The Boston Phoenix December 7 - 14, 2000

[Food Reviews]

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El Cafetal

A fine Colombian

by Nina Willdorf

on the cheap
  • Zathmary's November 30
  • Il Buongustaio November 23
  • Thai Place November 16
  • Nashoba Brook Bakery, November 9
  • Café Habibi, November 2
  • Flour, October 26
  • Sweet Tomatoes October 19
  • Be warned: if you're looking for a healthful, mellow meal, El Cafetal is not the place to go. But if you're the type who savors hearty oxtail soup in a bright atmosphere accented with Jesus paraphernalia and Telemundo soap operas, this Colombian restaurant in Allston will be perfect for you.

    Thick sauces, protein-laden staples, and a beef-heavy menu pretty much guarantee that, if nothing else, you won't walk away hungry. Simple entrées, ample portions, and cheap prices add up to one thing: full, satisfied bellies.

    The appetizers were the big hit on the long menu. A cornmeal pancake with butter and cheese ($2.50) was warm, soft, sweet, and salty. A bright-orange beef empanada ($1) deliciously married chopped savory meat with a crumbly outer shell. The large oxtail soup ($8) was so huge that two of us could barely put a dent in its big rounds of potatoes, chunks of beef, and soft cooked carrots. But the appetizers and soups were laughably dainty in comparison to the "Mountain Dish," ($9) a call-you-out signature medley of oversize pinto beans, a tasty thin steak, fried pork strips, and a fried egg -- all crowning a hill of rice.

    They should pay you to finish that one.

    El Cafetal, located at 479 Cambridge Street, in Allston, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call (617) 789-4009.

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