Bartender Michael Leiva has four bottles of rum flipped upside down over a pitcher filled with mint leaves, ice and lime juice. It’s 2 p.m. and Tierra Colombiana is filled with hungry lunch-goers ready to enjoy the mixed Colombian and Cuban cuisine and linger over rounds of mojitos.
The huge white-and-terracotta restaurant and nightclub on North Fifth Street in Hunting Park draws diners from all over the city who want to get an authentic taste of the two Latin countries.
“People come from everywhere, from the Northeast, South Philadelphia and Center City. We were featured in Dining Out for best Latino restaurants so people know we’re here,” said Momserath Ordonez, a hostess who has worked at Tierra Colombiana for 10 years.
The Latino eatery was opened 20 years ago by Jorge Mosquera and was so successful it was followed by Mixto 10 years later, a smaller Washington Square restaurant that offers a Center City location for diners.
For all the customers who trek up to North Philadelphia to get their tamales, Tierra Colombiana is still a neighborhood restaurant. Most of the employees have worked there for many years. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so residents of Hunting Park come early and often.
“We’ve had people working here for 10 to 15 years,” Ordonez said. “I eat here every day. I love the seafood and steak.”
The upstairs nightclub is a hot spot on weekends, as it offers live Reggaeton on Fridays and Salsa and Merengue dancing on Saturdays.
For Ordonez, it’s not the late night party that is the best part of working at Tierra Colombiana, it is the people she sees every day.
“I love when everybody’s happy with their food and they love all our dishes,” Ordonez said. “Well, and the margaritas and mojitos are the best.”