This is a popular local dish, not a restaurant. You should be able to order it almost anywhere. It is a massive amount of food, so be very hungry or split it with a friend. It comes on a big platter, and includes 2 kinds of sausage, ground beef, beans and rice, fried pork rind, fried plantains, avocado, bread, and several things I can’t remember, all topped with a fried egg.
I came across Sabores del Pacífico only on my last day and was very happy about it as in Bogotá it is not so easy to find a decent seafood restaurant. First thing that draw my attention was the wall mural depicting the joys of the underwater world. It gives the impression of aquarium. For the rest, the place is quite simple, everything is painted red and white.
It was lunchtime so I went to ask one of the staff about the comida corriente (set menu). They had sancocho de pescado and I did not think twice to make a decision. And to my surprise, it only took five minutes until the food was delivered to my table.
Favorite Dish First they brought a huge soup plate of the famed sancocho, a thick, rich fish soup, served with big pieces of sierra fish and yucca, garnished with coriander. And then came another plate with the whole sierra fish cooked in coconut milk with a portion of rice, mixed salad and patacon (fried plantain). The food was served with several pieces of lime and accompanied by a glass of aguapanela.
I very much enjoyed my meal, everything was absolutely delicious!! And I only payed 6.000 COP (January 2009). One year later (January 2010) it was 9.000 COP.
I arrived in Colombia the previous night and was quite exhausted after the long flight from Europe and almost no sleep. My luggage was lost again (exactly the same happened a year ago), I only had a little daily backpack with my personal belongings like travel documents and camera. I worried about my luggage but unfortunately there was nothing to do than keep calling to the airport to get the latest news.
After all these, I thought I needed a decent lunch, before meeting Iván in the afternoon. I wanted to find a nice place serving cazuela de marisco which is one of my favourite Colombian seafood dishes. A girl in a restaurant that I passed by recommended Pescadero La Subiende which was only a short walk from there.
The restaurant has two floors with a few tables on each of them, and it offers the greatest variety of seafood dishes from all parts of Colombia. It was above my travel budget but at that moment I wanted to treat myself to something nice. As it was lunch time the restaurants got quite busy with people working in the vicinity (Plaza de Bolívar with some of Colombia's most important institutions was just two blocks away). But to my surprise, I did not have to wait long for my meal.
Favorite Dish I had creamy cazuela de marisco (seafood casserole). It came with huge shrimp, clams, shredded lobster, squid, octopus and fish. Just love the combination of seafood, coconut milk and fresh cilantro. The dish was accompanied with rice, french fries and patacon. And a glass of freshly made strawberry juice was a nice companion to this exquisite meal.
Cazuela de marisco was 22.000 COP and the juice 4.500 COP (December 2009).
One restaurant we had wanted to try when we were in Bogota a few months earlier was El Sabor de Carbon. It smelled so good every time we walked by it and it was in our neighborhood. It looked a bit more upscale but on inspecting their menu it was not much more than our favored place, El Pargo Paisa, just across Avenida Jimenez. On our first night back in town we decided to give it a try with mixed results. Though a step up from El Pargo, it still had the ubiquitous florescent lighting that renders any attempt at atmosphere moot. The service was more attentive for sure but the meals were not as good as their aromas had led us to believe.
Favorite Dish I figured I would go with a Bandeja Paisa (13,000 COP) since it likely the last chance I'd have at Colombia's national dish that had become one of my favorites on the trip. It was certainly massive but the overall quality was not as good as versions I had around the country and in particular, the avocado was bitter. I think I could have forgiven anything else but these gorgeous vegetables are generally beyond compare in Colombia. They're like butter in your mouth. Doreen was not overly hungry and went for an ajiaco (10,500 COP), figuring a soup wouldn't be too filling. It was also massive and full of near perfect white chicken breast. It seemed they put en entire chicken in the huge bowl. Normally, I would help her eat her meal but I was already overwhelmed with mine. The meals were not bad and good value but I guess they just didn't live up to the smells emanating from the place. In retrospect, we should have probably ordered carne asado as it was surely their specialty. When the bill arrived, our opinion of the place sunk further. We had noticed the pricey beverages (2500 COP for a beer/3700 COP for a mandarin juice) so only ordered one each but in addition to this there was 10% service charge which inflated it to 32,600 COP or $16. This is about $5 more than a similar meal would be across the street and you could have twice as many beers while there too.
Glad we tried it, sorry about our choices and would not go back again. El Pargo Paisa is every bit as good, cheaper, and for me a more authentic atmosphere.
Sadly, I did not find this very special treat in Bogota until the end of our trip. We are not huge fans of South American sweets. They tend to be overly sweet and not much in the way of subtle flavors. When eating at Caribbean eatery in Popayan of all places, the owner offered me a sweet for free when I paid my bill. The dark chewy treat turned out to be shredded coconut coated in panela, a sugar cane paste. It was delicious and we looked for it everywhere we went thereafter. We found lesser versions in Pasto but when we noticed coconut vendors in Bogota, it was now with more discerning eyes. They were surely there on our first visit but unless you know what you are looking for, you often miss the best things.
Favorite Dish They didn't just sell pieces of coconut which we had had quite a few times, but also many other treats made with coconut. We got a few of the chewy wonders but didn't really pay much attention to the weird shaped things on his display. It looked like pieces of meat incongruously sitting atop the heap. While eating our little squares of shredded wonder, I found a strange big piece of coconut within and we really enjoyed it. It was not quite as sweet as the rest of it as there was less of the panela on it. Suddenly, it clicked what those strange things were: bigger pieces of coconut with a coating of the sugar cane paste! We rushed back to get some and it was one of the best sweets we've ever had. We even bought some to bring on the plane but the coating had melted off by the time we got to it. It was still tasty but not quite as good. Once again, only 1000 COP (50 cents) per small bag.
Favorite Dish Remember when potato chips were not mass produced crap? When you could taste that you were indeed eating a potato? Well, I do though I don't remember people making them on the street in front of my very eyes. Thanks to Colombia I now do and though I am not as a rule an eater of potato chips, if I could get these all the time I might very well be! You will see people with carts that have deep fryers built into them. In these, they make not only potato chips but also plantain chips and churros. For a mere 1000 COP (50 US cents) you can have a small bag of any of the three. The potato chips are fantastic. Churros are deep fried donut type pastries with a nice sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon. These were quite good too and generally quite fresh. Due to the low prices they have great turnover.
As with all South American countries, Colombia is no stranger to street food vendors and some of the tastiest and cheapest eats are certainly no more than a few steps away once you start exploring a big city like Bogota. Sundays are particularly good as the city closes off Carrea 7 to motor traffic. The city comes alive and its population comes out in hordes to walk, ride their bikes, and skate the considerable length of Bogota. Small stands pop up everywhere but even if you are just in La Plaza you'll find enough to keep you busy.
Favorite Dish Fruit is particularly prevalent. Pineapple, watermelon, sweet mango: all cut into slices and put into small plastic bags right before you eyes. Try mango viche, the sour young mango served with salt, chili, and lime juice. One thing not to be missed is salpicon, a watery fruit salad type drink with a watermelon base. It's very refreshing and cheap, so much better than that can of Coke you were contemplating. Fruit servings range from 500 to 1000 COP (25 to 50 US cents). In fact, most everything is 1000 COP, making snacking around fun, easy and cheap.
La Puerta Falsa has been in business since 1816 and is the original of the row of small two story restaurants that line Calle 11 en route to La Plaza. Ironically, it was the last one of the places in that row that we visited only due to it being a bit more inconspicuous. I guess when you've been around that long you don't have to advertize! It was very similar to other places aside from there was no one outside trying to hawk you in. We could not get a seat downstairs which is best for people (and kitchen) watching as it was too busy but the upstairs dining was fine as well. It's certainly a place worth trying just to watch the obviously in awe Colombians from outside of Bogota very much treating themselves to a special meal.
Favorite Dish We were ready to give Bogota's hot chocolate more chance and no better way to do it than with the local breakfast special of Chocolate Compleato which is basically hot chocolate with a chunk of cheese and a roll. It is the classic Bogota way to start the day. The cheese is a bit salty and hard so it's best to either crumble it into your hot chocolate or at least dip it in. Though it was pretty good we were again less than thrilled with the hot chocolate especially since it's one of their specialties. I guess our tastes run to darker more rich chocolate. Though not expensive, it's not cheap at 5000 COP or $2.50 and we did not have it again until in more rural areas of Colombia where we actually found it to be better and cheaper!
We were exploring the heart of Bogota's downtown area on our second day in town and rather than spend time searching for an out-of-the-way gem, we ventured back to the row of somewhat touristy restaurants that line Calle 11 on the way to La Plaza. We had a nice breakfast in one that very morning so decided to give another one a shot since the had many of the local dishes we were looking for anyway. Antigua Santa Fe did the trick. Much like our breakfast choice, this two story small place backed them in with their detailed photo menu which makes getting what you want easy. Again, we sat downstairs to get a better view of the kitchen that was churning out the lunches quickly.
Favorite Dish I went with the Ajiaco, a thick stew typical of the Bogota region. This one was made with chicken and full of vegetables as well in a dense tasty broth. Doreen ordered chanqua only because it looked good in the photos and was glad she did. This delicious soup is full of eggs, cheese, and broken bits of almojabanas (a local backed good). This was a case where eating in a place with a photo menu really paid off as there was no mention of what is a common breakfast food in our guidebook. We were always on the lookout for it after having it this first time. We passed on the beverages as there were so many street vendors selling fruit juices it seemed silly to have a soda or beer. Our bill for the two meals came to 17,000 COP or $8.50 and this was only because my very hearty meal was on the more pricey side (12,000 COP!).
There is a row of small restaurants along Calle 11 that run to La Plaza that are pretty much indistinguishable from each other. They all display the same picture menu and it is easy to imagine that the same owner runs each. Though they appear very touristy they generally cater to Colombian's tastes and you can't fault them for a nice local atmosphere. With their very convenient location, we ate at them a fair amount and the food was generally good. While not overly cheap, they were not particularly expensive either and it was easy to find local meal any time of day. We ate at a different one each time to spread our business around and found them all to be about the same. A nice waiter here or there made whatever difference there was and that is something that varies so pick whatever one you fancy and you should be fine. Each has a very small dining area on the ground floor and a slightly larger one upstairs. You can watch things when downstairs which is fun as the kitchen is open and also makes it easier on your server since he doesn't have to climb the spiral staircase to bring you your food. You pay as you leave at the register which makes it easier on everyone.
Favorite Dish Our second breakfast in Bogota was another beauty. Doreen went for eggs once again and I was happy to see tamales on the menu. This traditional breakfast food consists of meat, vegetables, and corn meal steamed in a green leaf wrapping. It was a tasty one though as I would find later after eating them in the more rural areas of Colombia, lacking a bit in meat and not overly big. Doreen actually preferred this one and for many it might be more suitable for this early in the morning as the more robust ones! We had the hot chocolate again and though a tad better were still not blown away. Our bill came to 11,000 COP or $5.50 so despite being so close to the main square, not any more money than the small Candelaria restaurant we had eaten in the first day.
El Restaurante El Pargo may not have been the greatest fruteria but it turned out to be a very decent place to eat a full meal. We had noticed their rather extensive menu complete with very helpful photos when having an afternoon beverage there earlier in the day and made a note to eat their that evening since it was quite convenient to the hostel we were staying in. It was a lot more bustling for dinner though the florescent lighting made for a less than romantic place. It was very much a typical South American eatery full of local flavor and we were certainly the only backpackers eating there that night.
Favorite Dish I went for the Bandeja Paisa, the country's national dish, which consisted of ground beef, beans, a sausage, a fried plantain, and a fried egg on top of a mound of white rice. Oh, let's not forget the nice piece of fried pork rind that tops this less than healthy but certainly tasty meal! Obviously, it's not the kind of thing you want to eat every day if you want to live past 50 but we split it in addition to another slightly more healthy one so it wasn't so bad. Doreen went for the carne asado with fries which was a gorgeous piece of steak cooked to perfection with a very nice spicy sauce off to the side. It all went very well with the four Club Colombianas we gulped down. The beer I might add tasted better with the food than it had that afternoon on its own. It seemed the more I drank the better it tasted especially at these prices! Our meals with the four beers came to 22,000 COP or $11.
Our expectations of food in Colombia were very high as we had eaten some phenomenal meals in Colombian restaurants in Ecuador just a few years prior so we felt we could just waltz into any place and find great food. This turned out to not be the case as we found in our first choice for lunch. Looking for a cheap almuerzo or set lunch, we sauntered into a small place on Calle 11, one of the main streets in the downtown area leading to La Plaza. It can and shall remain nameless as the food was nothing special though can serve as a reminder that food in Colombia is not always so amazing.
Favorite Dish With no written menu to peruse, we pretty much took what the owner suggested and out came some white rice surrounded by fairly tasty lentils, a bland boiled plantain, and a scrawny boney piece of tasteless boiled chicken. We had chosen chicken rather than be exposed to the typical “mystery meat” that typically pops up at South American cheapie restaurants in the almuerzos! It was edible and inexpensive for its central location but needless to say we didn't rush back there. With one beer and a juice the bill came to 15,000 COP or $7.50.