In possibly the world’s first Colombian-Puerto Rican restaurant, a husband and wife team (She is Colombian, he is Puerto Rican) have staked their claim by waving the flags of both on California Avenue in South Gate at a somewhat cursed space. In the past decade, this location has went through iterations as a traditional pupuseria, then a modern Mexican and Salvadoran mariscos joint, and finally a Thai restaurant that only survived four or five months in 2018.
So of course it is going to take something special to change the bad luck of this address. The restaurant began life as a simple Colombian restaurant but soon hosted a pop-up called Puerto Rican Flavors until it stopped operations in early 2020 before the pandemic.
If you ever made it to Gloria’s, a beloved South Gate restaurant that was just a couple blocks away, you will be happy to know that the chef here is Doña Gloria and her cooking lives on. She has also decided to take up the challenge of keeping Puerto Rican food on the menu and has been doing that since shortly after the pop-up ended.
For now, it is still the Colombian food that makes La Casa de las Parrilladas a great destination to eat. Dishes like her ajiaco Bogotano (above) are obviously cooked with the love of a passionate chef. This deeply comforting chicken soup is made with three types of potatoes including small round papas criollas that are delicious and grown in the Andean highlands.
The broth is smooth and creamy from the dissolving of softer potatoes and herbal from its key ingredient of guascas, another ingredient that must be imported from Colombia. Stir in the crema if you like and make sure to add all the capers if you are getting the dish for takeout. Immediate transport to Bogotá!
Always the gold standard of any Colombian, the bandeja paisa ($12.99, above) here is also a classic crowd pleaser. All the elements are done well, the textures of the chicharrón, the marinade of the steak, and the great beans and rice. Best of the bunch might be the supremely tasty link of chorizo. Top it all of with some fried sweet plantains and fried egg, and all is well in life.
Don’t pass on the chance to fill your takeout bag with some of their fried empanadas ($1.50 each, above) filled with ground chicken and just about perfect. These are best eaten immediately and not allowed to sweat in their container if possible. They are paired with a Colombian-style spicy vinegar salsa which is great, but are so full of flavor that they can be eaten on their own.
Looking towards the entrees on their menu that have a Puerto Rican flag drawn on them, the mini mofongo (below) was unavoidable. The typically Borinquen dish is definitely not mini, and gets served with a good portion of arroz con gandules, some greens, and a pile of roast pernil, which is also mingling within the main dish of fried mashed plantains.
Mofongo may not be the best dish to warm up later, which was how this was eaten a day after ordering. For this reason possibly, that part of the dish was quite dry and the pernil with rice became the star. One thing that did get done perfectly was the aftertaste of garlic that lingered in the mouth the rest of the day.
The small relleno de papa (below) is a must order appetizer from the Puerto Rican side of the menu. What is stuffed inside the potato is wonderfully spiced ground beef, after which the whole ball is thrown in the fryer to give it a crisp coating.
While Gloria’s was the beginning and La Casa de las Parrilladas is the present, the future of the chef is here and Hawthorne, where she has also opened another restaurant called Nene’s Colombian Food. A business card for that place was passed after the last visit and conversation.
The to do list always grows at a higher rate than it shrinks.
La Casa de las Parrilladas, 8109 California Avenue, South Gate