Colombia, and Bogota in particular, is not known for having particularly flavorful or diverse foods. Bread is too sweet, cheese is too bland, meat is too… smashed. You will soon tire of the 5,000 peso corrientes that are so popular among locals for lunch and you will seek out better fare. Luckily, Bogota does have a growing food scene and there are a handful of restaurants that could rival some of the better meals I’ve had in New York. Here’s a list of my top 10 favorite restaurants that I visited.
1&2. Tapas Macarena / La Tapería
There was a bit of debate among my friends and me about which of these restaurants, owned by the same proprietor, was better. I preferred Tapas Macarena with its cozy atmosphere and smaller menu. My friends preferred La Tapería, which they considered to have a more authentic menu and more comfortable seating area. Either way, you can absolutely not go wrong having a group meal at either of these establishments. Be sure to order the Serrano ham, patatas bravas, and some olives. All the cheese is imported from Spain and the blue cheese at Tapas Macarena was incredible. The bacon wrapped dates at La Tapería were a hands down favorite. And of course, you can wash it all down with a pitcher of fresh sangria.
Plates at both restaurants run between 8,000-22,000 pesos. A lunch split between five people came to about 35,000 COP per person.
Tapas Macarena: Kra 4a No 26b-01, La Macarena
(057) 243 9004
La Tapería: Kra 4a No 26d-12, La Macarena
(057) 031 805 3252
I came to Jugueteria twice and both times had great steak, although the menu is varied with fish, chicken and vegetarian options. There’s a healthy wine menu and their coconut lemonade was delicious. More than the great food, though, is the kitsch of the decorations here. Naked baby dolls hang from the ceiling. Rainbow rocking horses make nice neighbors with creepy goblins. Fun house mirrors stand next to the bar. It’s a toy store on LSD, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
A modest steak dinner will run about 50,000 a person.
Calle 27 No 4a-03, La Macarena
(057) 317 331 8065
My favorite restaurant in the entire world is a Serbian restaurant called Kafana in the East Village in New York City, so when I found out that Bogota had its own Serbian establishment I knew I had to check it out. Run by an eccentric Serbian woman, the food does not disappoint. I had delectable lamb chops and an amazing, nutty, wafery cake for dessert. If you’ve never had Serbian food before, or even if you have, this place is a can’t-miss.
A meal with a split appetizer, an entrée, a dessert and a glass of wine came to around 65,000 per person.
Calle 26 No 4a-16, La Macarena
(057) 283 4866
5. La Chocolatera
Sadly I only discovered this place my very last week in Colombia, but it’s a great place for dessert after lunch or dinner at one of the fantastic restaurants in La Macarena. The volcano chocolate cake is amazing and you will be sad when you’ve finished your ramekin. To take home, you have to try some of the chocolates in the case at the front. The lemon and coconut chocolate is to die for, and the peppery dark chocolates are interesting to try.
The volcano chocolate cake is 5,700 pesos per serving and a box of 6 chocolates is about 10,000 pesos.
On Kra 4a b/w Calles 26a & 26b, La Macarena
(057) 282 1738
6. El Envigadeño
Talk about a bandeja paisa! This monster will set you back more than a typical lunch, but it’s well worth it. The snake-like chicharron; mountains of rice, beans and minced meat; and perfectly fried egg will fill you up like nothing else. The restaurant is eclectically decorated and the service is no frills, but if you want to see how paisas eat without actually going to Medellin, this is your place.
A bandeja paisa is 17,500 pesos and is enough for two to share.
Calle 23 No 5-19, Las Nieves
(057) 249 5299
7. Capital Cocina y Café
As a New Yorker, I cannot survive more than a week without a good sandwich, and with that being the case, Café Capital essentially saved my life. Their roast beef emparedado was without a doubt the best sandwich I ate while in Colombia. Served with crispy french fries or over-sized plantains, my weekly (or sometimes even more often) visits here were gems. They also have amazing exotic juices like lulo, gulupa or tomate de arbol.
Lunch runs between 12,500 – 18,000 pesos
A popular lunch spot among travelers and locals alike, Kaffarte is debatably the best place in the neighborhood to get a filling, affordable, and traditional ajiaco or bandeja paisa. The service can be a bit shaky during the peak lunch hour and they tend to run out of ingredients, so try to get there around 12:00 to avoid the rush.
Lunch is 7,000 pesos.
Kra 4 No 12-16, La Candelaria
(057) 312 506 4873
9. La Vieja Suiza
In a town that doesn’t seem to understand how to make good bread, the panaderia and pasteleria at La Vieja Suiza is a godsend. Large, fluffy loaves filled with nuts and seeds make an awesome companion to the hearty Colombian soups you might have for dinner at home. The bakery also makes amazing little brownies, cakes, and mousses that make the cold, rainy days a bit more bearable.
Pastries run between 1,200 – 1,600 pesos, small desserts are around 2,500 pesos, and larger breads around 5,000 pesos.
Calle 12c No 3-07, La Candelaria
(057) 312 403 7231
10. El Ingles
In Bogota I had a lot of amigos de Inglaterra who had cravings for a Sunday roast, so we went to El Ingles for an expat fix. It didn’t disappoint. If you choose the roast, you get a healthy portion of roast beef, steamed veggies, potatoes, cheesy cauliflower, and Yorkshire pudding along with a dessert of your choice. The Baked Alaska was amazing. Top it all off with a pitcher of Club Colombia and you have yourself a meal! Of course they have other traditional dishes on the menu, including fish and chips, and the owner is a jolly blonde Brit who is happy to chat and answer any questions about the food.
The roast dinner including dessert (but not drinks) is 22,000 COP.
Kra 11 No 69-40, Chapinero
(057) 255 5524