2013-05-15 / Restaurant of the Week


Enjoy the diverse flavors and ingredients in Colombian cuisine at Pollos A La Brasa Mario. The festive interior welcomes families, friends, and couples with brightly painted balconies overlooking orange trees and colorful paintings. The bilingual menu makes ordering easy and the staff is very friendly and helpful. Colombian food is flavorful, but not spicy, and incorporates lots of meat, fish, and seafood in its delicious cuisine.

Sip on a cold beer or glass of wine while you pick on some fried green plantains called tostones, dipped into their own creamy, yummy guacamole or house made salsa. Maduros are the sweet version of plantains and fried yucca is another traditional appetizer that everyone will dive into. You must try an

‘arepa,’ a type of pancake made with coarsely ground white corn, cooked on a hot griddle, then topped with melted cheese. Arepas can also be topped with savory sausage called ‘chorizo’ or with crispy pork skin. Each day, a different homemade soup is offered made with beef, chicken, plantains, fish or oxtail.

The first thing you’ll notice, even from the street, is the tantalizing aromas of their famous chicken, marinated with a special blend of spices and slow-cooked on the rotisserie oven. Take one of these succulent chickens home with some sides of rice and beans and everyone’s happy, especially when a whole rotisserie roasted chicken costs just $8.50 and is far better than any fast food you could buy.

Come hungry…very hungry, because the portions are huge and the food is delicious. My lovely dining companion ordered the traditional “bandeja Mario” which is an excellent introduction to Colombian cuisine. This massive dish provides a sampling of grilled steak, one quarter chicken, pork loin, fried pork skin called ‘chicharron’, salad, beans and rice and a homemade arepa, all for $19.25. This time I ordered ‘chuletas alla parrilla,’ which are tender pork chops grilled on an open flame to order. These tender pork chops can also be ordered breaded and fried till golden and crisp, or you can try lomo de cerdo which is tender, sliced, roasted pork loin that will melt in your mouth. If you have a taste for beef, you must try ‘entraña,’ or grilled skirt steak, cooked to order and served with a crunchy salad, rice and tender, pink beans. Spoon a little chimmichurri sauce on to enhance the already succulent flavor. There’s a T-bone too, and tender sirloin, served with rice and beans, salad and French fries, as do all meat dishes here.

Pollos A La Brasa Mario features plenty of fresh fish and seafood dishes to choose among including whole red snapper and fillet, fried or broiled and served with plantains, rice and salad. ‘Asopado de marisco’ is a seafood soup served in a cast iron pot replete with plump shrimp, fresh mussels, rings of calamari, octopus and juicy crab legs in a savory broth that’s delicious spooned over fluffy white rice.

Shrimp in garlic sauce has a savory and aromatic sauce, while the seafood with rice is a massive dish, reminiscent of paella, ideal for sharing ($22.95).

For dessert, try a piece of tres leches cake, moist and sweet, the perfect ending to this savory meal. Cool, creamy flan in caramel sauce, and sweet figs with white cheese are traditional mouth sweeteners, best accompanied by a cup of robust Colombian coffee.

Visit Pollos A La Brasa Mario for lunch served Monday to Friday, from 11am to 5:00pm. For an incredible $6.95, you can choose a different dish each day of the week and the low price includes a generous helping of their delicious rice and beans. Breakfast is served, both American and Colombian style.

Order scrambled eggs with tomato and scallions, fried eggs with ham or arepas con queso, even grilled steak with rice and beans to start your day.

Pollos A La Brasa Mario is open until 3am weekdays and until 6am Fridays and Saturdays for your late night cravings. They do a brisk delivery business too, so call in an order to your home or office. The “cash only” policy helps keep the prices very low. Come hungry and fill up on wonderful, traditional Colombian fare and watch a futbol match too! The service is fast and friendly and both English and Spanish are spoken here. Buen provecho!

40-19 Broadway, Astoria

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