MELBOURNE | Mr Gonzo is a Colombian café that I was first alerted to during 2021’s big lockdown. Somehow two years passed (you know the way it is) before I finally managed to visit, which I did for What’s On Melbourne the other day.
It’s a small place, a simple fitout with a few tables and seats inside and out. Latin American music plays on the speakers as you peruse the menu, and a quick glance at the customers, with the sound of Spanish being spoken by most, lets you know that you’re in a place that’s popular with Colombians. All very good signs.
I fell in love with Colombian food when I visited the country a few years ago, and am always happy when I find it in Australia. A sizeable Colombian immigrant community has established itself in Melbourne over the past decade. As the number of Colombians in this city increases, so too do the options for delicious Colombian food.
At Mr Gonzo, you’ll find a selection of classic breakfast and lunch options. Colombian-style empanadas are a much, with a light and crispy corn-based shell encasing fillings like beef and potato; cheese; and red beans, pork belly, and rice. Arepas, filled with things like beef, chicken, and vegetables, are also a must try. I love the mollejas filling – marinated chicken giblets, with optional cheese and avocado.
For bigger dishes, it’s hard to go past the two most popular menu options. For breakfast, it’s the tamal. A generous serve of rice, pork, chicken, egg, carrot, and green beans, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. It’s hearty, filling stuff. Same goes for the lechona. This sees rice, pork, and green beans, wrapped in pork skin and slow roasted for 10 hours. served with pork crackling, it’s irresistible.
There’s also things like a Criollo hot dog, patacones (flattened and fried plantains with assorted toppings), and daily specials. The latter showcases regional Colombian specialities like ajiaco (a chicken and potato soup that’s popular in Bogota), and sancocho (a hearty chicken and potato stew, popular in Antioquia).
Colombians might love their meat, but vegans need not fear. There’s are plenty of vegan options on the menu, and most of what’s on offer in gluten-free. There’s Colombian drinks like rich hot chocolate, sour lulo juice, and Pony Malta, and a small selection of Colombian chips, chocolates, and other snacks available to-go.
28 Melrose Street
Mon – Sun: 8:00am to 6:00pm