Columnist leaves Columbus via Peruvian Cuisine.
BY ALI ABUBAKR ’24
Machu Picchu. Rainbow Mountain. The Andes mountain range of Peru. Impressive stuff, but all of these things shrivel in comparison to the dangerous peaks and slopes of Mad River Mountain, Ohio. I’m kidding. If you want to leave Central Ohio, like most of us do, you can do so through the Peruvian style sandwiches at Si Señor located on West 5th Avenue in Grandview.
Walking in on a quiet Saturday around noon, I wasn’t expecting it to be as busy as it was. The reason for this is their irregular times. Tuesday through Friday, they’re open from 11-3 p.m., closed from 3-5 p.m, then open again from 5 until 9 p.m.. On Mondays and Saturdays, they’re only open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.. So make sure you know what day of the week it is. I often struggle with that.
There were a good amount of people, but the small space was used efficiently. When you walk in, you’re greeted with the filling smell of meat cooking on a grill. On the wall to your right, there are enormous menus that are easily readable. To your left, a large cartoonish mural painted black on the yellow wall depicts a city street in Peru. Within five seconds, I was transported into the welcoming air of a small restaurant in Peru. Then I turned around and saw the Big Lots across the street and my illusion was shattered.
I ordered the Latin Style Turkey Breast sandwich with jalapenos. It comes with oven roasted turkey, caramelized onions, fresh jalapeno relish, manchego cheese, tomatoes and lettuce on fluffy bread. I knew the food would be bussin’ when the cashier turned around and yelled out my order in Spanish to the chef. Hearing them speak in Spanish let me know that this place was authentic and that they knew what they were doing. To say the food was good is an understatement; I’d have to say it was muy bueno. I didn’t know what caramelized onions or manchego cheese were prior to this experience, but I can say wholeheartedly that I am now a big fan. The caramelized onions, which are cooked for longer periods of time on lower heat, were juiced up and amazingly flavorful and the manchego cheese was tastefully strong. Usually when I can taste the cheese on a sandwich or burger, I don’t really like it, but this time it was different. There was also a very generous amount of turkey, and the jalapeno relish brought in a sweet and a spicy flavor that I didn’t even know I was yearning for. This was all densely packed between two sub-like pieces of white bread that soaked up the juices. I munched it all down quickly. The only problem was that it was too small, and I wanted more. So with greasy fingers and bits of Latin food around my mouth, I walked back up to the counter.
My plan was to just get the same sandwich again. But as I was walking back up, I saw written on the far side of the counter that there was a special spicy tomato and chicken soup available for the day. Oh yeah. I returned to my table with a delectable dark red soup, with shredded bits of chicken, greens and other things that looked like onions and jalapenos. It wasn’t a menu item, so I didn’t know exactly what was in it. But it was pretty spicy. Now, I don’t usually handle spice well, so it probably wasn’t as spicy as I thought it was, but I was struggling. I started getting really hot, drooling out of my nose, sweating. I could feel where the hair follicles came out of my scalp. The chicken soaked in the soup was great, and the soup itself was mildly thick. But I was defeated. It was too spicy for me. I couldn’t even finish it. With my head down in shame, I threw away what was left of the soup and walked out of Peru to make my way back to Central Ohio, vowing that I would someday return and finish that soup.
However, I could truly say that I had a wonderful dining experience. I spent less than $15 overall on the sandwich, soup and a drink and my belly was satisfied and sufficiently bloated. Por eso, Si Señor es Ali Approved.