The fact that La Rola Urban Colombian Food’s mobile cart got its start by parking in front of an Aurora dispensary in 2017 was no accident: Karen and Andrea Martínez and their mother, Maria Teresa Garzón, had a hunch their plump empanadas and decadent dogs might appeal to hungry stoners. 

They were right—and in 2020, they decided to bring their munchies to a different crowd of revelers via a stall in RiNo’s booze-happy Zeppelin Station. “When we had the food trailer, our main goal was to attract people going to the bars and parties,” Karen says. “When I go out, I crave meat, I crave chicken—I crave salty food.”

That’s why La Rola’s Zeppelin Station menu includes both indulgent snacks and a selection of specialties made from family recipes. “This place is inspired by Mom and Dad’s kitchen and my grandmother,” says Karen, who moved to Colorado from Bogotá with her sister and parents 20 years ago. (The name La Rola is a nod to “rolos,” which refers to a person from Bogotá.)

Here’s what to order at the food stall.

Arepas rellenas: La Rola’s signature sandwich is composed of grilled, crispy corn flatbread stuffed to the gills with melty mozzarella cheese and your choice of meat. We like it with shredded chicken and plantain slices, which are an excellent complement to the salty cheese. Or try the arepa con chorizo, a cheese-filled arepa that’s accompanied by a chorizo sausage on a stick.

The Billionaire hot dog: If you’re going to be out for a while, opt for the 10-inch Billionaire, a thick pork frank topped with chile-spiced shredded chicken, sliced ham, bacon bits, mozzarella cheese, diced onions, pineapple sauce, pink sauce (ketchup and mayo), smashed potato chips, and a boiled quail egg. The messy affair—a variation of the popular late-night treat sold by street vendors in Colombia—will soak up whatever you’re drinking (or smoking). A six-inch Millionaire dog is also available for those with a smaller appetite. 

Arroz con pollo: This classic Colombian specialty sports a heap of ketchup-infused, risottolike rice studded with chicken, peas, and carrots. Sides of sliced sweet plantains, criolla potatoes (small, fried whole potatoes) and strips of starchy yucca round out the dish, a hearty pick for lunch or dinner.

Empanadas: You can’t go wrong with any of the empanadas at La Rola, half-moon-shaped beauties brimming with the likes of ground beef and mashed potatoes (a traditional Colombian filling); pork, green beans, and rice; and mushroom and mashed potatoes. The pastries are wrapped in a corn shell (instead of flour), resulting in an audibly crunchy texture. Dip them in the accompanying aji, a cilantro- and garlic-rich sauce; and look for limited-time flavors like the Hawaiian-style ham, cheese, and pineapple and chorizo and mashed potatoes. 

This article was originally published in 5280 November 2021.
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia joined the 5280 staff in July 2019 and is thrilled to oversee all of the magazine’s dining coverage. Follow her food reporting adventures on Instagram @whatispattyeating.