I’d been looking forward to my Colombia trip for a variety of reasons, but I had no idea I’d enjoy the food so much. Eating in Colombia was wonderful experience – I rarely had a bad meal over my entire week. Here’s a roundup of the 10 best things I consumed on my vacation – from Bogotá to Cartagena to Medellin.
I was already a fan of churros, but the churro I had at Superchurros in Bogotá was hands down the best. Warm and chewy with just the right sprinkle of sugar, this churro melted like butter in my mouth. My friend spotted the churros and we decided to split one churro 3 ways. We devoured it and didn’t even need any of the offered dipping sauces – it was delectable on it’s own! Churros in the States can sometimes be tough or lacking any real flavor – this one was definitely not that. The best part? Our 1 churro costs less than .50 USD! If you find yourself on Carrera 7 and craving a churro, swing by their stand – it doesn’t disappoint!
2. Coffee Coffee Coffee!
Yes this is a drink, so I didn’t actually eat it. But sometimes you have to make an exception! Coffee is arguably Colombia’s most famous export, so as a coffee drinker, I was amped to try it! My first good cup of coffee was from a small café with only a counter and a window stand – for about $2,000 pesos (less than $1 USD) I had a tiny cup of coffee but it was strong and good! From then on, every cup was better than the last.Despite the country’s coffee reputation, it can be difficult to find a good cup of coffee at times. My first day in Bogotá, we sauntered into a café for breakfast and ordered one of the few coffees we saw on the menu – tinto. After trying my first sip of tinto, I IMMEDIATELY turned to Google to see what the heck I just drank. Tinto is a weak brew of coffee that’s popular with locals, as explained by the New York Times. So if you have an affinity for weak coffee or coffee flavored water, go pick up some tinto. If you’re buying coffee as a souvenir, it’s recommended to pick up some Juan Valdez or Sello Rojo.
3. Empanadas Paisas
Empanadas are another dish that you can easily get in the US, but like the churros, are way better in Colombia. For those unfamiliar, an empanada is a fried bread, stuffed with meats such as chicken or beef, vegetables or cheese. The easiest thing to compare it to would be an Asian dumpling.
We stumbled upon a hole in the wall empanada spot on Carrera 7 in Bogotá, and the empanadas in the window looked so good we decided to dip in for a snack. It was so worth it! I decided on an empanada paisa – a miniature empanada filled with beef, potatoes and more. I don’t know if you’ve ever had an empanada with potatoes in it, but let me tell you, it’s fantastic. The blend of the flavorful meat with the creaminess of the potato was perfect. I gobbled up the empanada and quickly went back for two more – and at the price of $700 pesos (less than .25 cents USD), I could afford to! The restaurant had a variety of sauces set out for your empanada, including a spicy one that tried to take me out of the game (and I love spicy foods!). In Colombia, empanadas are eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner and I’m not ashamed to say that I ate a LOT of empanadas around the clock there!
4. Mojito bowl!
Andres Carnes de Res is a famous steakhouse in Bogotá – so famous that they have 2 locations! Everyone from Shakira to the Red Hot Chili Peppers has dined there. It was recommended that we go to Andres DC in Chia, but we opted for the one in Bogotá because we didn’t want a 45-minute ride out of town. To be honest, we weren’t impressed with the food.
But we were impressed with the drinks! About 30 minutes into our meal we saw that everyone was ordering bowls to drink – turns out it was a mojito in a bowl and it was AWESOME. I’m not sure if it was the presentation or the mojito itself, but it made a night of “meh” dishes worth it. The drink is cheap for what you get, but expensive for Colombian prices – it comes out to about $15 USD. The dance floor is popping at Andres DC, so I recommend going after dinner to get a mojito bowl and get your dance on! Sidenote: There is a small cover charge – even for dinner.
5. Sweet Granadilla
If my friend hadn’t told me to try these, trust me, I wouldn’t have. Yellow on the outside, greenish-black on the inside, I’ve never seen a fruit anything like this in the United States. The consistency is most jarring thing about a granadilla – the flesh has a mucous consistency, peppered with black (edible) seeds. If you can get past that, you’re golden! The flavor is sweet, and most often compared to a pear. My hotel served these every morning with breakfast, sliced in half, and after my first try, I began to have them every morning! Granadillas, part of the passion fruit family, are mostly found in South America but are in parts of Africa and Australia as well. My friend had a drink made with granadilla juice and loved it!
If you get the chance to try one, go for it! You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.
6. Gelato Yoga Fresas Popsicle
Do you love gelato? Do you love yogurt? Do you love popsicles? Then you have to try the popsicles at Ciocolato in Cartagena. Brightly colored yogurt and gelato popsicles in over 20 flavors are among the many offerings here. I ducked into this shop after a frantic morning of shopping and I am SO MAD I didn’t try these earlier in my trip. Popsicles are a pretty big deal in Cartagena, and although I’m not a popsicle fanatic, it was one of the best things I ate that week. I opted for the yoga fresas popsicle – plain yogurt with strawberry flavor, dappled with real strawberries. The texture is much smoother than a normal popsicle, thanks to the yogurt, and it gives it a creamier flavor. These are not your average popsicles. They don’t have a website, but they DO have a Facebook page.
7. Canasticas de buñuelo
In my brief time in Medellin, I did a private food tour with De La Mesa tours – the rest of the amazing things on this list will be from that tour. Our first stop was Alambique, a hidden gem – so hidden, there’s no outside signage, so it’s easy to miss. After climbing windy stairs, you’re transported into a beautiful, funky, airy restaurant – with fantastic food! Our guide, Laura, ordered the canasticas de buñuelo. Literally translated as “donut baskets”, it’s similar to a croquette and filled with a shrimp, local cheese, mango and cilantro mixture. The presentation is one of the best parts, as it’s served a top a shot of coconut lemonade with rum. Check out Alambique on TripAdvisor.
8. Langostinos glaseados en confitura de tomates y rocoto, sobre quinua crocante y albahaca
This meal was AMAZING – so amazing that we devoured it without any pictures! The picture is from a TripAdvisor review. Ocio is a popular restaurant in Medellin, and one of the stops on our food tour. Langostinos are popular in South America – they look like large shrimp/crawfish, but their meat is a bit sweeter than shrimp. The langostinos weren’t even my favorite part of the dish! They were served on a bed of crunchy quinoa – which is one of my favorite things. When I’m not traveling, I’m often saving money at home by making all types of quinoa, a grain that I regularly use as a pasta substitute. Despite all the many ways I know how to prepare quinoa, I’ve never had it crunchy! Drizzled with tomato jam, basil & hot pepper, the langostinos and quinoa were sweet, flavorful and slightly spicy. I need to figure out how to recreate this one!! Many of the dishes I had at Ocio were amazing, and everyone on TripAdvisor seems to agree with me.
9. Corn & Cheese Dip
Ok ok, I know the title doesn’t sound appealing, but honestly – this wasn’t on the menu! I have no idea what it’s actually called, but we received this little treat on the house from the restaurant Carmen. Carmen is one of the top restaurants in Medellin, and happened to be our last stop on the De La Mesa Food Tour. Once seated, we received this treat – a spiced dip with local cheese, corn and scallions, topped with a spiced tortilla chip.
Carmen, if you’re reading this, please put this dip on your menu so I’ll know exactly what this is! You can check out Carmen on TripAdvisor here.
10. Pork & Gnocchi
Colombia is pretty big on pork, which wasn’t a problem for me at all! Another great dish from Carmen, this was one of the last dishes I had on my De La Mesa food tour. I didn’t expect to like this one, but after my friend raved about the pork, I dove in. The confit pork collar in this dish was seasoned to perfection and had a bit of crunch to it (which I love). Lulo fruit, sugar cane sweet & sour and sweet corn gnocchi compliment the pork. I could have gone for another bowl of this, but all the more reason to go back! Check out Carmen’s website here.
Are you hungry yet? If you make it to Colombia, I highly recommend the De La Mesa Food Tour in Medellin, as well as the restaurants/eateries listed above.
*Like this post? Make sure you get every 9 to 5 Wanderlust posts by adding your email address on the right of this page to subscribe.*