Austin is known for Tex-Mex. Much less noticeably, there has been a recent surge in other Latin American cuisine. It’s about time we start branching out to try these restaurants inspired by Central and South America.
Lima Criolla is one such restaurant. Small and tucked away in North Austin, it’s owned by a family that moved here from Peru. They’re dedicated to introducing Austinites to the authentic food of their home country.
Peruvian Food in Austin
I recently visited Lima Criolla to sample what they have to offer. Since this is a Peruvian restaurant, I had to try their pisco. Pisco is a grape-distilled alcohol with a contentious history. Both Peru and Chile claim to have invented the drink. And to this day, many Chileans claim their pisco is superior to Peru’s version.
Until someone can point me to a Chilean bar in Austin, I’m going to have to side with the Peruvians. I tried both the traditional pisco and the pisco sour, a more contemporary version of the drink. The latter was a refreshing type of cocktail I had never tasted in Austin. You should definitely give it a try.
If you have a love affair with the spiciness of Mexican or Tex-Mex food, you may find Peruvian cuisine to be a strange departure. These dishes tend to taste rich, rather than spicy. You’ll notice the food often leans on pasta as a carbohydrate because of the strong Italian influence on Peru. When rice is served, as it often is, the chefs at Lima Criolla infuse it with a ton of garlic flavor, which I’m all about.
Dive into the Food Menu at Lima Criolla
For my appetizer, I ordered the papa rellena, a potato loaded with spices, ground beef and cheese. While it was a tad heavy, I didn’t feel like the dish weighed me down. In keeping with many Peruvian dishes, the spices added depth and richness not often found in other Latin American cultures. Nothing about the plate was spicy.
A lot of people order the lomo saltado, which is beef with fries, because many Peruvians think it’s a simple introduction for the American palate. While it is a safe option, it’s not going to get you excited. You wouldn’t want to come to Texas for the first time and order a cheeseburger.
For entrees, my table ordered two dishes: tallarines verdes and lomo saltado limeño. Tallarines verdes included a savory, slow-cooked steak sliced and served over a bed of traditional pasta, with a Peruvian pesto-like sauce. The dish came with potatoes on the side that had been boiled and seasoned with spices. Talk about heavy. This dish will keep you warm in the coldest of Texas winters (which aren’t that cold, but you get my point). The portion was huge, so I wound up taking half of it home.
My friend ordered lomo saltado limeño. It also had sliced beef, but it was served on a bed of onions, garlic, rice and mild peppers. The flavor was intense, but not overwhelming. I recognized the parts that made up the flavor of the dish, but the combination of flavors made something I wouldn’t have imagined.
The interior of Lima Criolla is friendly and inviting, and Latin music is always playing. In addition to the delicious food offerings, there’s also a full bar. I would recommend going traditional, but there are many options available if you’re working up the courage to try something new.
Lima Criolla is located at 6406 N. Interstate 35 Frontage Road, #1550. Tell them The Ausitinot sent you.
@DustyVegas wants to know:
What is your favorite Latin American restaurant in Austin?