The dish that most exemplifies this theme of bounty is the bandeja típica, the restaurant’s iteration of the bandeja paisa, the unofficial national dish of Colombia. Paisa refers to a population of Colombians in a northwest region of the country which includes Medellín, the capital of the Antioquia province and the home town of the Lopéz-Castaño family, the owners of Casa Margaritas. Their bandeja gave me serious wanderlust for a city where one could eat like this every day: a large oval plate is packed to its edges with a sheet of carne asada (thinly pounded sirloin); a hefty rasher of fatty, crackly chicharrón, scored into bite-size cubes; sliced avocado; a small grilled arepa; a mound of rice, topped with a perfect fried egg; and a scoop of pinto beans, gone creamy with starch.
If you wanted, for some reason, to supersize this, you could opt for the bandeja de la casa, which adds to the típica (minus the egg and avocado) a quarter of a rotisserie chicken, a slab of grilled pork loin, and French fries. If you wanted to streamline, in terms of meat (and, in my experience, meat, rather than seafood, is the thing to get here), you could get the entraña—glistening, ropy fillets of umami-rich grilled skirt steak accompanied by a vivid-green chimichurri, plus grilled potato, rice, and beans. To treat those beans as the main event, you could order the frijolada, for which they’re mixed with hogao—also known as salsa criolla, or Creole sauce, made with tomato and green onion—and you’ll still get rice, chicharrón, maduros, avocado, and an arepa. (This arepa, made of white corn, is quite plain, bearing just a hint of smoky char; don’t miss the vastly more exciting arepitas de choclo, made with sweet corn and topped with guacamole, pico de gallo, and shredded beef.)
If you wanted to eat Mexican food, you could do that, too. When the Lopéz-Castaños started to conceive of the restaurant, they knew they’d want to outfit the bar with a frozen-margarita machine, which had been a big draw at restaurants they’d co-owned in Jackson Heights. To close the gap between margaritas and Colombian food, and to appeal to an even broader clientele in their new neighborhood—Bellerose, a stone’s throw from Nassau County, on a block of a major thoroughfare that feels almost quaint, thanks to a stretch of storybook architecture—they added burritos, enchiladas, and tacos to the menu. The margaritas are many, available in flavors including passion fruit, guava, and lulo (also known as naranjilla, a citrusy fruit native to South America), or mixed with prosecco or Corona. Among the desserts is a wedge of luscious house-made flan, as Mexican as it is Colombian, with a squiggle of whipped cream and a cherry on top. (Dishes $5.50-$38.95.) ♦
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