Easy Parking; Spacious Dining
Maize & Wheat Cafe has all the warmth and pizzazz of a small town Colombian street market. The décor is a bit whimsical, but the food and service are taken seriously.
The owner, Claudia Niswonger opened the cafe last November, offering arepas, empanadas, soups, salads, and tropical juices. During the four years before going brick and mortar, she sold her food at various festivals in the area. The new cafe, across from AT&T on South Brentwood, is now open seven days a week and includes both dine in and carry out.
What Is Colombian Cuisine?
South American food is not Mexican, so some items on the menu might be unfamiliar. You may have never heard the words “arepas” or “ajiaco”—I hadn’t until I visited Colombia some years ago along with Robin and Juan Carlos. It was my first chance to enjoy two of the country’s national dishes.
A Glossary of Menu Terms
Arepas: (pronounced: ar-eh-puhas). A corn flour pancake, sweetened, or unsweetened, prepared in the area since pre-Columbian times. The trick is to use Harina P.A.N. or Goya for the flour mixture. Some of the corn cakes are cooked with the filling inside, while others are stuffed after cooking.
Various fillings include sweet plantain, mozzarella, black beans, potatoes, vegetables, mushrooms, beef, tuna, sausage, and chicken. Like making meatloaf or turkey dressing here at home, the ingredients are customized to a family’s preferences. There are, at least, 75 distinct ways of preparing arepas in Colombia alone.
The crispy, little cakes reminded me of the skillet cornbread my grandmother used to make, though she never used anything but butter on top.
Ajiaco: This hearty chicken soup is traditionally made from several varieties of potatoes, that thicken the soup nicely without using flour. Ajiaco is not printed on the menu, but shows up on the wall board along with a Seafood Soup. I tasted both and they were superb.
Empanadas: Savory, deep-fried pastries with a variety of fillings.
Tropical Juices: Be sure to try one of Claudia’s thirst-quenching juices, especially the Coconut Lemonade or Lulo Lemonade! She says that desserts will soon be added to the menu.
What Claudia Is Serving
If your taste buds are eager for an adventure, you’ll find a feast of goodness at the amazing Maize & Wheat Colombian Cafe.
Maize & Wheat Colombian Cafe: 1912 S. Brentwood, (across the street from AT&T). Breakfast 7a-11a; Lunch and Dinner: 11a to 8p. Owner/Chef: Claudia Niswonger.