The obvious assumption (and one all too easily made) is to consider Latin American cuisine in Austin limited to Mexican food. With a taqueria on every corner and more upscale, gringo-fied places such as Chuy's and El Chile receiving most recommendations, it's a hard assumption to break.
That was my case until I happened to look out my window while driving down E. 7th Street one afternoon and spotted a big yellow sign reading "Casa Colombia." I had already found Habana's Cuban food, but I wasn't counting on any more Latin variety. After all, tacos are good.
But the discovery of Casa Colombia made me forget tacos and even good Cuban sandwiches. I went with my friend Leslie, who spent a several formative childhood years in Colombia. I ordered what she ordered, and I was not disappointed.
For appetizers, we had arepa: fried cornmeal pancakes, served with goat cheese and panela salsa. The pancakes were crispy on the outside, but soft and warm inside. The textural variety, along with combination of tangy goat cheese along with the spicy salsa, was a pleasing starter for the palate.
Leslie insists that Colombian empanadas are much better than the Americanized ones you get around here, and overall, it was probably the best empanada I've had in Austin. The wrap is made with cornmeal also, and the flavorful meat and potatoes are so filling, I was almost too full for my soup.
The ajiaco soup may be the best cure for a bad day. Especially a bad, cold day. It is Colombian comfort food. A creamy soup made from potatoes and served with chicken, it's an excellent take on a traditional dish. Casa Colombia serves it with a small piece of corn-on-the-cob, as well as avocado, rice, and capers on the side. This way, you can add what you want in whatever quantity you like.
We finished off the night with a good cup of coffee, and I left entirely satisfied. However, I also left looking forward to my next visit.
Location: 1614 E. 7th St., one mile east of I-35, near the intersection of 7th and Comal
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed Mondays
Accepts: All major credit cards
Rating: 4 stars
Bottom line: Forget tacos. This is the best empanada in town.