Up for an adventure ... and great food?

Rancho Mateo, 27 Westfield Ave, Elizabeth, New Jersey – last visited 12/26/2019

This restaurant located almost at the corner of Westfield Avenue and the beginning of Morris Avenue, the same Morris Avenue that runs through Union and up to Morristown, offers wonderful, authentic Colombian food. This is a true steakhouse with an open grill at the back of the restaurant.

When you enter, you notice the vast open space is decorated in rustic ranch style décor including hand painted murals of farm life in Colombia and market style string lights along with a huge bar on the far side of the wall. I say huge because about 20 people can take a seat at it. The restaurant is very festive with lively country music (uh Colombian country music). There is a large bakery case at the entrance that offers cakes and pastries as well as other traditional Colombian finger foods like empanadas, arepas (corn pies) and of course Colombian coffee. Once seated, the very friendly, mostly Colombian wait staff offers suggestions. One of my favorites is the grilled Entraña (skirt steak). This steak comes out on a sizzling platter and comes with two side dishes. The list of side dishes includes potatoes, rice, beans, sweet bananas, fried plantain bananas, salad or several other choices. The menu also includes another traditional Colombian dish, Pollo Empanizado which is a perfectly fried, breaded chicken cutlet, enough to eat half and take the other half to go.

On this particular visit, I ordered the crunchy breaded chicken cutlet with rice and beans.

My dining companion ordered a Rancho Mateo salad, which had sliced skirt steak on top along with avocado, chicken, shrimp, tomatoes and a host of other ingredients. The skirt steak was cooked medium and had a slight smoky flavor. It was juicy and tender. Similarly, the steak that was on the salad was also freshly prepared. On previous visits we have had the classic Colombian restaurant dish, Bandeja Paisa which in simple terms is a ton of food. It includes a chicharron, which is deep fried pork belly, a piece of beef, eggs, a sausage, beans and rice … uh all on the same plate. It is good but super filling. That is a one meal for the day kind of dish.

There are so many varieties of food in addition to steak including sautéed chicken in mushroom sauce and Lomo Saltado, which is pork sautéed with peppers, onions and potatoes. Another great dish is the Cazuela de Mariscos or seafood casserole – which has a ton of shellfish in a creamy broth. One of the editors for We Eat A Lot orders the cazuela all the time because it is filling but not as heavy as steak.

On a ‘what else is there to do’ Saturday over this winter, it might be an adventure to take a ride to downtown Elizabeth and have some good authentic food. As one of my good friends from Colombia has said, it is Colombian comfort food personified. I think, once you try it, you will go back again. The food and the service are that good. Make a plan for next weekend and have a good time, it will be worth the trip. The editors have rated this great spot 😊😊😊😊.

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