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Northwest Side Review: Brasa Roja

By Amelia Levin in Food on Apr 17, 2007 4:00PM


We hate to admit it, but the décor at this popular Colombian eatery tucked in Albany Park is a little bit on the tacky side. Paper mobiles hanging from the ceiling and mismatched wall art that’s a little outdated give the “no frills” description a new meaning.

But that is the only, count it, only negative thing we’re going to say about Brasa Roja, because guess what? The food is outstanding, and the people are friendly to boot. Diverse, too — you could shave a slice of “American life” pie and get a wide range of folks, all looking for just some good, wholesome grub. Overall, the place is clean, comfortable, and both Colombian and non-Colombian regulars alike declare Brasa Roja’s food as some of the best South American food in the city.

2007_04_BrasaRoja3.pngBrasa Roja translates to “red grill” in Spanish, a likely reference to the red-hot coals from the charcoal grill, which fires up juicy cuts of steak, short ribs, and even rabbit. Also on the menu, the popular roasted chicken that’s spit fired all day in a special rotisserie grill from Colombia.

2007_04_BrasaRoja6.pngOn this visit, we tried the roasted chicken and the churrasco, which here means skirt steak, and together make two big-time favorites, although the Matrimonio dish combines both on a wooden platter.

You pick whether you want the roasted chicken served whole on the bone or pre-cut. Being traditional carnivores wielding large steak knives, we chose ours whole, and had a good time working for our food. The finished result? Juicy bites of marinated chicken with crispy skin, sans the grease. Dip your fork in the accompanying chimichurri sauce, an olive oil-based blend of parsley, oregano, and other South American spices, and your taste buds will be delighted.

2007_04_BrasaRoja2.pngNext up: the skirt steak, or should we say, enormous skirt steak, served on a big wooden cutting board, similar to the chicken dishes, with more chimichurri sauce, roasted yucca, potatoes, rice and arepas, which are warm and fluffy griddle cakes similar to a flat, round pita made from cornmeal and cheese. While a lot of restaurants pound their skirt steak paper thin, this is not the case here. The result — a juicier, more buttery, rich cut. And just a tip — come hungry because you won’t be hungry anymore for a week afterward. We had a little more room — that or we’re gluttons — but seriously, we ordered the sweet and savory figs with rich caramel sauce. After devouring this very authentic, Colombian dessert, life, suddenly, was better than good.

Here’s another tip — if you want a drink, wine or beer, you need to bring your own, but luckily there’s no corkage fee. Otherwise, choose from a beverage menu of fresh juices, shakes, and Colombian soft drinks like Manana and Colombiana. A huge plus — not only is the food fab, but the prices won’t bust your wallet. Steaks go for around $14, and a dinner for two, including appetizers and beverages might run $35 to $40.

And forget what your mom says, don’t think you can’t have steak and arepas for breakfast. We’ll be back for those plus eggs, beans, potatoes and perhaps a BYOB Bloody Mary.

Brasa Roja, located at 3125 W. Montrose Ave., 773-866-2252, is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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