Review: Cumbia Bistro, A Great Place for ParcheJul 01, 2022 11:00AM ● By Tamsen Butler
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Cumbia Omaha has a display on their wall defining parche as a Columbian colloquialism that translates to a place where a group of friends can get together and do something. Cumbia Omaha is a great place for parche downtown.
Though the food is indeed delicious, Cumbia Omaha is more bar than restaurant. It seems like a great place to have a drink and relax with friends, which is what my dining partners and I did while waiting for a table so we could order some food. Pro tip: order a pitcher of sangria. It was nicely balanced and had yummy fruit flavors. The more we drank, the less we minded the wait. It was the kind of sangria that could "sneak up" on someone.
The food menu isn’t what I expected for a restaurant that is advertised as a tapas bar. Their selection of appetizers is limited and their entrée menu consists mostly of sandwiches, especially choripánes, Argentinian street sandwiches. We all ordered sandwiches, but my attempt to order the choripán vegetarian was thwarted because they were out of the vegetarian sausage. Our server was apologetic about it and suggested potato empanadas instead, so I agreed and ordered them.
My friends all enjoyed their choripánes, which were served with potato chips. Some ordered sandwiches with pork, and others with beef, but all were delighted by the spicy sausage with a tangy sauce and rich cheese. The bread was similar to a ciabatta, but was soft instead of crusty.
Meanwhile, my potato empanadas were good, but the star was the accompanying salsa. It brought the empanadas to life with its vibrant flavors and not-so-spicy taste. I believe the potatoes were soaked in a veggie stew beforehand, but the potatoes were really center-stage with this one. I found them delightful because they did not have a bunch of spices loaded in, allowing the flavor of the potatoes and the corn masa to come through. This was all well and good, but what I wanted was a sandwich like everyone else at my table.
My husband also ordered the patacones, an appetizer consisting of fried, smashed green plantains topped with a vegetable stew called hogao, traditionally a tomato and onion sauce similar to a sofrito. My husband was stationed in Honduras for some time years ago, where he developed a love of plantains, and deemed this appetizer delicious. He did add that if he had to share this appetizer, there probably wouldn’t have been enough to go around the entire table. It’s entirely possible, though, that he really liked them and didn’t want to share.
The vibe at Cumbia was special—it felt like a festive place. I spent a few minutes watching the bartender making drinks and interacting with customers. He seemed to be having so much fun, and not in a flashy way.
The bartender’s joy translated into well-prepared drinks. I already mentioned the flavorful sangria, but what impressed our table the most was the Guandolo, a non-alcoholic mixed drink with sugar cane, lime, and orange juice. It was a refreshing beverage that didn’t need alcohol to earn the designation of “drink we’d absolutely order again.”
Our server was friendly and fairly attentive in the beginning, although once we had our food he didn’t return. None of our waters were refilled throughout the duration of the meal. This again indicated to us that Cumbia Omaha is more of a bar than a restaurant. The server didn’t seem to know what to do with us after we were served.
When I visited the restroom, I was taken aback by the wallpaper of comic book pages, as it seemed out of character for the vibe of the restaurant. Upon returning to our table and telling everyone else about the bizarre restroom décor, one of my friends guessed that comic books are an important cultural phenomenon in Columbia, which led to him furiously searching Google to back up his hypothesis. Some of us guessed that the building used to be a comic book store and the bathrooms never got renovated. Later, when I checked out Cumbia Omaha’s Facebook page, I realized the bathrooms are supposed to be perfect for selfies because of the brightly colored comic book pages and round mirror.
Cumbia Omaha is a great choice for those looking for a laid-back place to have some drinks with friends and snap some selfies. Those who want an extensive menu and an actual tapas experience will find this probably isn’t the place for them.
Visit cumbiabistro.com for more information.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.