The cake find of the trip without a doubt came quite without warning and in the town after the one we were expecting it in. Villa de Leyva had the much vaulted but somewhat disappointing French bakery we had been in only a couple days before. Who would have thought such a non-touristy authentic Colombian town like Tunja would have the best place for cake and coffee in the whole country? But that's just what they have in Trigo. It looked unassuming from outside and to be honest I only went in to get a few rolls because my wife was in the throes of a stomach ailment that kept her from snacking around in one of the best snacking towns in Colombia. The rolls were so good we decided we had to go back to try more of their baked goods. These were more like the baguettes we had expected in Villa de Leyva's French bakery. Crisp on the outside and chewy inside. At only 1200 COP (60 cents) for three, they were a bargain too. When we did go back for a coffee and cake, we notice the cafe part was quite nice as well, even with an ample seating area upstairs. We ordered at the counter and they brought what we wanted to us. It was easier than trying to explain in Spanish what we were looking for.
Favorite Dish: We shared a flan-like eggy cake in a caramel sauce and a more Germanic one with berries and chocolate. Both were exceptional and the latter was very much like a cake in Germany which thrilled my German wife to no end. She had a very good cappuccino and I enjoyed one of the densest and best espressos of the Colombian trip. Out bill came to 10000 COP ($5) for a very high quality cafe experience.
Las Cascades was a fairly generic looking place on Pasaje de Vargas which is pretty much packed with cheap eateries. It would have very likely escaped my attention if a prospecting young Christian guy named Daniel had not brought us here as one of the cheapest places in town. We only had a beverage with him but decided to go back as it was good and they had a pretty extensive menu prominently displayed outside. It was a big place with ample seating, much of it upstairs and service was prompt and very friendly. They got a big kick out of our first visit with Daniel since he was quite proud to be showing us the place. They were equally intrigued on our second visit as it seems they do not get many gringos. Though there is waitress service, it has a bit of a cafeteria feel to it though don't take that as any indication that the food is sub-par.
Favorite Dish: We had a gorgeous set breakfast that included a big bowl of caldo (a beef soup with potatoes), huevos pericos (scrambled eggs with onions and tomatoes), a roll, and hot chocolate. We topped it off with a lulu juice all for 13,800 COP ($7.50). Everything was excellent quality and certainly one of the cheapest big breakfasts of our two month stay in Colombia.
While suggestions from guidebooks have led me to some great and often very out-of-the-way eateries, there is nothing quite like finding one simply by walking around. That's how it was with Delicio Almojana. Actually, it would have been very easy to walk by this tiny little place if it were not for the parade of people stopping by to pick up a few of their tasty and very fresh baked goods from a convenient saleswoman at its window. I joined in that line and received the freshest almojabana I had in my two months in Colombia. It was warm and quite cheesey. At only 700 COP (35 cents) it was a bargain too.
Favorite Dish: I went back with my wife a day later to show her my find and the inside was equally teeming with its fans. We had 2 almojanas, 2 arepas con queso, and two jugos for 9000 COP ($4.50) and everything was just as good. It's not a place for the shy though as no sooner do you enter and you get whisked into a seat and asked what you want, with no real written menu. You get your order quickly and the service is a bit curt. That said, it's a very boisterous and authentic place well worth seeking out.
I was out one morning looking for breakfast while my wife was home nursing a less than perfect tummy and I noticed a small coffee shop type eatery that turned out to be in my guidebook. I decided to give it a try as along Pasaje de Vargas there were many similar places but none so inviting. It was a fairly modern but simple eatery with a few other diners but it was quite early in the morning and I was happy to even find it open. I sat down and was immediately greeted by a waitress ready for my order. The food was quickly delivered as was a check without my even having to request it.
Favorite Dish: I had huevos pericos, a typical Colombian dish made of eggs scrambled with diced onions and tomatoes. It is always very tasty and this was no exception. It came with a roll, a freshly toasted arepa or corn cake, and a cup of tinto or black coffee, the national drink of Colombia. Everything was excellent and at 5200 COP (a little over $2.50) not a bad price for such a comfortable and clean place. Of course, the coffee was weaker than I might have liked but I was now used to this and accepted it the way most Colombians drink their coffee. For a truly good coffee in a country noted elsewhere for its coffee beans, you have to pay more so generally not included in any set breakfast meals.
Santo Domingo de Guzman would have likely drawn our attention even if not mentioned in our guidebook due to its great display of fruits in the narrow entrance way of this very popular restaurant. It was deceptive as once inside, the place was quite large and busy with Colombians enjoying a wide variety of dishes. It is full of religious decoration as it is right across from its namesake church and many if its visitors no doubt are pilgrims to both. Service was very friendly and efficient.
Favorite Dish: D had the chanqua, a milk-based soup with eggs and I had an even heartier cazuela almojabana which was similar but with chunks of the bread-like buns in it along with cheese melted on top. We washed them down with two very nice fruit drinks and decided to split a fruit salad for dessert. It was quite a big meal but poor D had not really had anything to eat for a day due to a bad stomach and was hungry! Everything was of very good quality and would not hesitate to go back there again. There were just too many good places to eat in town to have time. The bill came to 19,000 COP (less than $10) for the feast.
South America should be better known for their rotisserie chicken and Colombia is no exception. Pic Pollo was our first stab at the juicy bird in the latter and after one bite we knew well that it would not be our last. We had seen plenty of similar places in Bogota but we were still hung up on trying Colombian dishes but make no mistake about it, chicken is one thing that Colombia does very well. This was a typical hole-in-the-wall from the outside but actually was much bigger on entering. In fact, there were two floors to fit in the many diners. It was an off time so not overly crowded but from the look of all the birds rotating, they were expecting many more to follow.
Favorite Dish: We wisely ordered one media pollo which was half a very fair sized chicken. One thing you realize right away in South America is their chickens are just plain bigger so a half chicken is generally enough for two people. We weren't sure if it came with anything so we ordered some “potato salad” which sounded great after eating a steady diet of rice and fries that seem to come with everything. When they brought out a plat of lukewarm baked potatoes we had to laugh at their translation. That said, they were very tasty as potatoes are generally of exceptional quality in South America too. As it turned out, the chicken came with a few of the same potatoes along with a couple of ice cold arepas or corn cakes. We thought this odd since most of the arepas we had thus far had been nice toasty ones. We found out that this cold and quite tasteless version is fairly common. I had an Aguila beer and Doreen opted for a Pepsi as her stomach was still not 100%. The meal came to 11,000 COP ($5.50).
After finding so many great cheap places to eat on our wanderings around Tunja it was hard to succumb to using our guidebook, especially for a relatively higher priced one. But El Maizal proved to be a good choice for some very local dishes and an interesting glimpse into a more upscale but still very authentically Colombian restaurant. It had a nice interior that had an old grace that foretold of it being a mainstay of Tunja dining for some time.
Favorite Dish: We both went for typical regional dishes and things we had not tried yet. Doreen opted for the sanchocho con pollo (11,5000 COP) which was coriander garnished chicken broth full of yucca, corn, and potatoes. The chicken, however, was a quarter of a bird on the side and on the bone. Rather than just each separately, she took the time to debone the chicken and put it in the soup but unfortunately it was not exactly hot by the time she accomplished the feat. I went for the sobrebarriga (12,000 COP) or flank steak that was oddly roasted which made this cut of meat a bit dry. It was quite tasty but the texture took some getting used to. Both meals were ample. We washed them down with a couple of freshly made limonada natural. The bill came to 27,100 (about $14) so not cheap by our recent outtings in town but not super expensive either for the portion sizes. Not sure I'd head back there again but they had an extensive menu and I'm sure we'd fine other choices we might like better.
In a quest to find fruit juice drinks to rival previous trips to South America, and not having found them, we check out a very busy fuiteria in the Conquistador Hotel. We figured with that much fruit on display and lots of people sucking them down, their jugos must be good.
Favorite Dish: It was certainly convenient, being right on the main square, but despite their drinks being reasonable enough for the location, they were a bit light on the fruit. We paid 5000 COP ($2.50) for a lulu and guanabanan drink, both made with milk.
Senor Lal a little hole-in-the-wall place I noticed while walking around with D but she was not feeling well so took her home for some rest. No sooner did I get back out on the street and I headed right back here. Typical neon light no frills eatery with fast service and cheap prices.
Favorite Dish: I had a roast pork and cheese sandwich which was quite tasty even though it had been made a few hours earlier. The meat was quite good but the roll could have been fresher. No matter, I washed it down with a cheap cold beer called Poker. Not the best in Colombia but icy and cheap. 6000 COP ($3) for the combination
One thing you have to do when in any South American country is to try the street food. Colombia is no different and there every town has its own special treats. On our way back to our hotel, I noticed these fried balls in the doorway of a very small eatery and decided I had to try one.
Favorite Dish: Pan de patata are very doughy fried potato balls that are best dipped in a chili cilantro sauce. Unfortunately, when you take them to go you don't get the sauce unless you specifically ask for it and I'm always too shy to. They are tasty even without the sauce and these were no exception. 1000 COP (50 cents) apiece.