Arguably, Bogota’s best attribute is its expansive selection of unexpectedly enchanting dining establishments. Others may argue that other characteristics deserve that title … its charming people, its wide variety of delicious subtropical fruits, its coffee shops, the prominent mountains that form a distant wall around the city … but in my humble opinion, the restaurants are the hands down winner.
Below are a few options in Colombia’s capital city waiting to delight your senses.
To start the day off on the right foot, visit Abasto in Usaquén district for an amazing weekend brunch. (Preferably on a Sunday; Saturdays are usually quite packed, as this place is not exactly a well-kept secret.) You’ll be charmed the moment you walk in the door, by the cozy Colombian country-style décor, the tempting baked goods placed strategically near the entrance to keep starvation at bay should a table not be immediately available, and the decadent scents wafting from the kitchen, which can immediately be glimpsed through a large open window by the entry. You may see bakers preparing the thickest pancakes you’ve ever seen in your life, or arepas crowned with any number of toppings, or waiters may be bringing out trays of freshly squeezed juice or steaming coffee.
Abasto is furnished with an eclectic mix of wooden tables – as far as I could tell, no two are the same. My favorite is the big wooden table in the back room, where you’ll be surrounded by baskets of fruits and vegetables and shelves of wine, journals, salt and pepper shakers, jars of dates and other such items available for purchase. Once you’re seated, you’ll be faced with the difficult decision of what to order. You can’t go wrong with anything, really – all of Abasto’s dishes are prepared with fresh, natural, locally sourced ingredients and are without exception mouthwateringly delicious – but my personal recommendation is a glass of granadilla juice, fruit salad, huevos rancheros, and if you’re really hungry, accompany all of that with a cheese-topped arepa or one of the raspberry crumbles sitting enticingly on the counter. Then, wash it all down with locally-sourced coffee, or a beautiful aromatica (similar to a tea, but prepared with dried fruits rather than tea leaves.)
To walk off some of those calories, take a stroll afterward through the neighborhood before heading off to your next destination.
If your appetite returns in time for lunch, head to Restaurante Casa at Carrera 13 # 85-24 for a fresh and delicious Mediterrean meal. This is a very pretty part of town, on a street lined with other restaurants and a few classy bars. If it’s a nice day, you can eat outside in the small back courtyard, under leafy oak trees. If it’s not a nice day, and you’re lucky, you’ll get the table inside next to the fireplace.
The juices here are too good to miss, and as beautifully presented as any cocktail. Try the maracuya con menta (passionfruit with mint.) Unusual combination, but it works. If you like seafood, the grouper and avocado appetizer doubles very well as a light meal, or if you’re hungrier, the sea bass with quinoa will delight your tastebuds and fill your belly. If that’s not enough, the French fries here are also sublime. And you should save room for at least a bite of the apple crumble with vanilla ice cream – although I bet you won’t be able to have just one bite.
Another lunch option, if you are really hungry and in the mood for traditional Colombian dishes, is Club Colombia. Like Casa, it was formerly a house, and this restaurant still exudes the serene feeling of a stately older home, with its polished wooden floors, wide staircase and fireplaces. The impeccably dressed waiters seem to have stepped out of a time gone past.
Portions here are generous: a cup of ajiaco or sancocho with a side of empanadas is likely to fill you up.
For dinner, if you happen to be craving sushi or seafood, take a cab to Sushi Gozen. They have the best seaweed salad I’ve had in a long time, consistently fresh, well-prepared sushi and a magnificent seafood and rice platter.
For a unique beverage, try the Umeshu, a Japanese liquor with an unusual taste: complex and slightly sweet. The wine list offers plenty of options to please the palate, or choose a perfectly shaken caipirinha.
You can also find a very nice wine list and exquisite seafood – or meat – or vegetarian options – at Matiz, the perfect choice for a quiet, elegant meal. It could be romantic, but it doesn’t have to be.
THE AFTER PARTY
Finish the night by dancing off some of those calories at Andres. (Conveniently located downtown, it’s a smaller version of the original Andres in Chia … smaller, but just as much fun!) Along with live music and a fun-loving crowd, Andres has an enormous menu of scrumptious beers, cocktails, appetizers and full meals. The lulada is an irresistible concoction including aguardiente and lulo juice, guaranteed to put you in the mood to dance the night away!