Two flashy Colombian restaurants, each with gigantic menus and funky interiors, have joined the dining scene. Both concepts — one in Franklin Square and the other along the Queens border in the Floral Park area — go all out with the vibe in their dining rooms.
The second location of the Levittown outfit Sabor a Colombia, for example, has a life-size replica of a Colombian chiva bus at the entrance. The colorful structure doubles as a social media photo booth. And the second location of the Long Island City restaurant La Choza del Gordo is decked out in multicolored stripes withindoor palm trees and a real-life Jeep coming out of the ceiling.
In other words, these aren't your regular neighborhood dives. They're lively spaces where you can drink aguardiente and "mover la colita," AKA dance to tropical cumbia music.
Sabor a Colombia
700 Hempstead Tpke., Franklin Square
At this sprawling restaurant in Franklin Square, all the tables seem to be pointed toward the stage. That's where you'll find live music and dancing on the weekends, including international acts like Binomio de Oro de America, a titan of accordion-based Vallenato music, performing Dec. 7. The space has more of a club atmosphere and stays open until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Neon lights rip through the ceiling, and there's a detailed mural of famous Colombian musicians such as Shakira.
The photographic menu is stacked with meaty combo plates and all the iconic dishes of the South American country. There are breakfast items like huevos calentados (scrambled eggs), followed by ceviches, arepa bites and sizzling hot empanadas in a rich cornmeal dough. The bandeja paisa ($20), or countryman's platter, is served on a dramatic black plate that's laid out with strip steak, a log of beef chorizo and extra crunchy lobes of pork chicharron. During lunch, many tables order fresh juices like tropical papaya and guanabana in large jugs pierced with a straw. More info: 516-279-6436, saboracolombiali.com
La Choza del Gordo
247-25 Jericho Tpke., Bellerose
Loosely translated to "chubby man's hut," this lively spot feels like the Rainforest Cafe collided with a Latin sports bar. Parrots and palm trees perch next to a replica of a Colombian building with an outdoor terrace. A Jeep is coming out of the ceiling. The flat-screen TVs are playing soccer and cumbia music videos, which pump through the speakers.
The cocktail menu is flashy, with pictures of big juicy drinks of bright and various colors, loaded with rum and pisco and the clear Colombian liquor aguardiente. The food menu is equally photogenic, with large platters of steaks and pork loins, paired with rice and plantains, and a whole section of Colombian hot dogs. On the appetizer side, maicitos are amazing — hearty corn casseroles layered with white melted cheese and topped with crumbled potato chips and pink sauce. The sencillo con tocineta ($9.95), or bacon corn casserole, is served in a silver dish propped up with bottle tops, and lets out a waft of steam as the fork dips into the creamy corn splendor. More info: 929-405-0015, orderlachozadelgordo.com