In Colorado Springs, if you aren’t downtown, you’re in the suburbs.
A short drive down I-25 brings you to a small strip mall parking lot. The glow of hanging lights on the inside of Piglatin Cocina immediately draws your attention away from the neighboring hairdresser, karate studio, and mediocre sports bar. The restaurant itself is tiny, but it instantly transports you out of the strip mall and into a trendy city or downtown scene.
Despite only having five tables, the turnover at Piglatin is seamless, and we sat almost immediately after arriving. Upon entering, the words “Food For The People,” posted in bold orange letters, jump out from behind the bar across the room, above an impressive selection of alcohol. Although the space behind the bar is painted black, bright graffiti covers the entire right wall.
One long wooden table fills the center of the room, and functions as a community table, where customers are encouraged to share their dining experiences. The other tables form four corners; customers sit around the tables in 90-degree angles, squeezed comfortably on a wooden bench.
The menu at Piglatin Cocina is absolutely delightful. The restaurant is co-owned by a couple, Andres and Tricia Velez, who each bring tastes from their country of origin, creating a beautiful blend of Korean and Caribbean cuisine. The menu offers quesadillas with, for example, kimchi, a completely unique combination that tastes spicy, fresh, and cheesy all at the same time. Although the menu appears small, there are several options for dish combinations that encourage customers to explore the wide variety of tastes available.
For the high-quality flavor at Piglatin, the cost of a filling meal is outrageously fair. One combination option serves two tacos and a side for $9.
The sides alone are each full of distinct flavors and textures; the options include sweet fried plantains, cheesy rice balls, fried pork belly, and Elote — Latin corn-on-the-cob with a creamy cheese cilantro ancho chile sauce. The island taco — filled with pineapple-braised pork, jalapeño-habanero cilantro cream, cabbage, cotija, and lime — was one of the most flavorful tacos I have ever consumed.
The Piglatin website reads, “We’re looking for the rebels. People with a sense of originality. Those who come with an unruly food taste and a consistent appetite for sweet, salty, spicy, crafty libations.” The restaurant weaves together tastes that one would never create independently; the dining experience feels like an amusement park for the taste buds.
The drink menu is almost equally as excitin.; Piglatin offers a variety of home-designed cocktails, including a guava and tequila drink, and a solid selection of craft beer for a reasonable price.
Not only are the food and drinks delicious, but the service is also divine. Piglatin is the kind of restaurant where the wait staff and bartenders work to form friendly and authentic relationships with customers; both our server and the bartender came to the table to share drinks, and to tell the story of the restaurant and its food.
“It was a wonderful, accommodating experience with energetic waitresses and waiters who made us so comfortable,” said Adela Burak ’19. “The food was delicious, and the guava mama was a glass of goodness!”
Sitting at the wooden table at Piglatin makes you forget the short highway journey and the strip mall outside. It brings relationship and intimacy back to eating, and inspires exploration and open-mindedness to taste.