In early September of 2011, we celebrated the union of two spectacular individuals. The joyous day was highlighted by great company, food and some crazy dancing. Little did I know that I’d be having dinner at a Colombian bakery with the guy below, who happened to be the one capturing the momentous occasion.
Meet Jon Tan, one of the two photographers at Dreamlite Photography. Jon is a spectacular wedding photographer, particularly given that he is so young- then again, artists come from all ages and backgrounds. Jon and I share a similar set of friends as Facebook kindly pointed out. After the wedding, a few more friends were added to the list. When Jon saw photos on the blog from a dumpling tutorial fundraiser that his clients hosted, he reached out to me. A few emails later, we made dinner happen with Mark.
Jon is a lover of all things Hispanic and Latin American. He’s ‘fairly competent’ in Spanish, having traveled to Latin America several times and living there for months. Jon recently traveled to Honduras, where he worked on documentaries for Signs of Love. It’s no surprise that he’s the one who introduced me to Colombian food.
For the typical American, the words ‘Colombian’ and ‘food’ don’t pop up in the same sentence very often. I’ve had Mexican (if you count the Big Enchilada on 12th St in NYC) and Argentine food, but never Colombian. When I chose from the list of restaurants that he listed, I didn’t realize that I’d picked a literal bakery.
Calima Bakery is tucked in a strip shop center right across from Sam Ash on Rt 27 in Edison. It’s an obscure place, but it’s clear that locals know about it. While they do serve hot food, their showcase houses desserts and pastries. There is no official menu and items are written on paper plates hanging from racks behind the register. A whiteboard displays the specials of the day. A pithy number of stools provide for some scant seating. This is not a place for dawdling. Yet, we managed to stay for three hours.
Calima Bakery: Specials of the day ($7.50)
Monday: Beef or braised chicken w/ tripe or plantain soup
Tuesday: Beef tongue in salsa or beef w/ peppers w/ lentil soup
Wednesday: Flank steak in salso or braised chicken w/ vegetable soup
Thursday: Ground beef w/ chicken or bean soup
Friday: “Short ribs in the oven” or rice w/ chicken w/ chicken noodle soup
Saturday: “Paisa platter” w/ grilled meat or ground beef/beans w/ rib soup
Sunday: Traditional Colombian soup made w/ chicken and plantain served w/ a fresh tomato and onion sauce
Warning– nothing is in English, but once in awhile, a customer will pipe up and offer an English translation if he happens to overhear. When we arrived, they ran out of empanadas and their famous chicharrón (fried pork belly), but lucky for us, they were in the process of making more. We ordered some empanadas, one ‘serving’ of chicharrón each and an entree each. We stuck with their regular “menu” as the thought of tripe is really quite frightful (Monday’s special).
from top left, clockwise
Carne asada con chicharrón y arepa: grilled meat w/ fried pork belly and corn cake
Aji: green salsa
Chicharrón: fried pork belly
Platanos con arroz y chicharrón: plantains with rice and fried pork belly
The food is cheap. I can’t remember exactly what each dish cost but it was between $4 and $8. All together for the above, we paid under $22 for the three of us. Super cheap. The food may be served on plastic trays and paper plates, but it is bangin’.
- Chicharrón: This is an absolute must. Think about those thick Canadian bacon strips that they serve at a steakhouse but BETTER. It’s literally a long strip of sectioned bacon, held together by crispy skin. Each section has a good amount of fat. I can’t even explain how divine it was. Eating one of these is nearly as bad as eating a half of pack of bacon because of all the fat. But I assure you that it is soooo worth it.
- Huervos Pericos: Given that I’ve never had this, it was a pleasant surprise. I’m never one to discriminate against eggs, but the scrambled eggs were cooked perfectly- light and fluffy and the seasoning was spot on. The combination of the egg with the arepa/cheese and the fried pork belly resembled a ridiculous over the top breakfast sandwich, Colombian style. Arepas are sorta like corn tortillas but thicker.
- Empanadas: They’re made with ground beef and potatoes and the shell is made of corn. Honestly, not Calima’s best item but decent. For me, the potatoes were too mushy.
Hervos pericos con chicharrón y arepa: scrambled egg w/ tomato and scallions w/ fried pork belly and corn cake
While I can’t speak for Jon and Mark’s entrees, I can say that we finished every bite. This is one of those places where you order your food, eat it at the counter and then pay. You don’t see that in alot of places nowadays. While I don’t recommend that you sit here and have dinner for three hours, it’s definitely worth stopping by if you’re in the area and want to try something new (like the chicharrón!!!). I also hear the pastries are quite good. Just make sure you don’t get lost coming here.
1876 State Rte 27
Edison, NJ 08817