Scents of grilled meat and fresh empanadas waft from the kitchen through Sabor Colombia in Round Rock, as Vivian Borja greets customers with a smile and an ‘hola.’
A television screen mounted on the wall plays a mid-afternoon soccer match, and Colombian music plays from the speakers.
Borja and her husband, Ricardo Alvarado, opened Sabor Colombia in September 2018, their first storefront and a reimagining of the food truck they had been operating off East Sixth Street and I-35 in Austin since June 2017. Borja said she and Alvarado had noticed the lack of Colombian food options in the Greater Austin area and wanted residents to explore Latin food options outside the typical Mexican and Tex-Mex offerings.
“A lot of people are not used to our food,” Borja said. “But once they tried it out, they loved it.”
Sabor Colombia is one of only three Colombian restaurants in the Greater Austin area, and the only one located outside Austin city limits. Borja said she prides herself on Sabor Colombia’s commitment to authentic Colombian cuisine, instead of tailoring the menu to accommodate an American palate.
“Our empanadas, they’re homemade,” she said. “We take the corn, we boil it; we grind it; we shape it; we stuff it. It’s a long process for such a small empanada.”
In an average week, Borja said, Sabor Colombia prepares 5,000 empanadas, alongside its catering services and takeout options.
Sabor Colombia specializes in dishes commonplace in the El Valle region of Colombia—specifically, their hometown, Cali. As the restaurant continues to grow and expand, Borja said she and Alvarado plan to revamp their menu in January to include more coastal Colombian dishes, often prepared with seafood.
The response from Round Rock patrons, she said, has been profound. She said it has given both her and Alvarado the opportunity to share the love and passion they have for Colombian culture with the surrounding community.
She and her husband hosted the first Colombian festival in the Austin area on July 20 in honor of the country’s independence day. The festival’s preparation process took six months, Borja said, as she and her husband negotiated agreements with 14 sponsors.
More than 1,000 community members attended the festival, which featured four bands that traveled from Colombia to perform. Borja and Alvarado received a video shoutout from Colombian singer J Balvin in recognition of their event.
“It took a lot of faith,” Borja said. “But the turnout? It was unbelievable.”
1318 RM 620, Round Rock
Hours: Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.- 9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.