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 simple or gourmet eatery. 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 COP$30,000 to COP$75,000 per plate at most high-end restaurants, and COP$5,000 to COP$12,000 for set-price menus at budget restaurants.
Other than the restaurants listed below, also plan on making a trip to Mercado Paloquemao ★ (www.plazadepaloquemao.com), at Av. 19 and Carrera 25, to taste native fruits like curuba and guanabana, and snack on crispy lechón (fried pork) or roasted big-butt Santander ants at the popular cluster of traditional food stalls. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 4:30am to 4:30pm and Sunday 5am to 2:30pm. It’s best to come early in the morning to see the most activity. As always in any busy marketplace, keep an eye on your belongings.
Bogotá in Chains
Bogotá is the headquarters of several major restaurant chains, some of the most successful in all of Latin America.
Wok: How could a restaurant chain focusing on the cuisines of Japan and southeast Asia be so Colombian? Well, they source their fish from artisanal fishing communities in the Pacific, support responsible farming practices, and have contributed to the sustainable development of many rural companies without increasing their prices dramatically. A model chain, Wok, was founded in 1998 and has more than a dozen locations around the capital, including in the Zona T and near the Museo Nacional.
Crepes & Waffles: Perhaps Colombia’s most famous restaurant chain, which now has branches around Latin America, Crepes & Waffles was created by a young university couple in the 1980s. It serves up savory crepes and desert waffles and crepes, as well as ice cream. Very admirably, it hires only female heads of households, essentially single mothers, as servers. With more than a dozen locations in Bogotá, the most convenient branches are in La Zona T, Usaquén, Parque de la 93, and Unicentro.
Juan Valdez Café: If there was one brand name synonymous with Colombia, it would be Juan Valdez, a fictional character that represents the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia. While they’ve been exporting coffee under the name since 1958, the first Juan Valdez Café, Colombia’s answer to Starbuck’s, opened in El Dorado airport in 2002. There are now branches all over Bogotá, all over Colombia, and in international destinations, including New York and Miami.
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 ★★, www.estacioncafecolombia.com, 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.
More progressive cafes and roasters that source directly from the farms and use pour-over methods are opening all over Bogotá. In the far north in Usaquén, there’s Catación Pública ★★, Calle 120a no. 3a–47 (www.catacionpublica.co; tel. 1/702-4943; daily 9am–7pm), has one of the most extensive selections of single origin coffees, including green coffees from 22 different provinces. Azahar ★★, in a repurposed shipping container at Carrera 14 no. 93a–48 (www.azaharcoffee.com; tel. 1/703-4799; Mon–Sat 7am–8pm and Sun 1pm–8pm) usually has three or four single origin coffees at a time, brewed in all of the hipster favorite equipment like a Chemex, Siphon, or Hario V60. They hold weekly public cuppings on Saturdays at 10am.
Inside the Hilton hotel, Devoción ★, Carrera 7 no. 72–41 (www.devocion.com; tel. 1/600-6100; daily 7am–9pm), resembles an 1890s New York pharmacy, but it serves 17 different varietals of Colombian coffee that they roast themselves and brew with all of the geekiest toys. They also have a cafe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Salvo Patria, Calle 54a no. 4–13 (www.salvopatria.com; tel. 1/702-6367; Mon–Sat noon–11pm), which has now grown into a restaurant too, is owned by Juan Ortiz, who spent 8 years in Australia and wanted to recreate the Melbourne-style coffee bar in Bogotá.
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.