In the United States, we have a well established tradition of eating greasy food after a night out of drinking. It’s a gem of culinary culture that I’m particularly fond of… the Bacon Egg and Cheese Sandwich, the Leftover Thai Food, and my personal favorite, the Taco Bell.
Turns out, people all over the world like to eat greasy food when they’re tipsy too. In Medellin, a popular option is the street stands for grilled meat. My roommate had been raving about one that sets up shop under a bridge near our apartment in Belen, so after a night at the 3 Cordilleras Brewery, it was the perfect chance to give it a try.
Our cab dropped us off on the side of a busy street and we were, indeed, under a bridge. Smoke filled the cave of highway and you could barely make out the cooks, standing behind massive, makeshift grills. Cars were whizzing by, just feet away from what was about to become our dining area. Despite the traffic kicking dirt into the stage of swirling smoke, the variety of meats smelled delicious and I was ready to dig in.
The cook stood armed with a blow dryer and three buckets at his side… pork, beef, and chicken. He plucked our selections out of the various buckets and slapped them on the grill, another plume of smoke rising into the air as he fought it back with his salon tool turned smoke swirler.
We grabbed a section of plastic chairs, allowing the grit and the smoke to settle into our circle. We were all a little tipsy from our five beer sampling at 3 Cordilleras and salivating at the smell of our food — giddy with hunger and anticipation. Minutes later, a wave from the cook and we all scrambled for our feast.
The meat was presented on a flat bread with two chunks of cheese lying on top. After glancing around for an example, I learned that you can eat your slab of meat on bread however you please… each ingredient separately, or folded into a sandwich, or you can just dig into it like a hungry animal.
It was a tasty option for the kind of post-alcohol hunger I was experiencing, and my friends couldn’t get enough of it. But one thing I’ve come to find about Colombian meat is that they like it WELL done — I personally prefer medium-rare. My beef was thin and a bit chewy, but full of flavor which the bread and cheese complimented perfectly.
A Colombian acquaintance of ours convinced me to also try a cup of tinto — black coffee often served in little plastic cups by street vendors. It was intensely sweet and not at all how I would order coffee if given the choice, but along side the savory beef sandwich it was absolutely perfect for the happy American glutton I turn into after a night of “sampling” beers.
Colombia’s street BBQ’s are a great way to end an evening with cheap, tasty food. We all went home, stuffed and happy … and ready to shower off all that smoke and street dust.