Bursting flavors from spices such as parsley and chili peppers define Peruvian cuisine. That bold South American taste solidified the place of Inka’s Palace in Tri-State catering for years, and now it’s found a permanent spot on Evansville’s North Side.
Opened in August 2021 by chef Violeta Arribasplata and her daughters Caroline Barrueta and Violeta Howard, Inkas Charcoal Bar & Grill is fueled by the owners’ Peruvian heritage. The trio seized on the opportunity to open their own restaurant in the former location of Iwataya off Mount Pleasant Road after the Japanese eatery closed in early 2021.
“Before, we did catering and the Latino festivals. We sold out every year, so that gave us the motivation to open our own restaurant,” says Burreta.
Arribasplata is the culinary mastermind behind Inkas’ colorful cuisine and takes advantage of traditional Peruvian ingredients like corn, potatoes, and hearty meats like chicken and beef. The Ivy Tech Community College graduate has spent most of her 17 years in Evansville in the restaurant business, working as an experienced chef at Victoria National Golf Club in Newburgh, Indiana, the former Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant, and most recently at Iwataya.
Key to Inkas’ flavorful menu is its charcoal oven and grill. Imported from Peru, the special equipment gives the featured meats a smoky, charred taste.
“In our Peruvian culture, for any events like a birthday party or whatever, we take our charcoal grill and we make everything on there,” says Barruria.
Two of Inkas’ most popular appetizers are the causas, layered potato cakes stuffed with peppers, lime, avocado, and chicken or seafood salad; and anticuchos, beef heart skewers that are a popular street food in Peru. The classic causas are topped with olive, avocado, or Rocoto pepper cream sauces to add a vibrant color to the dish.
For entrees, dig into one of Inkas’ massive half-pound charcoal-grilled prime rib and bratwurst burgers topped with Swiss cheese, a fried egg, applewood bacon, and the same creamy sauces. Another flavorful plate is the Peruvian pesto fettuccine with a choice of sirloin, New York strip, or sirloin steak.
“My mom had a burger place in Peru, so that’s one of the reasons why we have it on our menu,” says Barruria. “If you are from Peru, you know how big our burgers are, and what makes them rich here are the cream sauces.”