Colombian restaurant El Parche opening in Tacoma
Mario Medina grew up in Mexico, but Colombian food became his passion – and profession.
He’s worked in restaurants for more than 20 years.
Drawn to Colombian food, Medina traveled there and studied the cuisine for six months. “I saw all the food and preparations. And that was it,” he said.
When he was deciding what kind of restaurant to open in this area, Colombian food seemed a far better idea in a region filled with great Mexican food. “There are so many Mexican restaurants,” said Medina. Colombian restaurants are in short supply regionally, from Bellingham to Portland.
Enter his El Parche Colombian Restaurant, which he opened in Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood three years ago. It’s a cheerful family-friendly spot known for live music, grilled steak and fresh juices.
Tacomans will get a taste of El Parche this summer.
Medina is opening an extension of his Colombian restaurant El Parche in Tacoma.
He’s hoping for an opening within the next month, but is still working through construction at the space, located at 6324 E. McKinley Ave.
The original El Parche in Seattle stays put. The Tacoma opening will be an expansion to a second restaurant, Medina said.
TACOMA EL PARCHE
The Tacoma El Parche will serve lunch and dinner Wednesdays through Sundays (with some breakfast items, although they’re not open during typical breakfast hours).
Diners should expect live music most evenings, said Medina. As he does at his Northgate restaurant, he’ll tuck a three-piece band or a guitarist into the corner of the Tacoma space that will hold about 60 people in the dining room and another 24 on a patio.
El Parche Tacoma will be sandwiched into a neighborhood with hole-in-the-wall dining gems. Nearby are Panaderia El Trigal, which is tough to miss with its bright pink exterior, and the Mexican seafood restaurant, Tacos y Mariscos Nayarit. El Parche borders my favorite neighborhood for tacos in Tacoma – a stretch from Park to Portland along 72nd Avenue East that is home to Taqueria El Grande, Taqueria El Rinconsito, El Super Taco Bas, Los Tamales and Tacos Guaymas.
As with Seattle, Colombian food is in short supply in Pierce County. Empanadas Colombianas Luis Panes opened in 2018 at 5640 South Tacoma Way with a micro menu of outstanding empanadas, sold only from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, and Colombian dinners served only on Saturdays. If you have not yet been, you should pay a visit to Empanadas Colombianas Luis Panes and ask for the cheese empanadas with the caramel arequipe sauce. You’ll thank me later.
That’s it for Colombian-focused restaurants in Tacoma.
Medina’s opening of El Parche in the McKinley neighborhood is due to its proximity to JBLM. He said, “I have a lot of people who come from Tacoma (to) Northgate. It’s difficult to drive. There’s a lot of community there. There’s the military base and lots of Latin people. This is why I’m thinking in Tacoma for another location, because of that community.”
EL PARCHE MENU
The North Seattle location is light, cheerful and loaded with flat panel televisions that broadcasted soccer matches on my visit. It’s a family friendly destination, which the Tacoma location will be, as well.
The menu is broad on choices that will appeal to picky and adventurous eaters alike. There’s also a bar with a tidy list of rum and Colombian spirits.
The menu of the North Seattle El Parche will be the same as Tacoma, and reads like the greatest hits of Colombian cooking: arepes, chicharones, platters of steak and well-seasoned rice, fried plantains and several empanadas choices.
“Empanadas are the chips and salsa of Colombian restaurants,” joked Medina. He recommends diners introduce themselves to Colombian cuisine by ordering the empanada appetizer before digging into a plate of steak.
I did just that on an inaugural run up north to the Seattle location and was rewarded with an empanada with a steamy hot interior of creamy potatoes and shredded beef flavored with cumin. As with most versions of Colombian empanadas, the dough was made from ground corn. For dipping there was Colombian aji sauce, a spicy green salsa with a heavy kick of heat, a lot of garlic and a light pucker. I want to buy the El Parche aji by the gallon.
I paired the empanada appetizer with an order of arepes, griddled corn discs that are a cousin to a tortilla (read: a vessel for cramming meat into my mouth), and chicharron, a jiggly slab of fried pork with fatty edges. For an entree, steak is always a great choice at a Colombian restaurant. For Colombians, Medina said the most popular dish is Bandejas Paisa, a meat extravaganza of grilled skirt steak, rice, beans, carne molida, avocado, arepe, chicharron, chorizo, a fried plantain and an over-easy egg ($16.99).
It looked to be a great introduction to the menu. However, the New York steak was calling to me. I dug into churrasco, a butterflied New York steak grilled medium rare, and served with a grassy chimichurri, seasoned white rice, fried plantains and a salad with a tangy vinaigrette ($16.99).
Oh, the fresh juice. That’s going to be my kryptonite.
“We have guava, blackberry and passionfruit juices and more. In Colombia, soda is not as popular as juice,” said Medina. “We order fresh juices.”
Those juices can be mixed with water or milk and are fresh blended just before service so what shows up at the table is a frothy glass filled with unsweetened juice. El Parche serves eight varieties, priced $4.99 a glass.
Did I mention that they also use that juice in their cocktails? I dug into a passionfruit mojito and loved every bit of the experience – it was mildly sweet and loaded with muddled mint and rum. Fans of the anise-flavored Colombian spirit aguardiente will be pleased to know you can buy it by the shot here ($9). It went down smooth.
EL PARCHE COLOMBIAN RESTAURANT
Where: 6324 E. McKinley Ave., Tacoma
Opening in Tacoma: This summer