- 5470 E. Speedway Blvd., Tucson, AZ, 85711
- Overall User Rating:
- (6 ratings)
- Tues.-Thur. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
What was ordered: Cazuela de mariscos ($6.95), corrientos de carne a la plancha ($6.50), tamarindo ($1.50) and malta Goya ($1.75) for a total of $18.05, well within our Cheap Eats goal of a meal for two for less than $20.
Comments: You expect a certain level of confusion when traveling abroad.
You'll encounter a fair amount of it on this culinary journey to Colombia, which is housed in the elbow of a shopping center crammed into the Southwest corner of Speedway and Craycroft Road. If you're like me and my friends, confusion will give way to bliss by the end of your meal.
Sabor Tropical is the sole purveyor of Colombian fare in Tucson, and Arizona, as far as I know.
To sample it, take the following steps:
1. Ignore the large sign that reads "Cabo Taco," the name of the most recently defunct joint that set up shop here.
2. Ignore the menu board above the counter featuring standard fast-Mexican fare. This is apparently also left over from Cabo Taco, although the folks here will make you this stuff if you ask for it.
3. Ignore the printed menus.
4. Ask the person behind the counter for the best Colombian offerings of the day.
To say we enjoyed our cazuela de mariscos (seafood soup) and corrientos de carne a la plancha (grilled skirt steak platter) would be an understatement. The soup was a simple yet skillful creamed chowder with bountiful bites of shrimp, fish, crab and octopus. It had a lively texture that grabbed the senses even more so than the flavors, which had subtle yet distinct power.
The steak platter featured an ample serving of grilled steak. It had been lively marinated and was cooked to an excellent medium rare.
Accompanying both the soup and the steak were mounds of tomato rice rich in an ensemble of spices—we detected cumin, cayenne, nutmeg and maybe even a little saffron among them—and a vibrant little salad of shredded lettuce, sliced onions, tomatoes and avocados in a delicately piquant, lime-juiced-based dressing.
The steak platter also included two homemade plantain fritters, deftly fried so that the exterior was crispy but the interior was still yielding, rather than the near freeze-dried chip one frequently encounters.
They make a different Colombian soup five days a week here. They also make a variety of Colombian dishes you won't find on the menu. They'll also whip up just about anything you ask for, whether it's Colombian, Mexican or something they're winging at the moment.
The salsas, one a creamy red, chipotle-based affair that's sweet and smokey, the other a green, citrusy, tomatillo variant, lend subtle heat, acidity and sweetness to the offerings rather than overwhelming them.
Service: Order at the counter and the food is brought to your table.
Bottom line: As my companion noted, a meal at Sabor Tropical is a matter of putting aside all your standard restaurant routines and just letting the experience take you for a uniquely flavorful ride. Here's hoping enough people make it past the standard-issue, fast-Mexican look of this little place to have them serving their Colombian specialities here for years to come.