Monday, June 8, 2009
On the corners of N. 5th St. and W. Raymond St lies a hole in the wall restaurant. The name of the eatery is Tierra Columbiana. Besides offering a remarkable amount of variation in their dishes, the atmosphere is that of a nightclub. Perhaps that’s the reason why Local.com awarded it the ‘Best Bar and Club’ in 2008. Maybe that’s the reason why Craig Laban, food critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, gave it a four-star review a few years back. Now that I think about it, Tierra Columbiana, while nestled between small shops on a bustling road, isn’t a hole-in-the-wall at all, but rather a much acclaimed Hispanic restaurant.
The Hunting Park area is made up for the most part of African-Americans and Hispanics, and while there are occasionally divides in terms of the neighborhoods and streets themselves, Tierra Columbiana apparently has the power to attract all walks of life. We were in the restaurant for under a half hour, but the people streaming in were African-Americans, Hispanics, and Caucasians. With the nightclub on the upper floor, it was the lower level that was as aesthetically unimpressive as it was surprising. There is a jukebox as soon as you walk in, playing Hispanic music while the atmosphere remains very family friendly.
Maria Angelica has worked in the restaurant since she was 13, yet Tierra Columbiana has only been open for 20 years. As the assistant manager for 15 years, she says the food and the culture remain very similar to when she was young. “It’s a family restaurant still,” she notes, “with the ability to try two different foods from two different countries.” Tierra Columbiana serves up two menu page’s worth of Columbian food, and two more page’s worth of Cuban food. The diversity has made it one of the most loved spots in the area and the city. “The best and most popular dish, “she tells us, “has always been our paella.” There are plenty of other unique foods at Tierra Columbiana, inspired by two different countries.
Aaron Gottlieb and Andrea DeSabato - Hunting Park, group 10