The Colombian Spot opens a new location in Oakland


Alyssa Carnevali | Staff Photographer

The staff of The Colombian Spot, a Latin American restaurant that recently opened a location in Oakland.

By Saraya Velez, For The Pitt News

After calling the South Side’s East Carson Street home for six years, The Colombian Spot has expanded and found its way to the heart of Oakland with a new location.

The Colombian Spot is owned and managed by Karen Perdomo and her husband, John Ortiz. Perdomo said they’re a couple looking to bring Latin food to the restaurant scene in Pittsburgh. 

According to Perdomo, the original location opened in 2015 as a “small joint” at the Pittsburgh Public Market, a street market in the Strip District. When the market closed in 2016, Perdomo and Ortiz were forced to close and adjust their plans. They looked to open in Oakland, but couldn’t find an available space at the time.

“The change was dramatic because we went from having a small shared space inside a market, to leasing a full-service restaurant in the heart of the South Side neighborhood,” Perdomo said. “We opened our doors there in March of 2017, with a full-service menu, and in 2019, we purchased a liquor license, so we now serve beer and cocktails.”

Besides the number of changes they experienced, the duo is pleased to bring their business to Oakland. Perdomo said bringing The Colombian Spot to Oakland would help boost their popularity. She said the several area universities and hospitals, and its diverse setting, makes the neighborhood a huge opportunity for them.

“The advantages we have in the Oakland location is the cultural diversity, and the high foot traffic,” Perdomo said. “Because of the lack of Latin American restaurants in Pittsburgh, we saw a huge opportunity.”

Some of the foods served at The Colombian Spot include empanadas, arepas and tostones.

Many dishes are made from scratch to maintain the flavor and preserve the aspects of Colombian culture. Perdomo describes empanadas and arepas as “artisan” foods. Arepas are a stuffed cornmeal cake dish significant in Colombia and Venezuela. Empanadas, on the other hand, are a pastry that can be baked or fried that can include several different filling choices.

Perdomo said the process of preparing the foods is long, but that’s how The Colombian Spot distinguishes itself from other restaurants.

“Some of our meats are smoked and cooked sous vide for 36 hours, the empanadas and arepas are made by hand, our side dishes including our beans are made from scratch,” Perdomo said. “While we keep our authentic flavor from Colombia, we also try to fuse with other Latin American cuisines and cooking techniques.”

Perdomo said the restaurant’s growth is a “big achievement” since she feels there are no other authentic Latin American restaurants in the area.

Carolina Forero is a manager at The Colombian Spot in Oakland. Before working at the Oakland location, she was employed at the South Side location for several years. She’s originally from Colombia, and said working at the restaurant makes her feel like she’s at home. 

Forero said there are no other places in the area like The Colombian Spot. She said the business prides itself on the authenticity of the food, wide variety of gluten-free options and dining experience. She also said the entire menu is gluten free and everything is naturally flavored.

“We put so much effort in the whole Colombian experience, so the people instantly notice the difference from other places,” Forero said. “Our whole menu is made from scratch, gluten free, and with natural ingredients, so it’s almost like eating at home.”

Nina Bischoff, a Pitt alumna and resident of nearby Edgewood, runs an Instagram account dedicated to being a Pittsburgh foodie. She said she first visited The Colombian Spot years ago, and it’s different from many other places where she’s eaten.

“It is different from other places I have eaten because of its consistency,” Bischoff said. “The fact that it stays true to its roots and that it offers flavorful gluten-free food is what makes it great.” 

Like Forero, Bischoff emphasized the importance of the gluten-free options The Colombian Spot offers. 

“It’s so flavorful and homemade. I always get [the sauces] on the side,” Bischoff said. “I originally tried it because it was advertised as gluten free, which I am, and I fell in love at first bite.”

Bischoff said she specifically recommends getting the “Reina Pepiada” and an empanada with one of the homemade sauces. Overall, she recommended the restaurant and what it has to offer.

“I always recommend this restaurant to people. It has a very approachable menu even if you’ve never had Colombian food,” Bischoff said. “The staff was friendly, welcoming and accommodating when I visited, and you always leave full.”

Forero said the atmosphere, coupled with the food options, is what makes The Colombian Spot like no other. She said it’s like her home away from home.

“When you enter the restaurant, you can feel the tropical and colorful atmosphere,” Forero said. “The music, the murals, the food, everything inside makes you feel like you are in Colombia.”