The Satisfying Six-Buck Lunch
The Cuisine: Colombian
The Place: Los Paísas
When you're battling expenses, dining out is often the first casualty. But you don't have to sacrifice flavor; live a little at Los Paísas. This Colombian restaurant offers tasty, authentic lunch specials for $5.99, which include an entrée, drink, and gigante bowl of soup.
Both locations are tucked away in strip malls, but these aren't standard ethnic dives. The décor is warm, subdued, and impressive enough to bring a date. Guys will appreciate the portion sizes—not a tapas-size plate in sight.
Meat is the star of the typical Colombian meal. On one visit, the advertised vegetable soup had as many chunks of tender beef as it did veggies. At lunch, you can choose between two daily specials, usually chicken, beef, or pork. Most include sticky rice, salad, and fried plantains. The $1 beef empanadas are a great way to sample the trio of salsas that come to the table, from fiery jalapeño and vibrant, vinegar-based pico de gallo to the garlicky yet restrained chimichurri.
While Colombian food shares some of the more familiar ingredients of Mexican cuisine (avocado, lime, cilantro), the flavors are more of a melding of South American and classical European. Some are spicy, others creamy and mild. There are several seafood choices, including some very tasty shrimp dishes.
The waitresses are bubbly and bilingual, and, by the looks of them, most could have walked the runway of the Miss Colombia pageant. Male lunch diners seem torn between watching them or the soccer game on the TV over the bar.
Both restaurants have a full liquor license, but the nonalcoholic blended fruit juice drinks are a refreshing finish to your meal. Flavors range from blackberry and mango to tree tomato and mamey fruit. With the exception of the high-priced and uninspired kids' menu, Los Paísas is a good spot where you get a lot for very little.
5033 South Blvd.
8313 Pineville-Matthews Rd.
$, L, D, FSB.