advertisement

Even though Colombian food in itself is not exactly considered international fare, plenty of options in the city keep visitors happy. Bogotá is experiencing a culinary renaissance of sorts, with international and gourmet restaurants springing up all over the place, though there are still plenty of traditional (and cheap) joints where you can grab an almojabana (fried cheese-bread) or an empanada. Most exotic, innovative, and upscale restaurants are found in northern Bogotá, while hole-in-the wall eateries and set-menu spots are scattered throughout the center and La Candelaria. However, you will also find many atmospheric, bohemian restaurants in La Candelaria. For Bogotá's best restaurants, head to La Zona G, located between calles 69 and 72 and carreras 3 and 6. There are also excellent high-end choices in and around el Parque de la 93, La Zona T, and Usaquén. You can expect to pay COL$20,000 to COL$45,000 per plate at high-end restaurants, and COL$5,000 to COL$12,000 for set-price menus at budget restaurants.

Without exaggerating, Bogotá has tens of thousands of restaurants, so you can rest assured that you'll never be more than a few feet away from a local or gourmet eatery. However, because Bogotá restaurants open and close with great frequency, I've decided to include a few long-time staples below. In addition to those places, here are a few other good restaurant options. Leo Cocina y Cava, at Calle 27B no. 6-75 (tel. 1/286-7091), is considered the top Caribbean-inspired restaurant in Bogotá. It's open Monday to Saturday noon to 4pm and 7:30pm to midnight. For the best Italian food in town, head to Di Lucca, an intimate, two-story house next to the Zona T at Calle 13 no. 85-32 (tel. 1/256-3019). It's open Monday to Saturday 11am to midnight and Sunday noon to 10pm. For high-end Chinese food, head to Zhangs, in the Usaquén neighborhood, located at Calle 119 no. 7-08 (tel. 1/213-3979), open daily noon to midnight. Of course, any review of Bogotá restaurants wouldn't be complete without mentioning Crepes and Waffles, perhaps Colombia's most famous restaurant chain. Started by a young university couple in the '80s, Crepes and Waffles serves up spicy curry crepes, as well as delicious desert waffles and crepes, and ice cream and hires only single mothers as servers. With over a dozen locations in Bogotá, the most convenient branches are in La Zona T, Usaquén, Parque de la 93, and Unicentro.

Un Tinto (Y un biscocho), Por Favor

Colombia is one of the world's largest exporters of coffee, and its capital city makes New York's cafe scene look meager. Bogotanos love to take a break from their work day to enjoy a good cup of steaming coffee or hot chocolate, preferably with queso fresco or an almojabana (fried cheese-bread).

For one-of-a-kind cafes, head to La Candelaria, where the large student population drives the thriving cafe scene. Café Del Sol, Calle 14 no. 3-60 (tel. 315/335-8576; daily 8am-8:30pm), has a laid-back, collegial atmosphere and plays mostly chill-out '60s and '70s Spanish music. Enjoy reading the many patron-written poems tacked on the wall while sipping a decent cup of cappuccino or tinto. For a truly unique experience, head to Café de La Estación ★★, Calle 14 no. 5-14 (tel. 1/562-4080; Mon-Fri 7am-10pm, Sat 9am-8pm), a 120-year-old train car where everything but the wood floor is original. The wooden green windowpane, plaid curtain fringes, and many black-and-white pictures of turn-of-the-century Bogotá and Cartagena make you'll feel as if you've stepped back in time. (Though, unfortunately, one side of the cafe has views of an unattractive and definitively modern parking lot.) Café de La Estación is popular with businesspeople looking for an afternoon snack. Try the Chantilly hot chocolate or one of the delicious cheese platters while listening to tangos and old-time Colombian music. El Duende Café Arte, Carrera 3 no. 10-49 (tel. 1/281-8946; Mon-Thurs noon-11pm, Fri-Sat noon-midnight), is rumored to be haunted by a ghost and offers an impressive variety of coffee drinks and light fare; there are musical acts on Friday nights. Finally, to sample the Starbucks of Colombia, head to Juan Valdez, which serves up a wide variety of gourmet coffees and cappuccinos. My favorite locations are in the Museo Botero and the Zona G, Calle 70 no. 6-80 (tel. 1/217-7501). Oma is another popular coffee chain with great coffee, good food, and a pleasant ambience. Started by a paisa selling coffee on the street, several dozen Omas are now scattered throughout Bogotá (including the Zona T, Parque de la 93, Centro Andino, and Centro Internacional Baviaria).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.