If you're like me and like trying new foods, you'll want to head to Highland to check out Jose's Family Restaurant. I was making my way around Northwest Indiana one afternoon at lunchtime and wanted to go somewhere I had never been before. I asked my phone for some "restaurants near me" and on the list was Jose's. I'd never heard of it before, but the listings said the restaurant serves Italian and Peruvian food. Since I'd never had Peruvian food, I headed that way.
I chatted with my server, Lorena, for a few minutes and asked her what flavors to expect in Peruvian food. I mistakenly thought it may be similar to Mexican food, but learned I was way off. She's from Peru and said she'd never had a tortilla until she came to the United States. I also wondered why they served Peruvian and Italian food, but she informed me that there is some Italian influence in Peruvian cuisine. The res includes Peruvian specialties, but if you're not that adventurous, there are also pages of traditional Italian dishes on the menu.
The first thing she suggested for me to try was the Papa Rellena. "Rellena" translates into stuffed. It's a lightly pan-fried ball of mashed potatoes stuffed with minced beef, peppers and onions, and a boiled egg. I'm all for comfort food, and that's precisely what this is. Carbs. Meat. Egg. All in one. And it was lightly fried to a golden brown. There's a side of salsa criollo with it, which features red onion. And, Peruvian hot sauce (which was really hot) was served on the side, as well. It's something I'd never in a million years think of putting together, but it works so well.
I was still hungry after that appetizer, so I also decided to try the homemade Peruvian tamale. Lorena explained that it's quite different from Mexican tamales. It's made with white corn and formed flat rather than rolled. The tamale was stuffed with pork, peanut and Peruvian black olive. The meat wasn't shredded as it is in other tamales I've had, so that also made it quite different. She also explained in Peru tamales are placed on a roll and eaten like a sandwich. So, I ended up making a sandwich on a fluffy, white roll, and it was delicious.
I'm looking forward to returning to Jose's Family Restaurant for some of their other Peruvian specialties. They have a breakfast menu with various pork, chicken, steak, and egg dishes. There's also a section of Peruvian appetizers and dinner platters waiting to be explored, and I can't wait to dig in.