Category Archives: Tastes of Bogota

Restaurants in Colombia: El Cielo

El Cielo is a restaurant in Colombia that will knock your socks off. Baby-faced chef Juan Manuel Barrientos’ inventiveness and his experimental tasting menu will challenge your preconceptions about food. In fact, it’s better not to come with any expectations at all – the experience will be different than anything you imagine.

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Learning about Colombian Food: La Mesa Food Tours

I looked up at the sky. I should have known better. When I left the house it was sunny, and just half an hour later the clouds had gathered quick and dark above me. But that’s typical of Bogota and its weather. During the rainy season, 15 minutes of sun and 15 minutes of rain can alternate all day long.

But I was promised that the street food tour by La Mesa Food Tours would go on rain or shine, so I had my umbrella in hand as I walked through the Parque de los Periodistas in Bogota’s La Candelaria neighborhood. Mt. Monserrate loomed over me, it’s head in the dark clouds.

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A Chocolate Trail to Peace

One of those odd things about Colombia – perhaps part of that magic realism that everyone talks about – is that the country has a hidden war. Hidden from the very citizens of the country, since those who live in big cities often forget their country has not known peace for decades due to a war that started in their grandparent’s lifetime and still hasn’t ended. However, it’s a war that doesn’t touch their lives very often – a bomb goes off every once in a while in a big city, and they remember.

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It was such a pleasure to take the Flavors of Bogota Coffee Tour last week!

Here’s what people are saying about the Flavors of Bogota Coffee Shop Tour:

It was such a pleasure to take the Flavors of Bogotá Coffee Tour last week! Over the course of the morning we visited three craft coffee houses, where we sampled a different variety of bean and preparation. As we sipped, our guide, Karen, walked us through the different aspects of evaluating and tasting each one. I live in Bogotá and have sampled my fair share of coffee, but it was amazing to learn about the history and complex culture of coffee in Colombia, as well as the unique factors that make Colombia’s coffee some of the best in the world. Not only that, but as you make your way to the different coffee shops, you’ll get a quick run down of the Bogotá restaurant scene and best places to eat. This tour is a must for locals and visitors alike! – Danielle Owens

Juan Valdez Coffee Shop gets a New Image

Need a place to linger over a cup of coffee? The Juan Valdez coffee shop on Carrera 9, just next to the JW Marriott hotel, sits under leafy trees and has one of the largest outdoor seating areas of any coffee shop in the city.

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Tipping in South America


Tipping in restaurants in South America is not as common as in the United States. Generally, tipping is taken very seriously in the States, and people leave that 15-20% tip in a very conscientious way. It’s a matter of pride, of paying for what you received, doing your civil duty to waiters, or something to that effect.

In South America, though, people can begrudge that percentage, and tend to take service for granted. In order for waiters to get their wages, in some countries restaurants will add a 10% tip to the bill, automatically, without your being able to do anything about it. Good or bad service, the waiter will get his share.

In Colombia, so as not to arbitrarily give that money to waiters who might not have earned it, congress decided to pass a law (Ley 070) that requires the restaurant to ask the consumer if he wishes to pay the service. In fact, the law even tells the restaurant who has to receive the tips – so, legally, the restaurant is under obligation to give the waiter and other servers their due share of the tips.

What does all this mean for you when you have a meal out in Colombia? For one thing, at the bottom of the menu, in tiny letters that are impossible to read, you’ll find a very long notice that begins: “Advertencia propina. Se informa a los consumidores…” and that seems to go on forever. If your Spanish isn’t that good, or you forgot your reading glasses or magnifying glass, this can be bewildering the first time you come across it.

Also, the waiter, assuming that you already know what this is all about, will ask you before printing your bill if you’d like to add service. They will ask you, with their heart in their hand, “¿Desea añadir el servicio?”. This is the moment of truth, the moment where you let them know if that service was adequate, if they were quick enough to bring you the side dish you asked for, or if they were bright enough to get your order right.

So it’s your chance to say a simple “Sí” and bring a smile to their face – but there may be that rare moment where a “No” was definitely earned. That’s your call. And, of course, you can certainly feel free to leave more than that 10% for your appreciative waiter.

So that you know what it’s all about, here’s the translation of that tiny notice, in plain English, and in text that is large enough to read:

This notice is to inform consumers that this commercial establishment suggests a tip that corresponds to 10% of the bill, which can be accepted, rejected or modified by you according to the service received. When requesting the bill, indicate if you would like to include said amount or not, or indicate the amount that you would like to give as a tip. 100% of the tips collected in this establishment go to the staff. In case you have any difficulties with tipping, you can lodge a complaint with the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce.

Have you had any interesting experiences with tipping/service/waiters in Colombia? Please share them here!