Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mini-Restaurant Guide

While this is by no means comprehensive, I decided to present a mini-restaurant guide for some of Bogota's finer restaurants. Keep in mind, the following list is not the Poor Man's Guide to Eating Out in Bogota. Good food costs money and Bogota isn't cheap. If you want the under $5,000 peso guide, look elsewhere because I don't like eating crap and the bottom line is that any meal you buy in Bogota that costs under $5,000 pesos (or $2.50 US) is likely going to be suspect in quality and freshness and has a high probability of inducing gut wrenching illness. Now, the list:

Patagonia, Calle 117 #7-54 and Carrera 6 #10-01

The Patagonia is a traditional Argentinean grill. It’s a rustic, well apportioned joint with somewhat unusual décor and a very limited menu. Vegetarians need not apply.
This was the clear favorite for a good bit of time but of late the product hasn’t been as consistently good as expected. Still, the Bife de Chorizo is outstanding and when they’re on, it’s the best meat in Bogota. Don’t miss the grilled provolone starter. It’s to die for.

La Biferia, Zona G and Calle 79B #8-79

A bit more upscale but still an excellent product. Falls in the same price range as the Patagonia, which is to say, a bit expensive by Bogota standards, but not terribly so like Andres Carne de Res. The service is good, the décor rather classic, and one would feel most comfortable wearing semi-formal attire.

La Bonga del Sinu, Calle 116 #19-89, Parque 93

Meat eating should be casual and at the Bonga you don’t have to worry about putting on your blue suede shoes or any other such nonsense. Instead you get all your basic meat cuts, cooked to order, with a choice of sides that includes coconut rice. Plus, they offer an extensive list of fresh fruit juices and desserts which always look nice but which there is never any room for at the end of the meal.

El Humero, Avenida Prada #5-05, Chia

El Humero is very much like Andres Carne de Res except that it is smaller, cheaper, and not made out to resemble the set of Dusk Til Dawn. Legend has it that the owner used to be the head chef at Andres which probably explains some of the similarities. Recently relocated to a much bigger site, El Humero offers a variety of meat, chicken, pork, and everything in between. Be sure to order the Lomo al Chile (not the precise name, mind you), which is a weighty knuckle of beef stuffed with pickled jalapenos and grilled to order. While it might give you the hot diarrhea the next morning, some prices are worth paying. For a starter, try a traditional dish from Cali. The name escapes me, but it’s a deep fried plantain stuffed with cheese and bocadilla which is a type of sugar made from fruit. Probably better as a dessert.

The only unfortunate thing with El Humero is that it is in Chia.

Typical food

Sopas de la Mama y Postres de la Abuela, various locations

Sopas y Postres is the place to go for typical Colombian food in Bogota. There are those who would recommend other eateries, but with Sopas you get an expansive menu, that is reliantly consistent, of a good quality, and won’t eat a hole in your wallet. Sopas is the kind of joint that has something for everyone – soups, meat, fish, chicken, etc. Try the Fried Ice Cream for dessert and definitely order a giant fruit juice (Strawberry being my preferred selection).

Costal food

La Vitualla, 9th with 106 or so

La Vitualla is a nice little joint that offers coastal classics like Fried Red Snapper and Bluegill, Sancocho de Pescado (a lovely fish soup), and other mains along with coconut rice and white corn patties with suero (which is like sour cream). It’s relatively economical, the fish is always fresh, and the service reasonable for Colombia. Potential diners beware: Several stories have been floating around that the restaurant staff plays it fast and loose with the credit cards – like swiping it twice and delivering only one bill. It’s recommended to only use cash or, if using credit, to verify that you don’t get double charged.

El Rincon Barranquillero, 94 with 16 or so

In spite of its rather unfortunate location and being a second story restaurant, El Rincon Barranquillero provides authentic, costal food at a reasonable price with exceedingly high quality. It has a more expansive menu than La Vitualla, allowing diners to get a taste of coastal traditions not normally found in Bogota. I recommend the Cazuelo de Mariscos which comes at the right temperature (a rarity in my experience) and is overflowing with shrimp, prawns, fish, octopus, and who knows what else. I don’t normally eat one of my favorite animals, but for this dish, I make an exception.


Luna, Calle 82 #11, Zona Rosa

Bogota doesn’t have a wealth of good Italian food but Luna is the kind of place that would be memorable in most big cities. The service is to be desired, but the menu is full of traditional pasta favorites as well as more esoteric or Italian inspired cuisine. I had chicken in a mushroom sauce that was beyond good. Be sure to try the Fried Mozzarella. They make their own batter, the mozzarella is fresh, and the tomato sauce is certainly the best I have ever tasted.

Archie’s Pizza, Various locations

I mention Archie’s under the Italian category because I find their pizzas to be rather pedestrian. But their pasta dishes are extremely palatable and make a more economical alternative to a classy joint like Luna or others. The lasagna in particular is heartily apportioned and overflowing with melted mozzarella.


China Club, Calle 82 #11-91, El Retiro Shopping Mall

Bogota is not a place to go in search of Chinese food. That being said, China Club is spot on. They offer a host of traditional appetizers accompanied with tangy sauces and the General Tso's Chicken is very good. Plus, the restaurant is very popular with Colombia's rich and famous and makes a good spot to do some people watching.

Wok, Various locations

Wok offers a pan asian variety with dishes from Japan, Korea, China, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The quality is extremely high and the price reasonable. Since Colombian people generally don't have palates for spicy food, most dishes, even the ones that warn of being a bit spicy, are really not too spicy at all. Try the spring rolls with black pepper sauce for starters.


El Techo, Calle 82 #11-91, El Retiro Shopping Mall

Mexican food too is catching on in Bogota with El Techo the expensive flagship of the movement. While it will dent your wallet, El Techo offers authentic mexican cuisine in a classy atmosphere that transports diners to a different place and time. Fresh made tortillas, slow cooked spicy beef, and uncountable tequila based cocktails ensure a fine dining experience. Be prepared to pay.

La Taqueria, Calle 82 #12-80 and Calle 116 with the 15

La Taqueria is a more economical mexican option and it offers extremely good fare. The Sopa de Tortilla is to die for and the enchiladas are as good as you'll get anywhere. Plus the price is much more reasonable and the atmosphere relaxed. La Taqueria is perfect for any occassion, be it business or pleasure, and offers a full bar service as well.


1969, Various locations

Pizza in Colombia, I am sure, has come a long way. Still, it could be argued that it has a long way to go. The traditional pizza houses like Jeno’s, Pizza Pizza, and the American brands (Pizza Hut, Dominos) are serviceable but they certainly don’t leave a lasting impression and are likely to make your next trip to the toilet rather unpleasant.

1969, on the other hand, comes with a thick crust, well made pasta sauce, and real American style pepperoni. It’s a good pie, mostly up to US standards of what makes good pizza. The only drawbacks are that they don’t take credit and they only have Pepsi products.


Pan Pa Ya, Various locations

This is a Bogota standard and should not be missed. Try the Caldo de papa for breakfast. It’s divine, an especially good hangover remedy. They also make very good bread and pastries, a decent pizza, and a very serviceable and economical Calzone.


La Bonga Express, Carrera 19 #118-57

This used to be a too good to be true hamburger joint. For about $18,000 ($9 US) one could get a double bacon cheeseburger with fries and a drink. The quality is far beyond that of El Corral, which seems to be the most popular hamburger option in Colombia, and came at a more economical price than the $23,000 peso Todoterreno. Unfortunately, La Bonga released a new menu in December which jacked up the price of this gloriously gluttonous hamburger to a less than reasonable $27,000 pesos. Now this chain aspires to compete with El Corral Gourmet and is priced accordingly. This is disappointing as the Bonga Express does not offer the same type of atmosphere as the El Corral Gourmet and is now increasingly hard to justify.



Post a Comment

<< Home

Political Favorites
Guilty Pleasures
My Global Position