The most popular destination by far on North Fifth Street is Tierra Colombiana, a massive restaurant and nightclub. But it’s hardly the only Colombian restaurant on this stretch of Fifth Street. El Sabor de Maria is a little storefront eatery with colorful murals lining the walls and tables of families and friends enjoying plates piled high with comidas tipicas Colombianas.
Meals at El Sabor de Maria begin with empanadas and little arepas served with garlicky links of Colombian chorizo. Along with a fridge full of Colombian sodas, El Sabor blends juices to order with ingredients like passion fruit and lulo, a nightshade that flavor-wise lands somewhere between lime and rhubarb and is totally magical when whipped with milk and sugar.
The plates at El Sabor are no-joke comforting, hearty and big enough to satisfy the hungriest of camioneros (that’d be truck drivers, for non-native speakers). Bowls of sancocho de gallina are overflowing with hunks of potato, yuca and rounds of yellow corn still on the cob. The bandeja paisa (literally countryman’s tray) brings to mind a full English breakfast with a sizable link of chorizo, a slab of chargrilled steak, a slab of chicharrón, a fried egg, a wedge of avocado, fried plantain and a hefty serving of white rice and long-simmered beans. Flank steak at El Sabor comes in the form of sobrebarriga, braised until fork-tender and served with a tomatoey criolla sauce with flecks of onion and bell pepper. All entrees come with a no-frills but remarkably palate-cleansing salad dressed simply with white vinegar.
El Sabor de Maria | 4903 N. Fifth St., 215-329-5166, elsabordemaria.com. Hours: Daily, 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Recommended dishes: Empanadas, arepa con chorizo, bandeja paisa, sobrebarriga, fresh juices.
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