When I was a kid living in Jackson Heights, Queens (also known as Little Colombia) my favorite restaurant to celebrate any occasion, was Tierras Colombianas in Astoria. It was the spot for birthdays, graduations, and primeras comuniones. My favorite dish was pollo a la placha (grilled chicken) and my father would almost always get the liver. Tierras Colombianas is my family’s first choice of Colombian when we are in Astoria. Something about its great location, homey, reliable service, it’s a place where you are almost guaranteed a good dinning experience with its perfectly girlled steaks and great prices. It’s not the best Colombian in New York, but if you’re yearning for a good Colombian home-styled meal close to the city this is the spot. Veggies beware: Tierras Colombianas is strictly for carnivores.
In the middle of a Greek neighborhood on the the corner of Broadway and 33rd street, what makes this place special is the great food and people watching. A wrap around glass patio that let’s you people gawk at hoochie mamas and euro-trash types walking down Astoria’s Broadway. On a recent Saturday night, the place was full with families and couples, you would think it was mostly Colombians but there was a Chinese couple enjoying a flan when we walked in, and a large party of Manhattan transplants in the back. You can casually walk in for dinner and be seated straight away. The menu is classic Colombian: lots of carne asada, arepas, chorizo, liver, tongue and some seafood.
My boyfriend Jimmy and I ordered chorizo and arepa as an appetizer and papaya and mora (blackberry) jugo de fruta. The papaya juice was fresh with a smooth and silky texture. The blackberry was tangy yet sweet. Our appetizers arrived shortly after our drinks. The presentation is basic: an eight-inch full chorizo wrapped around an arepa. Colombian arepas are small, plain corn patties that are a little dry, perfect to soak up the flavors of the bubbly chorizo. The salty chorizo and arepa opened our appetites to what we really came here for, beef! Colombian cuisine is heavily based around cattle; don’t be surprised to find liver, tongue, tripe, and multiple cuts of beef in a Colombian restaurant.
For our entrees we ordered a plato montañero (country platter) and carne en cebolla (steak with sautéed onions). Colombian portions are enormous; two people can easily be satisfied with one main dish but most will order two dishes for the variety. All dishes come with traditional sides: rice, beans, salad, plátano or yuca. The country platter arrived in all its glory: chicharrón, avocado, rice, beans, plátano, grilled steak….all topped toped off with a fried egg. The chicharrón was crispy and a great addition to the beans. The steak was tender and juicy, and if you like it rare it’s even better.
Steak with sautéed onions didn’t make a grand entrance but it still sizzled. Mid way into my meal I felt myself starting to go into a food coma only to look down and realize that I’d only eaten a quarter of it. Jimmy was a champ and nearly ate his entire country platter. We where so full that dessert wasn’t even an option but they do have your standard flan and rice pudding.
The service at Tierras Colombians is casual but attentive. Our waitress was thoughtful and even listened carefully when Jimmy spoke Spanish to her. This was his first time ordering in Spanish and eating at Tierras Colombianas. He loved the food but missed his favorite Colombian dish, empanadas, which surprisingly is not on the menu. Nevertheless, you will have enough leftovers to make a serious calentao for brunch the next morning.
33-01 Roosevelt Avenue, Astoria, Queens.
Subway: N, R, W to 23rd St.
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.
**EDITOR’S NOTE: this photo was not taken at Tierras Colombianas, but at another restaurant, we were just so busy eating that we didn’t take photos. It was taken from the wrath of raf blog. If you have photos of Tierras Colombianas in Astoria, email us at info[at]nyremezcla.com. **