Denver is not an easy city for those in search of good Colombian cuisine. Fortunately, despite its general absence, the few Colombian spots make up for the unavailability by preparing top-notch dishes. Joaquin Contreras, owner and operator of East Colfax outpost Los Parceros does not need pervasive competition to make food that represents family traditions and the many distinct flavors and arrangements that make up the South American cuisine. Since opening in 2013 the charming locale has served customary dishes that are as affordable as they are robust.
The Bandeja paisa ($15) — known far and wide as the Colombian national dish — is a heaping smorgasbord of hearty ingredients fit for the truly Herculean appetite. A massive pile of flavorful ground beef is covered with a fried egg, flanked by chorizo, an arepa, beans and rice, a plantain, an immense slice of chicharrón with few small slices of avocado to provide a splash of green on the otherwise ferocious assemblage. Anyone with a small appetite could probably survive for several days off the platter, and even those with reputable hunger may find themselves conquered by the feast. All restaurants do their paisa slightly different, but an overwhelming amount of food has always been an essential characteristic of the dish. In that regard, Los Parceros does anything but disappoint. The other six specialty dishes follow a similar format, combining a plethora of sturdy ingredients to an intimidating degree.
For the less ravenous there are a plethora of equally delightful smaller options.The empanadas ($7.50) are five savory pastries with a crisp cornmeal crust filled with beef and potatoes served with aji sauce that bears a strong resemblance to a tomato-heavy chimichurri. The arepa rellena ($5.25) are delicious corn-cakes stuffed with your choice of chicken, beef, shrimp, chicharrón or chorizo. Anyone unacquainted with these delectable bites should do their best to familiarize themselves as soon as possible. Several traditional soups and salads also line the first page of the menu. And for the thirsty, Los Parceros stocks the coveted and largely unavailable Aguila — one of Colombia’s more popular beers.
The walls of the cozy six-table space are lined with Colombian memorabilia of all varieties including many pieces by Fernando Botero — known for his ubiquitous fat figures and international acclaim. Sometimes Contreras’ chiva — a brightly colored party bus complete with fake live-stock and luggage on the roof — is parked out front. The chiva functions primarily for publicity, serving as a rentable party bus that has more than once graced the Red Rocks parking lot.
Whether you are already a fan of Colombian food or are curious about trying the cuisine Los Parceros will surely satisfy. Nothing on the menu is so far out that it will intimidate the uninitiated while everything is prepared with enough expertise and heart that it will surely impress the seasoned diner. Just be sure to come hungry.
Los Parceros is located at 5922 East Colfax Ave., Denver. It is open Sunday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
All Photography by Alden Bonecutter.