Look out Lima. The restaurant, chef and food scene in Bogotá, Colombia is booming. So, is this Latin America’s next capital of cuisine? You be the judge. Our guide to the best restaurants in Bogotá, developed after spending weeks eating our way through more than 30 places around the capital city, tells you where to eat in Bogotá right now (don’t miss our guide to bars and drinking in Bogotá too).
Bogotá restaurant guide: past, present, future
Colombia’s original celebrity chef started his rise in Bogotá decades ago. Today, Harry Sasson is acknowledged as the grand daddy of Colombian cuisine and he’s still going strong with his swanky eponymous restaurant in Bogotá, a few side projects and a new restaurant in Cartagena. Read more about Colombia’s first celebrity chef in this piece we did about Harry Sasson for TheLatinKitchen.com.
Other stars of the old guard of Bogotá fine dining include the Rausch brothers with their French-influenced cuisine and polished restaurants including Criterion in Bogotá. Read more in our story about the Rausch brothers for TheLatinKitchen.com.
Restaurants from Sasson and the Rausch brothers are on the elite list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. So is Restaurante Leo from Chef Leonor Espinosa. She’s one of the new guard shaping Bogotá’s food future with her commitment to saving and re-interpreting core Colombian ingredients and techniques in elegant, unexpected ways. Read more about her always surprising cuisine in our piece about Leonor Espinosa for TheLatinKitchen.com.
But it’s not all fancy place settings and tasting menus in Bogotá. You can eat well in hotels in Bogotá (at least at these five hotel restaurants that we recommend) and it’s now easy to find mac n cheese and pastrami sandwiches after a North American comfort food trend took the city by storm.
Things are moving so fast in Bogotá right now that by the time we hit “publish” on this post there are sure to be even more fantastic eating and drinking options in Colombia’s cosmopolitan capital. Now, here are more of our favorite places to eat in Bogotá right now.
Where to eat in Bogotá right now
Restaurante Leo – Choose one of the tasting menus (there are two) rather than ordering off the a la carte menu to really experience Chef Leonor Espinosa’s passion for and reinterpretation of Colombian cuisine. Tasting menus, including wine, are around US$60 per person and worth every peso.
Nueve – Located inside a two-story house that’s been converted into the home of small shops and restaurants, this 32 seat temple to inventive tapas also has more than 160 wines to choose from, all available by the glass. Owner, chef and sommelier Pedro Escobar offers delectable and complex small plates that perfectly support the wine.
80 Sillas – We still think about the salmon tartar with avocado, pomelo, black sea salt and clipped verbena that we had at this two level space with a menu heavy on all things that come from the water. Seafood is never frozen and it’s located in the heart of the historic and hip Usaquen neighborhood.
La Fama Barbecue – With a Colombian pit master trained by professionals from the US, this place looks, smells and tastes like real Southern BBQ because it is real Southern BBQ. Don’t miss the recently added pastrami sandwich.
Gordo Brooklyn Bar & Restaurant – A bit of Brooklyn in Bogotá and by that we mean an inviting bar with expertly prepared cocktails, a satisfying menu of solid standards, couches for longing and even a pressed tin ceiling. Get more enticing details in our story about Gordo for TheLatinKitchen.com
Salvo Patria – Everything about this place is great. It’s located in the hip Chapinero Alto neighborhood, it’s got a homey setting with mismatched chairs, shared tables and romantic nooks. The wine list is fantastic, the prices are more than reasonable and the fare, turned out by Chef Alejandro Gutiérrez, makes the most of Colombian ingredients. Order up a rich pork belly sandwich, tender grilled octopus, rabbit ragu or anything else on the stylish menu. Every dish is a winner. Their daily set lunch meal is a gourmet bargain. Insider tip: there’s a private chef’s table for special reservations just off the kitchen.
Masa – European style bread is hard to find in Latin America. This bakery delivers the crusty goodness in many shapes, sizes and varieties. But don’t stop there. The doughnuts and other sweet treats are just as delightful. They also offer a full cafe menu (sandwiches, salads, etc) but we’ve never gotten past the carbs.
Ugly American Bar & Grill – The name is tongue in cheek but the food is deadly serious at this ode to North American comfort foods (wings, mac n cheese, ribs, beignettes, and a burger that locals can’t get enough of). The bar is massive and inviting and brunch is an event.
Bruto – This place is a multi-story bohemian space with a Spanish-inspired menu and live music. The food is fantastic and built to share. Best with friends whether you come for a full meal or just for drinks at the large, lively bar.
Bistro El Bandido – Opened in 2009, this beloved place nails the French bistro menu, the French bistro vibe and the French bistro look but at a fraction of the price you’d pay in Paris. The coq au vin is to die for.
Pizzeria Julia – Created by a Colombian chef who worked with Mario Batali in New York for years, this micro chain has classic recipes, real wood burning ovens and a nice wine list. Don’t bother with the many pizza pretenders in Bogotá.
Min Mal – The dining room is pleasingly haphazard and casual (tin plates, mismatched chairs) but the food is serious and digs deep to surprise. Biche (fermented sugarcane juice typical in coastal Colombia) is used to make a margarita, stingrays are smoked with coconut husks and herbs then stewed to perfection (ask for the Calzado de Raya if you don’t see it on the menu). After more than 14 years in the business the owners’ enthusiasm shows no sign of flagging.
Tabula & Donostia – Thank goodness being a musician doesn’t pay. Colombian chef (and bass player) Tomas Rueda started cooking to make money to support his music career (he’s still in a band). He found that he loved it enough to study the culinary arts around the world and work hard to develop his own perspective on cuisine. Essentially, that perspective revolves around his fear of boredom. The good news for diners is that they’re never bored either. Donostia, a minimalist, sexy restaurant, opened more than a decade ago, offers polished but approachable plates (trout cooked in jungle leaves, for example). A few years later Rueda opened Tabula, Donostia’s more raucous sibling, right next door. Order the remolacha (beet) served warm and drizzled with yogurt and honey to experience a dish that Chef Rueda believe encapsulates his culinary ambitions.
Diana Garcia – Most hotels in Colombia include at least a rudimentary breakfast in room rates. Do yourself a favor and duck out for a restaurant breakfast at either of the two restaurants opened by caterer Diana Garcia. She only serves breakfast and lunch and the breakfast menu is expansive, including North American favorites and a litany of Colombia’s most beloved breakfast options. Bottomless coffee too.
Abasto Market – Breakfast and brunch at Abasto is a Bogota ritual, but for our money the smart move is to skip the lines (and sometimes surly service) at the various Abasto cafes around the city in favor of Abasto Market in the Usaquen neighborhood. Part restaurant/part market, this place is just as delicious without the hassle and you can pick up a fresh bread or other treats on your way out.
Andres Carne de Res – Skip the newer locations within the city limits and head to the original in the nearby city of Chia to see why this enormous restaurant attracts thousands of meat and party lovers every week. It looks like a chic junk yard, tons of meat are consumed (along with gallons of booze) and if you don’t have a festive time here there’s something wrong with you. We’re not saying it’s the best restaurant in Bogotá, but it is the most extreme. Learn how to survive Colombia’s craziest restaurant in our story about Andres Carne de Res for TheLatinKitchen.com.
El Comedor Comfort Food – As the name would imply, it’s all about comfort food at this homey restaurant including a wide range of soups, spaghetti with oven roasted tomatoes, hamburgers, chocolate lava cake and more. The star dish is the slow cooked, salt encrusted whole chicken which is served with roasted potatoes and avocado salad (must be ordered in advance).
Cinegramos – Located inside the Click Clack Hotel (the hippest boutique hotel in the city), this restaurant serves creative, satisfying dishes in 100 gram (3.5 ounce) portions that encourage guests to share. The lengthy menu includes sandwiches, risottos (including inventive takes like a dish called Ciebeles which features cubes of tender beef and strawberries), meat dishes and plenty of seafood (including salmon marinated for 14 hours in sake and soy). Don’t miss the Vieja al Centro de la Tierra which is a combination of light potato salad, seasonal vegetables and octopus served in a ceramic flower pot then dusted on top with mushroom crumbs that resemble soil and spiked with pea shoots which suggest a sprouting plant.
Osaki – There are a few of these Asian-inspired restaurants around the city. There are two menus, one for sushi and another listing all kinds of other types of Asian food including build-your-own ramen bowls. Do not miss the succulent and enormous Kampai Wings. Use your hands.
Horacio Barbato – If you like meat–particularly pork–this is the place for you. The excellent chorizo sausages are made in-house. A wood burning oven is always stoked and is used to cook nearly everything on the menu. And the soundtrack (Bill Withers, Nina Simone) is fantastic.
La Creameria Italiano – Premium homemade gelato made from scratch by an Italian on imported machinery in 18 flavors. Got it?
Best new restaurants in Bogotá
Tomodachi Ramen Bar – Opened in late 2015, this is the fourth restaurant in Bogotá for Colombian chef Daniel Castano who spent weeks eating Ramen throughout Japan as part of his pre-opening research. He returned to Bogotá with a Japanese woman who trained his Colombian chef before Tomodachi opened. It’s a tiny, classic space with a menu to match.
La Condesa Cocina y Mercado Artisenal – This place has been a neighborhood favorite in the Soledad/Teusaquillo area of the city since 2012. In late 2015 a second location opened in Zona T (Carrera 85 # 12-81). Both locations serve up simple, classic Italian trattoria food at wonderful prices. The setting is simple and showcases the owner’s woodworking skills including handmade tables and chairs. Pastas are homemade (except the macaroni and the bow tie pasta), the beef carpaccio was melt-in-your mouth tender, the lime pie was light and fresh and Colombian craft beers and a nice selection of wines are available.
Hippie – We’d love Hippie, opened in mid 2015, even if we weren’t friends with chef/owner Paula Silva. Located in a renovated 2 level home, Hippie is a welcoming temple to artfully prepared “pure food” made with whole, local and organic ingredients whenever possible and seasoned with no refined sugar (just honey and panela) and no refined salt (just sea salt). Dishes are ambitious and delicious and though vegetables are lovingly represented on the menu, meat and seafood lovers will be satisfied as well. Get more details in our story about Hippie for the Bogotá Post.
Mil 9 – The Cordon Bleu trained Colombian chef is 25 years old. It’s his first restaurant. He kind of blew our socks off with dishes like shrimp in passion fruit bitters with peas and shaved coconut. You should go.
Misia – Colombia’s most unpredictable chef, Leonor Espinosa, knows that her anthropological approach to saving and re-inventing Colombian ingredients and techniques at her lauded restaurant Restaurante Leo (#33 on the 2015 list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants) is off-putting to some local diners. After all, she offers not one but two tasting menus (as well as a la carte) in a country where tasting menus are still rare. In 2015 she opened Misia for the timid, offering meticulously made but casually presented plates of Colombia’s most beloved every day foods like bandeja paisa and empanadas (located at Transversal 6 #27-50). Get full details in our story about Misia for TheLatinKitchen.com.
Cantina y Punto – The most newsworthy newcomer in Bogotá is this authentic Mexican restaurant which opened in September of 2015. The place is helmed by Mexican Chef Roberto Ruiz from Punto MX in Madrid which is the only Mexican restaurant in Europe with a Michelin star. Tortillas are all made by hand, his guacamole recipe is a secret, he’s getting Mexican chilies from a Mexican farmer near Medellin and he’s turning out high-end creatively authentic Mexican food including tuna chicharron tacos. The restaurant bar is also slowly amassing the city’s best selection of mezcals and tequilas which you can enjoy under a retractable roof.
The ones that got away
Despite our best intentions we simply ran out of time to get to the following restaurants in Bogotá. Tell us what you think after you eat here.
Flor de Loto – More than one chef recommended this cash only Indian restaurant.
El Chato – One more good reason for us to return to Bogotá…
Astrid & Gastón – Opened in 2005 by Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio who is credited with helping to propel Lima to its current standing as a South American culinary hot spot.
EL Ciervo y El Oso – This place offers two menus, one for vegetarians (el ciervo, the deer) and one for meat eaters (el oso, the bear).
The one big disappointment
Trattoria de la Plaza – This place, located on the second floor of a building near the sprawling 7 de Agusto market, was enjoying serious buzz when we were in Bogotá as a great place to get authentic Italian food at decent prices. Wrong and wrong. The artichoke hearts ala Romana were out of a can, the ravioli (the ONLY pasta on the menu that was homemade) was so under cooked it was almost inedible and the side of spaghetti that came with the mediocre chicken parm was so salty it was inedible. Just skip it.
If you really want to get into the Bogotá food scene plan to be at the annual Bogotá Wine & Food Festival, which just keeps getting bigger and better. It will be held in the April in 2016. And check out our overall post about travel in Bogotá including hotels and attractions. The city’s bars and restaurants eventually close so you’ve got to sleep someplace, and you may even want to do something other than eat while you’re in town. Maybe.
Read more about travel in Colombia