#Huangry: Cazuelita at Sacha's Cafe
If I have one concern about the ethnic food scene in Greenville, it’s that delicious little mom-and-pop joints will get overlooked in favor of the polished glitz of Main Street restaurants or familiar fast casual chains. I’ve got nothing against those places—Who doesn’t love Chipotle? (Except for those who got dosed with E. coli, of course.) And part of the appeal of finding a hole-in-the-wall is that it feels like a secret too good to be true. Still, I’m always a bit concerned about the staying power of places that provide depth and variety to Greenville’s burgeoning food scene.
One look into Sacha’s Café is enough to assuage my fears for a little while. The Colombian restaurant is packed—at all times of day, it seems—and there’s a healthy mix of people, from Hispanics craving the familiarity of Sacha’s Latin flavors, to hip couples burnishing their hipness.
I know very little about Colombian cuisine, so it’s probably a good thing I’ve ordered the cazuelita montañera. It’s about as good of a primer on Colombian food as you can get, as the dish is a variation on the Colombian national dish, bandeja montañera (more commonly known as bandeja paisa). There is one notable exception: Sacha’s variation is served in a little pot, or a cazuelita, instead of a platter (bandeja). Accordingly, the portions are smaller and more manageable.
Still, it’s not like Sacha’s is skimping. In this deceptively diminutive metal pot, you’ll find rice, beans, shredded beef, chorizo, chicharrón, fried sweet plantains, a fried egg, and an avocado. Oh, and there's a little side dish of cabbage salad that reminds of slaw, but that's really kind of an afterthought. Based on the constituent parts, it’s obvious this meal is calorically dense, super-filling, and super satisfying. It’s hardy food for sturdy folks—the kind of hard-hitting sustenance that fuels a day’s work in the fields, much like any home-style Southern meal.
As with most peasant foods, cazuelita montañera isn’t designed to be the most aesthetically pleasing meal you’ve ever had. The abundance of brown-colored items can make it tough to tell between sausage and fried plantain, and the textures from the beans, avocado, egg, beef, and rice can mush together. But these soft textures just set a stage against which abundant chunks of chicharrón can shine even brighter. For me, these thick hunks of fried pork belly transcend. They’re crispy and crackly, translucent in the light, crunchy to the bite, and delivered in bite-size morsels that, to me, are far more satisfying than anemic slices. They are everything you like about bacon turned up seven notches.
I suppose the only unfortunate thing is I cannot justify eating like this every day. I mean, I could—the fact that I ate a dozen donuts a couple of weeks ago shows just how irresponsible I am with my diet. But as is the case with heavy, satisfying comfort food, it’s best to leave these dishes for the times that I actually need comfort. The rest of the time, I guess I’ll just settle for a burrito bowl from Chipotle.
- Oh my God, chicharrón is pretty much the best thing ever.
- You’ll either go into a food coma or feel like you can take on the world after eating this. Both are pretty acceptable in my book.
- It comes in a cute little pot.
- Probably detrimental to your cardiovascular health if you eat this on a regular basis.
- Why is there even a salad?
1001 N Pleasantburg Dr, Greenville, SC
(864) 232-3232, sachascafe.com
Cazuelita montañera, $7.89
Originally published in the [Greenville Journal] on February 19, 2016.