Restaurant review: Downtown restaurant, Si Senor, glows brightly with Latin fare

By Columbus Alive
From the June 13, 2013 edition
  • Photos by Meghan Ralston

I’ve never begun a restaurant review with an overview of a “loo,” so this is a first — lucky you!

See, my only complaint about a recently relocated, damn cheap, and love-it Downtown eatery is its potentially treacherous directions to its distant bathroom: Exit the rear door, veer left, climb a bunch of stairs, travel down a hallway, then punch a four-digit code to access the “Lounge” entryway. If you really gotta go, you’ll need to zoom into your Zen place. Or sprint like the devil and hope for the best. Anyway, other than that, as a friend said, “This is the best Si Senor ever!”

Matriculating from a Pearl Market table to a cramped little Long Street sandwich shop to this airy and attractive new space, Si Senor’s ambiance is now as upbeat as its percussion-powered Latin soundtrack.

Senor occupies a kinda L-shaped room with kitchen-y knick-knacks and veggie-depicting artworks on spring-green, off-white and grey walls. Lacquer-black tables provide relaxed general seating and converge into a large communal set up opposite the counter where you’ll order, leave a name, and later collect delicious, mostly Peruvian-inflected, Latin-American-tinged dishes.

Since there’s no alcohol, try a fruity smoothie such as the Tropical Deluxe ($4). Like a mango milkshake, it was big, thick, by no means overly sweet, and pairs well with, say, Senor’s excellent Peruvian Empanada ($3.50). Sprinkled with confectioners sugar, that huge, lunch-worthy pastry is packed with a chorizo-flavored beefy mixture punctuated with plumped-up raisins; it’s served with a watch-out housemade hot sauce.

Senor is justifiably famous for killer, familiar-yet-Latin jazzed-up sandwiches on toasted ciabatta rolls ($5.50-$7; sides include top-notch house chips or cuts-above salads, like the ranch-esque-dressed Peruvian or French-esque-dressed Avocado). Senor’s empanada-like meat blend, only raisinless and in thickly sliced form, reappears in the chorizo-and-hamburger-melded-together melting pot star of an addictive Meatloaf Sandwich ($6.50). White cheddar, poblano pepper and savory/sweet “homemade tomato jam” garnishes further demonstrated how Senor transforms been-there-eaten-that basics into memorable meals.

So did Senor’s tender and warm, in-house roasted real Turkey Breast sweetened by caramelized onions, enriched by melted cheddar and lit up by jalapenos. Usually, the championship-quality Chicharron Peruano (hefty, carnitas-like pork hunks) with pickled onions and “sweet potato mayo” features finger-lickin’ pigmeat, but the hog was a tad tired when I last tried it.

New digs have brought new menu items, like a fantastic Criollo Fish Sandwich. That rich-yet-spicy beauty was overloaded with expertly fried tilapia tricked out with pickled onions, rocoto chili mayo and jalapeno.

If you prefer your tilapia “cooked” with acid, show up for Senor’s refreshing and visually arresting, Saturday-only Ceviche ($6.50-$8.50). Onion-sprinkled slabby slices of raw fish were drenched in an intense ocean of fresh lime juice tweaked with black pepper and yellow aji peppers. Providing much-appreciated contrasts are kernels of corn, creamy sweet potatoes and mixed lettuces.

Saturday also brings impressive daily specials like Arroz con Pollo y Papa a la Huancaina ($9.75; comes with a drink). That knockout entree corralled sliced chicken breast, boiled potatoes smothered in a creamy (and garlicky) classic Peruvian cheese sauce, plus lovely cilantro-pesto-flavored rice with peas and carrots.

With sweets that also shine — such as elegant turtle-like handmade candies (Chocotejas, $1.35) and masterpiece Tres Leches Cake slices ($3.50) — Si Senor glows brightly in what I’m now calling the Downtown Latin Quarter (includes El Arepazo, Plantain Cafe and Casa Sazon). Just don’t arrive at Si Senor desperately needing the bathroom.