On the main coastal street Bitacora is a nice bar and restaurant with very good music and good quality food. Sitting on the breezy tables outside you can relax watching passers by while eating your healthy meal or drinking fresh fruit juice. There is a wide choice of fruits. It is very popular with tourists especially in the evening when the bar gets very busy and the outside tables are always full. The music is slow rock, relax, chill out, classic rock... Ricardo Alvarez is efficiently running the place.
I liked breakfast with natural yogurt and a lot of fruit for 3,5$ while the fish and the steaks were excellent, too!
Backpacker comfort food ranges from the banana pancakes of Southeast Asia to pizza just about anywhere you wouldn't have expected it 20 years ago and while I'm not a big proponent of it, when you travel for a few months and are in a country where the local foods are not the most varied, it does draw you in. We had been traveling for over a month and while Colombia's food was quite good, it was not quite a good as we had expected. We had already taken refuge in an Italian meal in Villa de Leyva a few weeks earlier with fair results. The coastal food had been wonderful since then but again not as varied as we might have liked. To make matters worse, my wife had eaten a bad arepa con huevos on the bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta and had not been able to eat much aside from saltines since. She was coming around and I had read about a “sandwich shop” in nearby Taganga. The town itself did not sound like something we would like despite its near perfect horseshoe shaped bay as it had evidently become overrun with international backpackers and had lost much of its local flair. But the “La Baguettes de Maria” sure sounded about perfect for my wife's bad tummy and we were both dying for a nice loaf of bread.
The place was open air with a small pool in the back. The seating was at simple benches and long tables but this did not take away from its general ambiance and imagine during peak eating hours, it would be packed. We luckily arrive mid-afternoon, well between lunch and dinner as waits during those times were reported to be lengthy. As it was, there were still some other diners and our food did take fairly long to come out, considering it was just a couple sandwiches and fruit drinks. It's definitely a family-run place so even though a backpacker haunt full primarily of them as customers, the people running the place are very much locals, right down to your servers who for us was obviously one of their very cute young children. I'll have to say, he was as good a server as we had found in Colombia despite the slow kitchen.
Favorite Dish: Doreen went for a chicken (10,000 COP ($5) )baguette and I had one with beef (12,000 COP ($6)). The baguettes were the best of a trip mostly devoid of such things but even better than the bread we had in Tunja early on our Colombian travels. They were stuffed with very high quality meat and dressed with some veggies. They were not in the least disappointing and extremely tasty and this was even taking into consideration what is a very high price for a sandwich and not even a cheap one by local standards for a meal. Of course, if you took into consideration how filling they were, they were not all that pricey as we were far more full after eating these than many meals we had eaten while traveling around the country.
There are a few street food sellers in Taganga, and some of them are grilling arepas on coals. We stopped by a few times to buy more arepas that we could eat, not only because they were delicious but because we had spotted a small child looking very hungry, who happily accepted the extra arepas we bought for him.
Favorite Dish: The perfect arepa.. grilled on charcoal wrapped in a plantain leaf, then sliced in two and filled with yummy cheese. definitely a world apart from the usual fried arepas that you find in this part of Colombia.
I had the second best meal in Colombia at the very simple and small Mojito Net. It's an internet cafe, cocktail bar and restaurant all in one. A few times a week there's live music, too. Rustic decor and friendly staff. The owner, we heard, is Italian.
Favorite Dish: I ate there twice and twice I ate the same simple but delicious thing - which was a combination of a side dish and a dessert: I had grilled vegetables (eggplant, bellpeppers and cougettes) which are rare to find in menus in the caribe region of Ciolombia and some Sierra Nevada cheese with honey... a very young and delicious fresh cheese.
Restaurant Las Velas is a simple beachfront restaurant right next to the Ballena Azul Hotel, and it's a much better choice. There's a long list of simple dishes, including several sorts of coconut rice and meats "al carbon", as well as plenty of cocktails. Please note that this restaurant is open only during the day. At dinner time (logic?) it closes.
Favorite Dish: I had a seriously delicious seafood coconut rice with patacons (friend plaitain chips) for about 13000 COP and a bottle of water. My partenr had a grilled chicken which he found pretty good, too.
Along the beach promenade there are many stalls selling fresh fruit juices or fruit salads, with the fruit of the season. You can get the juice with water or milk and they always taste very fresh and yummy. Don’t be afraid to have a juice with water as they always use clean (bottled) water. The juices with milk is normally a little bit more expensive. From the stall in the picture I bought a fruit juice made of mango in milk for 1500 pesos (July 2007).
Uppdate August 2008: A mango juice in milk is now 2000 pesos.
Along the beach there are many open-air restaurants, both on the beach side and the other side of the road. I ate at several of them and will give some examples of what meals can cost at different places.
The first evening in Taganga I went with a girl from Casa de Felipe to an “Israeli” restaurant. It was packed with young backpackers and the first menu we got was written in Hebrew. I had pasta with tomato sauce and a beer for 10 000 pesos. I wondered why it was so crowded at this restaurant and much less people at the restaurants by the beachfront.
The next evening I went to one of the beachfront restaurants (one that wasn’t playing loud music) and had fresh fried fish with rice and platano. With a beer and tip I paid 13 500 pesos.
Another evening I walked down to the beach, passed the diving centres, and ate at the first restaurant on the corner (opposite a hotel). It was not good value for the money here. I got a small portion pasta with pesto and was still hungry after I had finished it. The pasta, a beer and service and tip (both service and tip was included on the recite) was 18 000 pesos.
The last evening in Taganga I wanted to try lobster. It is expensive (40 000 pesos) but I hadn’t eaten lobster for almost 20 years and it is still not as expensive as at home. The lobster tasted a lot of garlic and it came with rice, French fries, some tomatoes and onions and a sauce. With a beer, service and tip I paid 50 000 pesos. The coming night was the only time in Colombia I felt sick. Guess there are not too many costumers that eat lobster so it was probably not very fresh.
On the way up to Casa de Felipe, just after Morimar, the football field and Baguettes de Maria, on the right hand side you will find a house with a couple plastic tables inside. The family that lives there will cook Breakfast, lunch, and dinner for whoever passes by. The food is straight out of your grandma's kitchen, and there is a good variety of options from chicken and beef to fish and eggs. They'll also make fresh juice.
BTW, they run a laundry service for, I think, 4000 a kilo.
As you walk down the beach, all along the water are restaurants that serve fresh fish, among other things. You can ask each place to see what fish they have available (there's usually a cooler) and pick the place which has the fish you want at a price you like. They also often have almuerzos during the day where the fried fish, coconut rice, and salad also come with a great fish soup. i say al ways at the picante.
Directly on the beach, next door to La Casa Blance, is a restaurant/store that sells beer and bags of water. They have GREAT, I'm talking GREAT almuerzos for 4,000 (about 2 USD).
Favorite Dish: I love the pescado frito.
When you get to Taganga ... or even if you go further to Playa Grande ... you'll see plenty of restaurants by the beach.
Support the local fisher men !!
And don't forget the cold Aguilas !!!
Favorite Dish: Fried fish is always a good option ... it usually comes served with rice and 'patacones' (some sort of mashed or smashed plantain).
Los Baguette de Maria is a favourite among many of the backpackers in Taganga and it deserves to be so. The baguettes are big and yummy and the natural fruitjuices are very good to. If there are many people there the waiting time can be quite long. The first time I was there I waited 40 minutes for the baguette, but the second time it was quicker. They also have home delivery (or to the hostel).
I can recommend both baguettes I ate. One was with avocado (Tyrona 5500 pesos) and the other with beef (Ciudad Perdida 9000 pesos). The fresh fruit juices are 2000 pesos and you can chose which fruits you want to mix.
I like this restaurant, which is situated a few blocks away from the sea. It is in a quiet neighbourhood surrounded by homes and a few shops. Here you can sit watching the people go by while you eat.
The food is good and the portions very big. There are pastas, hamburgers, chicken and meat dishes. Both times I ate here I had pasta. Pasta with broccoli was 7500 pesos and pasta with big shrimps was 14 000 pesos (one of the most expensive dishes). A Club Colombia beer was 2000 pesos (July 2007).
The beach is lined with small out-door restaurants, serving freshly caught fish. The prices are good and the food itself is amazing.