Increased air service from the east coast of the United States (both JetBlue and Spirit have recently begin flying there) and from within Latin America has made the Colombian capital of Santa Fe de Bogotá a surprisingly affordable and easy to reach destination. Most are pleasantly surprised at just how much there is to do in the city and the sheer number of great restaurants and street fare that can be found there.
Fine Dining Restaurants in Bogotá:
Anderson’s – Southern style (that’s U.S. southern style) food that uses all parts of the pig (when they have ribs on the menu, there will be house made sausage and bacon to follow) and serves a mean bananas foster.
Address: AV 6 # 10-19, La Candelaria,Tel: 2831573
Restaurant Review: Anderson’s
Andrés Carne de Res: A roadside steak stand that has become a gluttonous Wonka like maze of Colombian curios where you feast on Argentine beef and chorizo and drink handles of aguardiente mixed with fresh fruit juices and then rumba in the same spot and on the tables until 5am. Soap stars, models, and politicians all flock here even though it is 40 minutes outside the center in the tiny town of Chia.
Address: Calle 3 No 11a – 56, Chia, Tel: 8637880
Restaurant Review: Andres Carne de Res
Astrid y Gastón: Latin America’s biggest celebrity chef, Gastón Acurio of Lima, choose Bogotá for his third outpost of his well known contemporary Peruvian restaurant (the second was in Santiago). The restaurant is not overly adventurous, but is rivaled only by Rafael for superior quality Peruvian dishes.
Address: Carrera 7 No 67-64, Tel:2111400
Rafael: Rafael Osterling’s Bogotá outpost of his Lima, Peru restaurant (another has opened in Buenos Aires) sits in the Colombian city’s northern suburbs. Visually, the restaurant is stunning. With dark with bold and bright splashes of color and flowers it looks like a Renoir painting. Start with ceviche or tiradito and a pisco cocktail like their Mango biche sour. Then move on to Osterling’s signature dishes such as Lomo Saltado.
Address: Calle 70 No 4-65, Tel: 571-2554138
80 Sillas & Central Cevicheria: These two restaurants operated by the same owners are at the center of the city’s growing ceviche scene. The menu is simple: One side is meat, the other is seafood. The seafood side offers a list of ceviches with a choice of fish, mixed, octopus, shrimp, or squid in a range of styles. The combinations are seemingly endless.
80 Sillas Address: Calle 118 No. 7-09, Usaquen, Tel: 571-619-2471
Central Cevicheria Address: Cra 13 y Calle 85
Restaurant Review: 80 Sillas
Casa Vieja: For typical Colombian dishes in a typical Spanish colonial atmosphere, Casa Veija on the edge of La Candelaria (also a location in the Zona G) is a sure thing. Try their ajiaco.
Address: Av. Jiménez No. 3-63, La Candelaria, Tel: 571-334-8908
Leo Cocina y Cava: Perhaps the best known female Colombian chef, Leonor Espinoza’s restaurant delves deep into Colombian culinary styles and native ingredients. Try the carimañola (yucca empanada) filled with smoked rabbit.
Address: Calle 27B Nº 6-75, Tel. 571-283-8659
Donostia:Chef Tomás Rueda studied cooking in Spain, yet was born in Colombia, therefore his cuisine tends to be a fusion of the two. Spanish tapas and a menu that frequently uses Serrano ham and Manchego cheese is paired with contemporary Colombian dishes such as Crema de Papas con Morcilla (Cream of Potato Soup with Blood Sausage).
Address: Calle 29 bis Nº 5-89, Tel. 571-287-3943
Traditional Dishes & Street Food in Bogotá:
Arepas: These are the quintessential Colombian snack. These corn pancakes are sold form small carts all over the city, sometimes stuffed with ham, cheese, or eggs. Sometimes they are grilled alongside chorizo.
Mazorca: Basically just corn grilled over charcoal grills and served with melted butter and salt. Keep an eye out in La Candelaria.
Fruit: Many first time visitors don’t realize just how great the diversity of fruit really is in Colombia until they walk a city street and find dozens of fruit carts in a single neighborhood selling brightly colored, sweet smelling fruits. Try the Mango Biche, a tart green mango served with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Coffee: While good coffee can be found right in the street from roving vendors, the Colombian version of Starbuck’s are the Juan Valdez Cafes which are splashed out across the city.
Santafereño: For many Bogotanos their first meal of the day is a cup of hot chocolate served with a slab of cheese that is dropped in the chocolate to melt. Find at most cafes and small shops throughout the center, as well as at roving carts.
Morcilla & Fritanga: Better known as Blood Sausage, this local staple is more for than the adventurous eater, though many refined palates often head to Fritanga Doña Segunda (Calle 73 & Carrera 39, Barrios Unidos, Tel. 571-631-1423) to get their fill as well.
Sancocho de Gallina: This hearty chicken stew is served at hundreds of rustic eateries around the capital, but nowhere as famously as at Doña Elvira (Calle 50 No. 20-28, Chapinero, Tel. 571-235-8275, www.restaurantedonaelvira.com).
What to do in Bogota between Meals
Museo de Oro: The most elaborate collection of Pre-Colombian gold objects in the world sits in a modern setting in the center of the city.
Museo Botero: The works of Colombian painter Fernando Botero (he created the chubby Mona Lisa) are the focus of this fine musuem in La Candelaria.
Visit Las Pulgas, the Sunday flea market in Usaquen, an upscale/bohemian district where you can wander in and out of restaurants, bars and cafés while picking up the odd souvenier.
Interesting Day Trip:
The Salt Cathedral: An underground cathedral carved out of salt mines just outside the city where high cultural activities like operas and theater are held. It’s in the quaint town of Zipaquira, less than an hour from the center of Bogotá.
Where to Stay:
104 Art Suites: A beautiful and original design hotel that isn’t overpriced. Each of the suites is designed by a local artists and every suite has two spacious rooms. In 2009, they added a smaller sister property a few kilometers away in Usaquen.
Casa Medina: A trendy, 58-room boutique hotel in a great location and superb amenities and service.
Hotel La Opera: This restored colonial era Republican mansion is the best hotel in town and found right in the heart of La Candelaria.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.