This Sunday, July 20th, the Pico-Rivera Sports Arena will thunder with the sounds of the cumbia. The aguardiente (Colombia’s national spirit) will flow, men will don the sombrero vueltiao (Colombian cowboy hat) as they spin and twirl the beautiful paisas, rolas, and caleñas (women from Medellin, Bogota, and Cali respectively) to frenetic Salsa beats. It’s a celebration of all things Colombian at the annual Festival Colombiano.
Tickets at available for pre-sale ($25) and at the door for $40, which will get you a full day of live music, entertainment, and regional Colombian cuisine (purchased separately).
The Festival Colombiano is how Colombians in Los Angeles commemorate the country’s Independence Day with food, drink, and dance. It offers a rare chance to sample Colombian barbecue, llanera-style, empanadas, and tamales tolimenses (tamales from Tolima). If you haven’t been I highly recommend this event, but if you can’t make it out this year let me suggest where you can taste the best Colombian cuisine in Los Angeles.
The delicious breakfast and lunch items at Huntington Park’s Panaderia El Carriel (named after a popular brand of arepas in Colombia) come from the city of Cali in the Valle de Cauca department which is know for its pandebono (cheese bread), aborrajado (plantains with cheese) and airy buñuelos. In addition to these fresh baked savories, El Carriel is also the place to explore Colombian arepas, like arepa de choclo (corn arepa), arepa con queso (arepa with cheese) and stuffed arepas. Here is where you’ll also find the best bandeja paisa in town, which is a festive plate of beans, rice, patacon (smashed and fried plantain), fried egg, meaty chicharron, steak, chorizo and arepa.
Sabor Colombiano in Westlake is currently the best Colombian restaurant in Los Angeles, serving a variety of Colombian stews from their hometown of Cali known as sancochos, and a good version of the famous ajiaco santafereño, a chicken and potato stew fortified with capers and cream that’s the toast of Bogota, Colombia’s capitol. The huge, boiled tamales wrapped in banana leaves are excellent here, both the valluno (chicken, pork, pork belly and potato) and tolima (chicken, pork, pork belly, potato, carrot, rice and peas) varieties. And if you want the famous lechona tolimense (suckling pig from Tolima), you’ll have to arrive early on Sundays, because it sells out faster than Shakira can shake her hips.
Panaderia El Carriel, 2405 Randolph St., Huntington Park, 323-581-7026
Sabor Colombiano, 847 S Union Ave., Westlake, 213-388-0150