A Neighborhood Guide to Bogotá’s Best Food
Homegrown and imported chefs are tapping into Colombia’s natural bounty to shape Latin America’s next great food city, its sprawling capital.
Photographs by Lauren Squire
Between the world-class coffee farms and access to rare Andean produce and spices, Bogotá has long been on the verge of culinary greatness. But, it took a national peace agreement cemented in 2016 to draw the kind of attention and spending that could sustain a top-notch dining scene. Now, with all the pieces in place, chefs are starting to have fun with menus that reinvent Colombian classics and unpretentious cocktail bars where Amazonian herbs are the stars. There’s no limit to what your taste buds can explore in this high-elevation city.
To get an overview of all the food scene has to offer, it helps to get a lay of the land. In Bogotá, neighborhoods are divided into zones. So here’s a complete rundown of the prime places to go, starting from the northernmost hub of Usaquen straight down to the historic center. Keep in mind that all the action occurs east of the Andes range — known locally as “Los Cerros Orientales.”
Usaquen: A small-town vibe with big-city bites
Once a tiny 16th-century town until it was absorbed by the city in the 1950s, this area possesses cool factor and charm in equal measure. Amid tons of antique shops, artisan-driven boutiques, and homey eateries, you’ll also find hot restaurants, like Julia, known for its crispy Neapolitan-style pizzas; the lauded Rausch brothers’ Bistronomy; and Peruvian favorite La Mar, which some have said has the best seafood in the city. A couple blocks from the flurry of activity, Abasto, located on the quiet Carrera 6, serves a modernized (but certainly not watered-down) take on Colombian staples like migas (eggs scrambled with arepa crumble and a traditional salsa called hogao) for weekend brunch. Nearby, Catación Pública treats its coffee like wine with barista-led tastings of sustainable brews sourced from the country’s 500-plus bean-growing regions. If it’s Sunday, be sure to swing by the legendary Mercado de Las Pulgas, a market known for its mobile microbreweries, handmade sweets, and artisan goods. The new Boho Food Market has a similar assortment with a focus on up-and-coming makers and restaurateurs.
Parque 93: A posh urban oasis with global cuisine
Anchored by its namesake park, Parque 93’s establishments lean high-end and hip. Start at Azahar Café 93, a hub for the city’s supercharged cycling scene (on Sundays, major roads all over town are closed to traffic but open to bicyclists). With its plant-filled, glassed-in interiors and its very own small-plot beans, the café is part of a growing group changing how Colombians view and drink craft coffee. Parque 93’s mix of international influences also means you can practically travel the world within a few blocks. The brand-new Bombay Lounge is making waves for its transportative Eastern decor and Indian vegetarian fare (you won’t find much of that in this carnivorous country). Greek and Lebanese flavors shine through at Juana La Loca, designed by respected Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld. Tremenda Sal y Dulce’s chef picked up a blend of home-cooking tips while living in the Middle East, Australia, and Vancouver. These show up in dishes like the red lentil soup and sumac-crusted salmon. The desserts skew French, but with tropical flair (the coconut eclairs with passion fruit are addicting).
Chapinero: Trendy zip code with award-winning restaurants
Past the uber-popular Zona Rosa shopping district, you’ll discover where the locals hang: Chapinero, divided into Chapinero Alto and Chapinero Bajo, where all the cool kids live and play; and Zona G, so named for its concentration of highly regarded restaurants like El Chato, recognized as one of Latin America’s 50 best restaurants in 2018. The dining options in this area are exhaustive. Book a table at the sleek Cantina y Punto. Mexican chef Roberto Ruiz planted the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Europe, and now he’s making his mark on Bogotá, previously starved for good Mexican fare. For something sweet, nearby Grazia has delectable tortes and bonbons conceived by a pastry chef who worked for Daniel Boulud. In Chapinero Alto, check out places like Mini-Mal, whose innovative chefs travel the country looking for endangered recipes and ingredients; and Taller de Té, a Scandi-meets-mid-century lounge. Further south, young and old converge at Varietale, where beans are roasted on the spot and the back patio feels like being on an actual coffee farm. Finally, one of the city’s most lauded chefs, Leonor Espinosa, has her outpost Misia, the more approachable, affordable version of her famed Leo Cocina y Cava, and serves up creative takes on Afro-Colombian recipes.
Nogal and Quinta Camacho: Under-the-radar enclaves with cool bars
These little clusters either side of Zona G are barely big enough to be considered neighborhoods, but are worth exploring for the heavy concentration of chic spots. In Nogal, go for an afternoon snack at the architect-designed Masa. The owner sisters crank out healthy-ish frittatas, spinach muffins, and arequipe doughnuts baked fresh every day. Later in the night, walk past the chitchatters surrounding the bar at Bistro el Bandido and head to the back, where a small door leads to a hidden cocktail den called Bar Enano. The vibe is all retro-sauve with leather booths, vintage Playboy magazines, and Don Draper-inspired drinks. And if you feel like slumming it, hit up Frank Food Truck to try a Colombian-style hot dog topped with melted cheese and crushed-up chips.
In Quinta Camacho, about two city blocks from Zona G, young entrepreneurs have repurposed historic homes to create bars and restaurants that have garnered a devoted local following. Get a taste for Bogotá’s artisanal beer culture at El Mono Bandido. Its labyrinth of rooms lead to several taps, where servers dole out Belgian beers and ales from Colombian beermakers. Around the corner, Huerta Bar Coctelería Artesanal is sure to impress with its second-floor spread decked out with neon lights and a living wall from which bartenders pluck herbs for drinks. Restaurante Nueve doesn’t make the top-anything lists, but that’s just because locals keep it close to the chest. Sharing a space with a whiskey joint called 8ycuarto and an upstairs bakery, the wine bar has no visible sign and only about 30 seats.
El Centro: A historic area with authentic eats
Downtown Bogotá can be overwhelming with its packed roads, camera-toting tourists, and shouting street vendors, but it’s worth it (especially if you go early in the week when you can usually miss the crowds) in exchange for finding the city’s most traditional dishes. Locals might take out-of-towners for homestyle tamales at La Puerta Falsa, which has been owned by the same family since 1816. Others vouch for Doña Elvira as the closest you’ll come to eating at a Colombian grandmother’s house. Bohemians still gather at cafés in the La Macarena neighborhood to discuss lit and politics (eavesdrop at Luvina Librería Café), streets remain free of heavy traffic, and hole-in-the-wall eateries dot historic residential streets.
Like most Latin American countries, Colombia was settled by the Spanish, and those roots are on display at La Tapería, a pintxos spot with a robust wine list and artsy atmosphere. For a healthy lunch, Azimos has a market with artisanal foodstuff, a bakery with gluten-free treats, and a veggie-forward restaurant in the back. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Lachoco Latera Chocolatería. The owner is working to bring the same kind of attention that coffee beans get to the region’s glorious cacao crops. It won’t be long before you’re preaching Bogotá’s culinary virtues, too.
About the author: Stephanie Granada is a Colombian-American freelance writer, who splits her time between Florida and Colorado. She’s into books, her dog, all things ocean-related, and small towns. You can also find her work in Sunset, Woman’s Day, National Geographic Traveler, and Southern Living.