Sept. 15, 2023 By Jessica Militello
Inca Paisa is one of the most recent additions to the Broadway retail district in Astoria. The open floor to ceiling windows on the front of the space offer an open invitation for newcomers to follow their taste buds and indulge the delicious food and aromas wafting in the air.
The restaurant’s name is a nod to the Colombian and Peruvian cuisine the restaurant offers, with walls adorned with vibrant interior art and décor boasting the best of both worlds with its latest arrival to the neighborhood.
The owner, John Salazar, was originally born and raised in Colombia and moved to the U.S on his own when he was 17 years old. He went to school for civil engineering and graduated in 2008 and shortly after started his own civil engineering firm based in the Bronx.
However, he considers owning a restaurant his passion that he gets to pursue while still running his first business. He opened his first restaurant in Jackson Heights in 2018 called Raices Colombianas before introducing the first Inca Paisa in the Bayside area in December 2022, where he decided to combine Colombian and Peruvian cuisine. The restaurant did so well that when the opportunity came, Salazar decided to expand to the location in Astoria.
“I own an engineering firm and the restaurant is just a passion,” said Salazar. “I enjoy coming here on the weekends, seeing the people, bringing my friends, and that’s what I enjoy the most.”
While the menu is mostly the same in both locations with authentic and popular dishes, Salazar explained each restaurant has its own personality.
“The vibe is different, the people are different,” said Salazar. “I will say we have a variety of cultures here [in Astoria],” and we love it.”
The restaurant also has a lot of décor and artwork that has its own meaning and cultural significance. The bright and lively space is easy on attracting the eye-but Salazar explained there’s more to the story.
“There’s a hallway leading to the bathroom; it’s like a garden. The idea was Peru and Colombia are connected through the Amazons,” said Salazar. “And when you see the [wall of] hats, those are typical from Colombia, from the Central Zone. Some of the pictures on the walls, those are Nazca figures, they’re from the Inca timeframe-we try to combine things from both cultures.”
In the short time since the restaurant opened in the neighborhood, Salazar has noticed there has already been some dishes that are quickly becoming favorites, like their Colombian platter and seafood rice. They also have a variety of ceviche dishes, bandeja paisa, and appetizers like aguacate relleno de camaron, to name just a few, as well as Colombian sodas and fresh juice.
For vegans, they offer dishes like saltado de vegetales as well as arroz chaufa de vegetales. Salazar explained that some of the way the dishes are prepared are inspired by some of the recipes he would have growing up.
“With the typical Colombian platter, the way that we make the beans is inspired by how we grew up seeing my mother making the beans. It’s got some special ingredients in it,” said Salazar. “So that’s definitely inspired by her. I grew up seeing her dealing with kitchens and cooking all day long.”
They also offer a great happy hour deal every weekday from 2 to 7 p.m., during which you can try some of their signature cocktails, like the inca paisa mule, made with blackberry infused vodka, syrup, lime and ginger beer, their espresso martini, or their guava frose, made with rose wine, guava nectar, vodka and syrup. They also serve sangria, beer and wine, including their own brand called Inca, which has an ornate and elaborate design of the Inca calendar on the front of the bottle.
With great food and drink Salazar is in the process of working with his team on creating a menu for brunch that should be introduced soon, but in the meantime, guests can also enjoy live music events that they have on Fridays and Saturdays, featuring Latin jazz music which has received great reception so far.
In the time since Inca Paisa has made its introduction to the neighborhood, it already has given the community a lot to offer, from authentic culture, to great food and drink, as well as a staff that has been given great reviews already for its service. Overall, Salazar and his team have been very happy with the way they have been received so far and hope to continue to find new ways to connect with its community in Astoria.
“We can see people are very happy about the restaurant-every day we get new people,” said Salazar.
Inca Paisa is located at 21-19 Broadway in Astoria, they have another location in Bayside at 25-71 Francis Lewis Blvd.