Food tells us so much about a country – the values, the mindset, and the history. In Bogota food lovers have a feast not only for their palate but also for their thirst to understand the culture throughout the whole country. Here are nine places to get into the Colombian frame of mind – for eating.
#1 Palo Quemao Market
Taking a trip to the Palo Quemao market is both a culinary and cultural experience. Chefs of Michelin-starred restaurants have told me that the market gave them goose bumps. It’s the smells, the sights and the tastes of fruits and vegetables in all their freshest glory. It’s also the place to get a look at bizarre vegetables with names like cubio and guatila, pick up banana leaves to wrap tamales, or buy achote (a natural food coloring) and sweet-smelling fruits with names like pitaaya or maracuya. There are also stands that sell the entire repertoire of Colombian dishes. A popular combo is eggs, cheese, bread, hot chocolate and caldo, a beef rib soup – yes, all that for breakfast!
#2 Specialty Coffee Shops
We always hear that coffee in Colombia is some of the best in the world. But why? Visiting coffee shops in Bogota, you can get a complete education in specialty coffee. Find out about coffee growing regions in Colombia, what makes one region different from another, and why it makes a difference in the brew you drink. Try coffee made in ingenious brewing methods that bring out the particular flavors of each coffee.
Want to dig deeper? Take a coffee shop tour with us to discover how to taste these specialty coffees to fully appreciate the fragrance, aroma, flavor, and unique characteristics.
#3 Sunday fair at Usaquen
On Sundays the streets of Usaquen, a neighborhood of Bogota that still retains the feeling of a small town, are taken over by vendors selling arts and crafts, leather products and handmade jewelry. But this is also a foodie experience. Taste a wide variety of Colombian fruits, fried empanadas filled with chicken, beef or pork, meat-filled mashed potato balls, chocolates made by hand in Colombia, and of course – Colombian coffee produced on small farms.
#4 La Candelaria
On the narrow streets of historic La Candelaria, there are many restaurants that serve typical Colombian food. Here you can get an excellent bandeja paisa, the national dish, which is a dizzying array of rice, beef, fried pork rinds, sausage, avocado, fried egg, beans, plantain and arepa. All on one dish!
At the tiny La Puerta Falsa restaurant just off the Plaza de Bolivar, try award-winning chocolate santafereño, hot chocolate served with cheese on the side for dunking. Yes, the idea is to dunk the cheese into the chocolate, mixing sweet and savory. The tamales, made from corn flour filled with meat stew and wrapped in banana leaves, are also famous. To get a taste of it all with some history thrown in, try a food tour with La Mesa.
#5 Andres Carne de Res
With its bizarre collection of animal statues, a circus-like atmosphere, live music, and fantastic Colombian food, Andres Carne de Res is a place that most visitors find their way to at some point. For the full experience, take the trip out to Chia. although the Andres D.C. in Bogota has five levels of pure Colombian enthusiasm.
The prices are high, but most people don’t complain since the show is worth it. The 64-page menu is 100% Colombian, with dishes like lomo al trapo, (meat that, as its name suggests, come wrapped in a cloth), a meat lover’s Colombian-style barbecue, and soups with odd names like cuchuco de trigo.
#6 Villa de Leyva
Ok, so it’s not in Bogota, but it is an easy day trip from the city. The interesting thing about this small Colonial town of about 9,000 inhabitants is that it has several hundred restaurants. It even has a cooking school. With all this culinary activity, it’s a place that foodies can’t miss. A hungry tourist can get food from around the world; Italian, French, Japanese, Spanish and more. And of course, there’s Colombian food in abundance, from all different regions of the country.
Yes, this mountain is best known for its church and a lookout point to catch the best views of Bogota. But it’s also a great place to drink a canelazo, which is aguapanela (cane sugar), cinnamon and aguardiente all warmed up and served in a sugar-rimmed glass. Also try the meat filled empanadas while watching Bogota’s frenzied pace from a safe distance.
#8 Street Food
Street food is a fun pastime in Bogota. Cheap and ready to eat, there’s enough variety to keep a person’s stomach busy for days. Buñuelos, almojabanas, corn arepas filled with gooey cheese and crispy fried pork rinds (chicharrones) sold with plantain and small yellow potatoes are some of the most popular ones. At dinner time charcoal grills are set up with meat, chorizo, arepas, and large corn on the cob. On the sweet side try obleas, two thin wafers served sandwich-style filled with arequipe, a South American caramel.
The menu at Misia is all about traditional Colombian food – criollo, as they say in Spanish. It’s about what’s relaxed and popular, what people grew up with. It’s the kind of food you’ll find in people’s kitchens, at markets and street food stands, and at fairs. Oh, and those simple plates and cups? They’re typical of what people use at home around Colombia (so the chipped enamel is not a mistake).
Carrera 7 #67-39 Local 2, Zona G, Bogota
Carrera 6 No. 27 – 50, right next to the Museo Nacional (National Museum), Bogota