>> La Chiva Colombia Lonchera | Eat the World Los Angeles

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

La Chiva Colombia Lonchera

COLOMBIA 🇨🇴
The truck parked on E. 33rd Street in Signal Hill

COVID-19 UPDATE: This is a truck. Orders can be called ahead of time to reduce interactions if preferred.

If you have ever gotten out of major cities during travels in Colombia, no doubt you have taken a chiva or two on the country's mountainous roads. Long journeys between Andean towns or other rural places are made by these colorful buses, which also serve as a means to transport all manner of goods that need moving. The cargo on top usually adds a meter or two in height, and the inside is rarely filled with only humans. Every usable inch is used and each trip is always maximized in every way.

This is the spirit with which La Chiva Colombia Lonchera was made, plastered with the bright primary colors of the Colombian flag and offering an unbelievably wide array of home-style foods from around the country. The truck itself is a spin-off of a new restaurant in Buena Park, which opened right at the beginning of the pandemic last year.

A full recent takeout order

The lonchera hides off busy Atlantic Avenue in this part of Long Beach (actual a cut-out of Signal Hill), but is unmissable to anyone headed to and from Target. The brilliant Colombian flag reflects sunshine down the entire block. Stepping up to the truck is almost overwhelming, as the entire restaurant menu is available including breakfasts served all day once they open daily at 10:00.

If you are not in the mood for huevos pericos and frijoles calentados, start with a simple arepa con queso ($5, above bottom right). More than anything, this begs to be eaten immediately so that the corn cake can be enjoyed in its crisp toasty glory. A crumble of cheese on top is slightly burnt on top, just right.

Bandeja La Chiva

Stacks of meat are common in Colombian meals and can be enjoyed just the same here from the truck. The largest may be the picada, which piles many meats with fried yuca, potatoes, arepas, plantains and more, but they also offer a few different types of bandejas. In addition to the ubiquitous bandeja paisa, they have the more "premium" bandeja La Chiva ($21, above) which serves meats from the sky, land, and sea.

A cut of steak, grilled chicken and shrimp, and fried chicharrón all seem to be marinated differently and make for much more than a pile of meat. A slice of avocado and accompanying rice and beans make the bandeja (tray) enough for many meals, unless of course you require this many calories in one sitting for a full day of work as the dish is intended. No matter what entree you order, chances are good that a full styrofoam container of white rice and nicely seasoned fries will be included. This duo seemingly doubles the size and any takeaway order (the top photo of the full order shows these), and makes it feel as you are leaving with a feast when carrying bags back to your trunk.

Cazuela de mariscos (seafood stew)

Colombian seafood dishes do not require the absolute freshest catch like ceviches might, but even so the quality of the catch here is somewhat surprising given the nature of its origin and reasonable price points. Taking home a large order of sophisticated dishes like cazuela de mariscos ($21, above) is such a privilege. This seafood stew is filled with fresh (and immitation) crab, mussels, shrimp, squid, and probably more.

The cazuela is a dish that lets you enjoy the strong Caribbean accents of Colombia's Atlantic coast, thick with coconut milk and heavy cream. The seasoning is comforting while far from overbearing and might even require being cut with some water as it is so full of meat.

Churrasco con camarones al ajillo (shell steak and shrimp in garlic sauce)

Another surf and turf option is the churrasco con camarones al ajillo ($20, above), an intensely rich buttery garlic ride. The sauce for this is like a concentrate and begs for both hefty scoops of rice to join each bite and plenty of the included ají to help cut the richness.

Once again the cut of shell steak is surprisingly nice and the shrimp are plump and fresh. At this point orders of the fried whole porgy or any other fish or seafood dish should not be shied away from, the truck has a deft confidence in every dish they prepare.

📍 800 E. 33rd Street, Signal Hill, The Harbor

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