Amid Carrollton's changing restaurant scene, the Inca's Café Really Gets Its Goat

Once known as a haven for large-chain dining, Carrollton is slowly changing, as more and more immigrants move there from Asia, and Central and South America. Drive down East Belt Line Road or Josey Lane and you will see taquerias aplenty, plus homey establishments that draw culinary inspiration from El Salvador, Ecuador, and Peru, to say nothing of the numerous Korean places scattered along Old Denton Drive. Most of these places are small, but they feature food that draws a fervent Carrollton following, and more discerning diners from Dallas, Frisco and Plano.

Inca's Café first opened in the heart of Carrollton as Esparzas in 2003, but later changed their name to Inca's, which makes clearer their devotion to Peruvian cuisine. Located in a tattered shopping strip just north of the George Bush, Inca's would doubtless do better business if located near a more moneyed part of Dallas. No matter that the streets outside are bumpy, and the dark foyer makes it unclear if the place is even open, simply tug on the door and prepare yourself for an outstanding South American repast. Inside, the boxlike interior is exotic, with gilt-edged touches and colorful artwork adorning the walls, culminating in a beautiful mural hung over the bar. I was greeted by the genial proprietor, who graciously assisted me throughout the entire meal, and offered insight into the world of Peruvian cuisine and its mélange of Asian, Italian, and pre-Columbian influences.

My first mistake was typically Texan; I ordered iced tea without carefully perusing the menu. Soon, I noticed that Inca's serves Chicha Morada, and I quickly requested that as well. Chichas are standard libations all over South America, and the Peruvian model features purple corn, apple, pineapple, and the distinct tang of cinnamon. It was refreshing, and a far better match with this type of food than tea.

Inca's features several types of appetizers, including Papas Rellenas, chicharrones, and ceviches, but I decided on a simple pair of Empanadas Colombianas to begin my meal. Stuffed with beef or chicken, potatoes, and spices, they had just arrived hot off the grill and were quite tasty. The owner set down the usual cool avocado dipping sauce at my place, but when he discovered that I relished spicy food, he was quick to offer an aji pepper sauce. I found it to be a bit North of Serrano on the Scoville scale, about like Tabasco, and I was cautioned to use it sparingly so that I might better enjoy the taste of the food. He was right. Just a slight dip was all that was necessary to bring out the flavors of my empanadas.
I wanted to dive off the deep end for my entrée and order something like Parrillada Inca, but I knew that Inca's Café prepared one of the better cabritos I've had in town and ordered Secco De Cabrito. The menu translates the dish as goat stew, but the tender, young goat meat was actually still on the bone, and bursting with juice and flavor. Served with steamed yucca, canary beans, rice, and salad, the Secco lacked most of the toughness of more mature goat, and each bite was ambrosial. For dessert, I took another swig or two of my pungent Chicha Morada, and secretly wished that the Peruvians would conquer America---in a culinary sense of course.

Inca's Café
2662 N Josey Lane, Suite 214

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Chris Meesey