocolate, made from thick, rich dark chocolate.
After all these years of operation, La Pequeña Colombia finally obtained a full alcohol license but Panas assures that the family atmosphere they’ve worked so hard to attain all of these years will remain – the restaurant will still close at 1 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
For great atmosphere and a lot of great food come to ready to eat big at La Pequeña Colombia.