Barranquilla has no shortage of charming places full of unique character, but if I’ve learned anything during my time here, it’s that the charm intensifies when you meet the characters who make it all possible. Nowhere could this be more true than at the local seafood restaurant Curramba de la 48 with owner Javier “el Pala” Henao. This delightful hole-in-the-wall features typical seafood dishes that pack in a ton of food and flavor for a great price, all in a festive atmosphere. Under the guise of doing some journalistic research and photography (read: I wanted an excuse to get some good seafood on a lazy Sunday), I visited Curramba de la 48 and talked to owner Javier “el Pala”, the enthusiastic guy zipping around in a sea captain’s hat.
As I waited for the check, I mentioned that I wanted to write about his restaurant for an English news source, and his face lit up as he switched to English and told me how he used to work as a taxi driver in New York City years ago. I can only imagine his charisma, whisking locals and tourists around the big city and trading stories. Before I left, Javier walked me around the restaurant to get some pictures, highlighting some of the eclectic decor that lines the walls, then posing with his painting of Joe Arroyo.
Curramba’s menu features a variety of seafood dishes including Bocachico, Jurel, Mojarra, and Robalo alongside typical rice dishes and your basic lunch staples like chicken and pork, all of which are preceded by a delicious seafood soup. Most dishes range from 6,000 to 14,000 pesos with some specials up to 25,000 pesos. Service is quick and the food is hot and fresh – and don’t skip the extra 2,000 pesos for some delicious lemonade. If you’re not super confident in your Spanish yet, Javier speaks English and is incredibly welcoming to foreigners.
It turns out this won’t be the first time “el Pala” has been featured in the news. Among the art and trinkets adorning the walls of Curramba, Javier showed me some paper clippings from El Heraldo, when he was featured by opinion writer Diego Marín Contreras as the kind of character that personifies the spirit of the city and whose warmth and attitude we can all aspire to. Mr. Marín Contreras went so far as to say that if Colombia had more human beings like Javier “el Pala” Henao, there would be no need for peace dialogues. That’s some high praise – though whether or not Javier’s spunk and mojarra frita could help the peace process in Havana, Curramba de la 48 is worth a visit!
Curramba is located on Calle 48 No. 43-06. To get there via Transmetro, get on a B1, R1, or S1 bus from the Joe Arroyo station and get off at La Arenosa stop and walk two blocks west along Carrera 43.
You can follow Curramba de la 48 on Instagram @currambala48.