After Hours: Colombian Food in Boston

Boston is a town known for having an early bedtime.  Most of Boston’s residents are at home ready to call it a night when people in other burgs are thinking about what to have for dinner. There are few options when hunger hits past 10:00 PM- much less, past midnight.  Of course, there is late night pizza, the 24-hour Italian bakery in the North End, and the lone, perpetually open diner near South Station, but gastronomic diversity after last call can be scarce.

Luckily, Boston’s growing Latino population - coming from cultures where a midweek, all night fiesta to celebrate a nephew’s ninth birthday would not be uncommon – provides some relief from the town’s culinary curfew, as well as some much needed sabor in the wee hours.  East Boston’s most famous attraction is Logan International Airport, but in recent years the neighborhood has become a stronghold of Latin American culture. A short walk from the Wood Island T station, just north of the airport, is one eatery that serves a taste of Colombian junk food after hours.  Open until 3 AM every day, La Chiva is more of a snack bar than an restaurant, and upon entering, you’re greeted by a large glass display case made slightly cloudy by a mix of steam and grease with just enough clarity to make out the assortment of fried and baked antojitos, or “little whims.” 

There are cheesy breads made with yucca flour shaped into rings, nearly perfect spheres, or little mounds reminiscent of bra pads. There is an endlessly replenished supply of dainty, crispy cornmeal empanadas encasing savory braised beef and potato- just big enough to hold between your thumb and forefinger while carefully portioning out drops of tangy hot sauce into the filling.  There are also curls of scored deep fried pork rinds that offer a mix of crispy, crunchy, chewy, and meltingly soft textures as you bite through layers of skin, meat, and fat.

If you end up empty handed after a night of drinking, you can console yourself with some of the more phallic offerings in the display case or show off your skills to the severe looking blue-collar worker quietly nibbling on an arepa.  The question is whether you want a blood sausage or a garlicky pork sausage, or perhaps the whole ripe plantain stuffed with cheese and caramelized in the oven.

Nevertheless, there is no better way to satisfy a taste for something long and fleshy in your mouth, an affinity for the flamboyant, and a desire for authentic Colombian fast food than with a perro ­– Colombia’s extravagant adaptation of the hotdog.  La Chiva’s version comes topped with cole slaw, melted mozzarella cheese, several different sauces, crushed potato chips, and a hard boiled quail’s egg.  Such a creation is best enjoyed while under the influence, but the combination is equally good when sober.  Along with some other more substantial menu items that appear on an illustrated signboard, the perros have to be prepared to order, giving you ample time to sip on a sugary tropical fruit juice while enjoying the mix of Spanish speaking eye candy and local color that is East Boston.

Story and mouthshots by the loveable Carlos C. Olaechea. Follow him on Twitter for his latest eats and more.