Between 2013 and 2015 we spent many weeks exploring Bogotá, Colombia and we told you about all of our favorite restaurants in Bogotá at that time. But a lot has changed in the city since then, so we recently returned to Colombia’s capital update our original post about eating in Bogotá and to produce this all-new Bogotá restaurant guide.
Bogotá Restaurant Guide Part 2
If you’re going to eat at just one restaurant in Bogotá, make it this winner on Calle 65. Here, chef Alvaro Clavijo is creating dishes like sweet crab with squid ink crackers, tender and mild chicken hearts with grated egg yolk, sour cream, and thin sliced native potatoes, and a grilled hearts of palm salad that we could eat every single day made with tender celery leaves, avocado, and a zingy citrus dressing. The dining room is moody and comfortable, the sommelier is passionate, and plate presentation is gorgeous but never gimmicky. No wonder El Chato debuted at an amazingly high #21 on the 2018 list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. Reservations recommended.
The menu at this stunner in Chapinero is petite but covers the bases including an encocado soup and a seafood pasta which are top sellers. But branch out. The baked shitake mushrooms on a bed of goat yogurt (made in-house) with homemade potato chips, roasted peach slices, and nasturtium leaves was roasty, tender, and satisfyingly meaty. The rich Crudo de Tierra lamb tartare is ground (not sliced) and comes with perfectly toasted crusty bread, pickled pitaya, and dehydrated then fried corn. Cocktails are inventive and delicious as well (order one made with a local hooch called viche), though on the pricey side. There’s a very fairly-priced set menu lunch offered Monday through Friday. Thursday nights feature a salsa DJ, guest chefs, and specials like cochinita. There’s also a secret menu including a good-looking burger made with beef that’s ground in-house and a homemade brioche bun.
This upscale bistro in Zona T has an open kitchen (helmed by a Peruvian chef who did time in the kitchen of Central), an inviting bar, and a menu offering something for everyone primarily using ingredients from within 100 miles (160 km). The ceviche came with chewy grilled corn, warm grilled avocado, and sweet lime. Sweet and tender grilled asparagus spears were dipped in black squid ink batter and flash fried. The dry aged beef (this is one of the only restaurants in Bogotá that’s dry-aging their own meat) was tender, juicy, sliced off the bone. A large tossed salad with very young crispy lettuce, grilled carrots, homemade croutons, and a light dressing was the perfect pairing. For dessert order anything incorporating vanilla and savor it with a shot of Colombian Hechicera rum.
This precise yet casual restaurant in the La Candelaria neighborhood only serves lunch and it’s a 4-course affair (US$14 vegetarian or US$18 with meat) that’s reinvented weekly by chef Mario Rosero (a CIA trained chef) and his flawlessly hospitable wife Meghan Flanigan. Grateful area workers, devoted locals, and clued-in travelers come for dishes like spicy and tender beef bavette with chile de arbol and oregano, juicy brined chicken sate, surprising and satisfying sunflower seed risotto with arugula, shitake compote, wood roasted asparagus, carrots, haricots verts, and asiago, Spanish mackerel with brown sugar, coriander, and turmeric, and cloud-like white chocolate pannacotta topped with dark chocolate sauce and a crunchy peanut butter wafer. They smoke, cure, pickle, and ferment their own ingredients, bake their own legit bread, offer weekly cocktail specials plus a lovely wine list, and make their own fruit sodas. Reservations recommended.
Some were surprised when this upstart tasting menu only restaurant created by Argentinean chef Nicolas Lopez and Mexican chef Sergio Meza in Chapinero made it onto the list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurant in 2017 in its first year of operation. The restaurant seats diners on different levels of a house that’s bursting with aromas and art (mostly created by Nicolas). The 10-course tasting menu (140,000 COP or about US$45) changes weekly. The best dish we had was salad of madelined apple and beet rounds, caramelized sunflower seeds and a praline made from goat cheese whey which was grainy and umami, and not sweet). The overall effect was that of a sophisticated Waldorf salad: crunchy, tart, gooey, crip with a kick from some unseen spice. Just excellent. The homemade sourdough bread course comes with a swoosh of fermented black garlic butter which we still dream about (this dish is always on the menu). On the other hand, the shrimp tartare with miso paste and tart lulo fruit was excellent tasting, but it had such an uncomfortable texture that Karen couldn’t finish it. A suckling pig course was weirdly tasteless. And a large ravioli was so undercooked that the edges were almost too hard to chew. No alcohol pairings are offered, but there is a wine and cocktail menu to order from. Reservations required and here’s an insider tip: don’t opt for the last seating of the night. Staff members were scouring the kitchen and spraying cleaning fluid all over the place before we’d even finished our meal. If you want to see the plating process and talk to the young and international staff, ask to sit at the bar facing the final prep area on the third floor.
Chef Rafael Osterling has a namesake restaurant in Lima, Peru (which we loved) and in Zona G in Bogotá where our meal began with warm and legit housemade breads including brioche, focaccia, and wheat bread served with butter and spiced oil. From there we dove into dishes like octopus and clam tiradito featuring three perfect sweet clams on thick-sliced tender octopus with a swoosh of creamy avocado to balance the miso and chili broth. Mini raviolis were incredibly thin and tender and filled with spinach puree and rabbit in a cremini mushroom sauce (there are two cooks in the kitchen devoted solely to pastas). Everything is served in a flawlessly cosmopolitan setting with great music (Nina Simone, Aretha, Macy Gray, Lauren Hill) and there’s also a menu of cocktails that are as creative and delicious as the food. Try the Pink Panther with Bulldog, Campari, and Vermouth Mancino.
There’s nothing else in the city quite like this European style bistro on Calle 65. Colombian/Lithuanian chef Andrius Didziulis dropped out of Le Cordon Bleu in London in favor of kitchen experience all around Europe (including The Square in London which has a Michelin star). Back home in Colombia, Andrius is in the kitchen of his own place. The space is lovely with lots of plants, a large skylight over the welcoming bar, and a blues soundtrack. The menu changes monthly, but pay attention to daily specials too like rich, deeply umami beef tartare mixed with herbs and fermented mushrooms and topped with thinly sliced radish and shaved parmesan and served with sourdough bread. A dish of two huge sweet and tender prawns (Andrius says he buys most of the fresh prawn in the city) cooked with heads and shell and served over a generous pool of butter, olive oil, and chili oil was deeply red and fragrant with spicy heat and a rich smokiness. Desserts are standouts too, so save some room.
They make their own buns, which are toasted before serving for the right crispy/tender ratio, and sandwich fillings include burgers, schnitzel (chicken or tilapia), and rotating specials (don’t miss the best falafel balls we’ve had in years) which are all cooked to order (12,000 COP to 20,000 COP or about US$4 to US$6). Add in fresh fried native potatoes, cold craft beer, and indoor/outdoor seating and this place, located in the Quinta Comacho neighborhood, is a great find for good cheap eats.
Bring friends and share the huge plates at this latest opening from Colombia’s first celebrity chef, Harry Sasson. Harry’s Zona T place is named for his grandfather and it’s decorated with black and white family photos which give Nemo the welcoming look and feel of a slick Italian trattoria. The menu is meat and fish based (39,000 COP to 130,000 COP or about US$11 to US$40) and most items are cooked in a special oven and grill imported from Spain that cooks with live fire. Appetizers include many options like tender octopus tacos and a hummus trio, including hot pink beet hummus, pumpkin hummus, and heart of palm hummus, served with homemade pita bread. The Angus NY strip steak was cooked perfectly medium-rare and juicy with crispy fat. The light, flaky, and flavorful grouper cooked in a skillet with pesto was the best fish we’ve had in years. House cocktails are wonderful (try the Bourbon Smoke which is dramatically finished table-side) and Nemo also offers the best wine selection in Bogotá with dozens of bottles by the 1/4, 1/2, or full bottle at excellent prices.
Somehow chef Felipe Arizabaleta has done it again. The man (along with his talented wife) behind Bogotá city icons Bruto, Bistro El Bandido and Bar Enano opened this Mediterranean inspired place in the Quinta Camacho area and it quickly became another go-to spot for locals looking for a cool place for a drink or dishes like lamb kefta, arancini, grilled octopus, a wide range of pizzas, or a platter with hummus, babaganoush, and taboule.
This veg and vegan haven near Zona G is the brainchild of Colombian Angelica Bernal who studied at the Natural Gourmet Institute vegetarian cooking school in New York City and worked at Dirt Candy and ABC Kitchen in the city as well. She is vegetarian, but says she created Casa Lelyte to be a “veg restaurant for non-veg people”. The gyozas at Casa Lelyte, filled with rich chopped and cooked mixed mushrooms and sprinkled with Japanese seasoning and truffles, are a good example of her success. They were so satisfying that we wanted a second plate and we never missed the pork. Around 70% of her ingredients are organic and are sourced from nearby farms and purveyors and her cocktail menu was developed by local bar superstar Ronnie Schneider (and served with paper straws made in Medellin). Insider tip: there are four arty chic rooms above the restaurant in the boutique hotel of the same name.
This food court on Calle 67 in Chapinero brings together a wide range of eating and drinking options including coffee, ice cream, stuffed buns, fresh juice, craft beer, thin crust pizza, cakes, and more. At La Coa Barbecue you can get a legit pulled pork sandwich with fries and a beer (or other beverage) for 25,000 COP (about US$8) or a tender rib with corn bread, fries, and a beer (or other beverage) for 35,000 COP (about US$11). Patrimonio Cantina has a very generous happy hour from 4 pm to 8:30 pm including two martinis for 25,000 COP (about US$8).
The folks behind iconic but now closed El Ciervo y El Oso restaurant recently downsized to this tiny taco place in the Quinta Camacho neighborhood. Tender flour tortillas are sparingly filled with rich conchinita pibil, somewhat bland mole chicken (really just diced chicken with a runny mole sauce on top), shrimp, chipolines (grasshoppers), vegetarian eggplant pibil, and chicharron (about 17,000 COP or about US$5 for a plate of three tacos). You can also order a variety of quesadillas and Mexican style corn on the cob. Portions are not very big, so think of this as a snack, not a meal. And be aware that Cantina y Punto still makes the best tacos in town.
Colombian chef Daniel Castaño’s mini-empire keeps growing with creations like Gordo and Julia Pizzeria opening up across the city and the addition of new concepts like a greek place called Lorenzo. Even the closing of his flagship Italian restaurant Emilia Romagna (due to sky-rocketing rent) hasn’t slowed him down. In its place, Daniel opened Emilia Grace (named for his daughter) on Calle 65 as a simpler but no less authentic offering (Daniel did work for Mario Batali after all). Our caprese Vera starter was a ball of mozzarella doused in pesto sauce next to a sweet stewed tomato. The remains were so delicious that we ordered some bread, which is baked to order, to sop up the sauce. Homemade pappardelle with bolognese was tender, rich, and smoky. Tortelli stuffed with pork delivered light packets of pasta with a nearly confit filling. Reservations recommended.
This 30-seat place in the La Magdalena neighborhood may look a bit like a diner, but the kitchen is far more ambitious than that. Chef-owner Alex Salgado wants to celebrate, foster, rescue, and promote regional ingredients and techniques from around Colombia with an emphasis on coastal regions and the Amazon. Look forward to creative and delicious uses of ingredients like paiche fish from the Amazon, handmade spicy and umami tucupi sauce, fermented viche, all kinds of roots, fruits, herbs, and all three types of coconut available in Colombia. Alex has also brought home food influences from his travels in Asia, including a very banh mi sandwich. Vegan and vegetarian items are on the menu too.
We were the very first customers at this budget-friendly taco joint on restaurant-packed Calle 65 between the Chapinero and Zona G neighborhoods. On the surface, Detaco, named for a Colombian colloquialism that means “quickly”, is a fast and economical place to get food made with a focus on quality. The Venezuelan chef and his tiny team make their own tortillas and chicken, mushroom, tofu, carnitas and cochinita tacos are offered at between 6,000 COP and 15,000 COP (about US$2 to US$4) for a plate of three. But to backer Michelangelo Cestari, who’s worked at big-name restaurants like Noma and Gustu, Detaco is also the first of what he hopes will be a small army of restaurants that can be opened using the Detaco template to enable emerging chefs to work without a massive investment and to enable cash-strapped locals to eat well on a budget.
There’s an outpost of this cafe/bakery in nearly every neighborhood of the city and the Masa menu of pastries, coffee, sandwiches, and build-your-own salads is a reliable way to satisfy your need for a sweet snack or a tasty lunch.
This place is near Rio Frio (about two hours drive from Bogotá), but it’s worth the trip. All week farmer Michel Pineda and his family run the 220 acre (90 hectare) organic and sustainable Deveras Farm which supplies products to many of the chefs cited above. On Sundays, however, they offer lunch and farm tours (about US$19 per person). The goal is for the farm to produce at least 80% of the ingredients that are served for lunch which typically includes dishes like farm-raised lamb brined for two days and slow cooked for eight hours, mashed potatoes, grilled vegetable salad, and tart-sweet rhubarb crumble. Reservations required.
A few disappointments
This all tasting menu restaurant in Zona G has been in business for years. And it shows. Our 11-course lunch was peppered with dated elements and downright gimmicks like tablet towels that unfurled when doused with heavily scented water. A bunelo came cooked and served on the end of a branch. The massive chairs looked like they were left over from a stage production of Alice in Wonderland and were too short for the table. The sauce on one dish was so citrusy that it hurt. At one point we were washing our hands in warm white chocolate. Dry ice was placed in the middle of our table. And there were way too many photos of chef Juan Manuel who is not usually in the kitchen here or in his Medellin or Miami restaurants either.
This place has a very cool vibe and is gorgeous to look at, but waiters did not put anything interesting down on the table.
We were excited to check out the more casual, less expensive offering from the Rausch brothers because we’d enjoyed our meal at their flagship restaurant Criterion. Sadly, our meal at Local was disappointing too with poor service and unremarkable food.
Here’s more about travel in Colombia