Cartagena Restaurant Tips by richiecdisc Top 5 Page for this destination

Cartagena Restaurants: 75 reviews and 116 photos

the real McCoy in Cartagena: fruit drinks surpreme - Cartagena

the real McCoy in Cartagena: fruit drinks surpreme

Jugos Naturales: quite possibly the highlight even for me

One of the great things about all the amazing fruit is the preponderance of fruit juice vendors. They range from simple freshly squeezed varieties to those making more involved concoctions in blenders. There was a whole row of the latter along Avenida Daniel Lemaitre next to Parque del Centanario. Whenever you walked along this busy street, every one of them beckoned you in for one of their magic elixirs and at these prices we found ourselves stopping a few times a day. Rather than flutter from one to the next like a bee in search of better honey, we found one we liked and went back again and again. The others soon realized we were quite loyal to her and seemed to stop “bothering” us. Since we went so often, she always beamed as she saw us walking up. I guess we were like money in the bank, to the tune of three a day each!

Favorite Dish: Tomate de arbol (tree tomatoes) was our first favorite but once we got her to mix guanbanana with papaya, we stuck to that quite often. They do the drinks with either milk or water but we liked them with milk and of course, they put some sugar in the blender too. It's quite a concoction and we just let them do their thing. They sure seemed to know what they were doing!

The drinks were 2000 COP ($1) each but were quite large and she always gave us the rest of the blender which seemed like another whole drink each. It's no wonder we kept going back to her. When we had them in the evening, we thought they'd do much better if they sold them with rum so one night we brought some and they didn't seem to mind our self-mixing. We decided to get the juices take out and mix our cocktails at the hotel since they had s nice rooftop terrace.

Price Comparison: least expensive

Directions: There are many along Avenida Daniel Lemaitre

Price: less than US$10

Rating: 5

Theme: Street Vendor

Review Helpfulness: 4 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Nov 14, 2010
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Bourdain missed cerviche in the style of Cartagena - Cartagena

Bourdain missed cerviche in the style of Cartagena

Cocteleria La Jaibo: Bourdain missed the real cerviche of Cartagena

It was time to get back to eating with the less affluent locals and though we had cerviche that very day for lunch, we were somehow in the mood for it again that night. Okay, maybe that was because the portions were so small at upscale La Cevicheria. So, we decided to try one of the numerous places on the same row as the fruit drink vendors along Parque del Centenario. Since we had been frequently the same juice place for a few days it made the most sense to eat at their neighbor cerviche stand. This made it convenient to have out fruit drinks and this night we came equipped with a bottle of rum to “spruce” up our papaya/guanabanana smoothies.

Favorite Dish: This is an entirely different kind of cerviche and not just because it is bigger or better value, and not because the seafood is of any less quality. No, the quality was very high and as mentioned, it was a much bigger portion considering the price difference. What set it apart was the mixture. We had watched these master cerviche mixers a few times since we sat at the juice stand often during our Cartegena stay. These guys are like chemists adding their ingredients which from what we could see was vinegar, lime, and oddly enough cocktail sauce. It looked like the oddest concoction and while it was nothing like a traditional cerviche, it was very tasty nonetheless. I couldn't say it was better than a cerviche I would have in Lima but it was at least something authentic to here and I appreciated it a lot more because of that. Doreen had a medium one made with just shrimp for 6500 COP ($3.25) which was easily as big if not bigger than the one we had at La Cervicheria earlier in the day for a lot more. I had a large one made with both crab meat and shrimp for 11000 ($5.50) that was truly a meal in itself. It came with some simple saltine crackers which went very well with it. Even with four smoothies, our total bill came to 25000 COP ($12.50) and we left much more satisfied than we had earlier that day from La Cervicheria.

Price Comparison: less expensive than average

Directions: There are quite a few on La Avenida Daniel Lemaitre

Price: less than US$10

Rating: 5

Theme: Seafood

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Nov 11, 2010
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tasty juicy chicken & the "white" sauce - Cartagena

tasty juicy chicken & the "white" sauce

Pollo Tropical: Florida chicken, Colombian style?

Another American name-stealing place got our attention, Pollo Tropical. Hey, who knows, maybe the Florida chain stole their name from this little local Cartegena joint. No matter, it was certainly doing booming business the day we decided to stop in. It was not the rotisserie chicken we were craving but we'd already sat down and were a bit ashamed to admit our lack of chicken savvy. After the food came out, we were glad for our shy nature. It was excellent.

Favorite Dish: This place served grilled chicken and while it might sound dry compared to the rotisserie-variety, it was in no way dry in the least. Out came a very juicy, succulent bird. It came with potato salad which we had learned earlier on our trip was just cold baked potatoes. There was a small side of a garlic sauce that was delicious. So, we ordered another potato salad with more of the sauce. Unfortunately, it was something better left to small portions as it made us both incredibly thirsty and we both smelled like garlic even the next morning! We both had decent fresh jugos though nothing compared to the ones we had been getting on juice row just up the street.

Our bill came to 17000 COP ($8.50) for the good sized shared meal and two drinks.

Price Comparison: least expensive

Directions: On Avenida Venezuela.

Price: less than US$10

Rating: 5

Theme: Local

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Nov 7, 2010
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finally some coconut rice - Cartagena

finally some coconut rice

Deny's: not the real Denny's but still....

What trip to Cartegena would be complete without a stop at Denny's, right? Ok, it's not the Denny's of American breakfast dinner fame but it seems nonetheless popular with locals here. Actually, we were going back to check out a place that a restaurant tout had pulled us into the day before but we had already eaten so we promised to come back. We truly wanted to eat at Bocaditos Madrid just up the street but the very small and popular local hole-in-the-wall was always packed and we could not bear to try and squeeze in. It was again the case on this day and our tout was nowhere to be seen, his place not open on this particular day either. Since we'd already walked all the way here, Denny's looked good enough to try. It was all outside seating but under huge umbrellas so there was plenty of shade and even somewhat of a breeze. Service was very friendly and quick.

Favorite Dish: The meals were set and included a cold aqua panela, a brown sugar type beverage that was thirsty-quenching on this hot afternoon. We both went for fish options, one a coconut fish for 5500 COP ($2.75) and the other a whole fish in a tamarind sauce for 8000 COP ($4). Both came with coconut rice and a salad. It was certainly a more Caribbean-style place than most of what we found in town. I thought it was pretty good but D remained unimpressed with the Colombian fish scene.

Price Comparison: less expensive than average

Directions: On Calle Segunda del Badillo near Plaza Fernandez de Madrid in the San Diego part of the Old Town

Price: less than US$10

Rating: 4

Theme: Local

Review Helpfulness: 4 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Nov 7, 2010
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okay, not the healthiest but you're on vacation - Cartagena

okay, not the healthiest but you're on vacation

deep fried snack vendors: fry it up, they like fried foods

Though in the main touristy areas of Cartegena, it seems a bit squeaky clean compared to other large Colombian cities, once you get outside the walled old town, it is very much the typical crazy big South American city. Street vendors are everywhere and selling a huge variety of local snacks, many of them in the deep-fried vein. A particularly good spot was the corner of Avenida Venezuela and Avenida Luis Carlos Lopez. This is where the Monumento a la India Catalina is and pretty much what brought us up to this otherwise not super touristy area of town.

Favorite Dish: One of the tastiest ones we found were cheese-filled fried dough sticks. This were filled with a mozzarella-like stringy cheese and perfect as a morning or afternoon snack when they were their freshest. Prices seemed to vary but generally they were around 600 COP (30 cents) apiece.

Bunuelos are another deep-fried delicacy not to be missed though it is a bit of an acquired taste, especially in their most tangy form. These cheese-filled deep fried dough balls have a tart flavor in their most authentic incarnation but that could be a regional thing as in some cities they were more on the doughy side than cheesy one. They also vary in size quite a bit with very small ones going for 500 COP (25 cents) and larger ones around 1000 COP.

Price Comparison: least expensive

Directions: Best spot we found was the corner of Avenida Venezuela and Avenida Luis Carlos Lopez where the Monumento a la India Catalina is located.

Price: less than US$10

Rating: 5

Theme: Street Vendor

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Nov 7, 2010
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thirst quenching limonda - Cartagena

thirst quenching limonda

limonada vendors: limonada beats coke any day

Staying hydrated in a hot town like Cartegena is super important but it's not something you have to plan ahead for in any way. There are lots of beverage options as you walk around its charming streets. Vendors abound with lots of cheap options and there's no need to take refuge in a Coca Cola when there are so many less expensive, more authentic local choices.

Favorite Dish: One of the best is limonada. This is a refreshing lime-ade much like lemonade but with a slightly more tart flavor. It still has some sugar and obviously lots of water. You'll see it in fish tank type class containers with huge chunks of ice floating around in it but don't fret about the hygienic condition of either the water or ice. Both seem to be perfectly safe and after drinking tons of the stuff, neither my wife nor I had any ill effects. The come in different size cups and a large one shouldn't set you back more than 1000 COP (50 cents). There is also an orange version of this which is not quite as good but good in a pinch or as a change up.

Price Comparison: least expensive

Directions: All over town so easier to find than coke too!

Price: less than US$10

Rating: 5

Theme: Street Vendor

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Nov 7, 2010
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the chocococo fria - Cartagena

the chocococo fria

Juan Valdez: our first brush with Mr. Valdez

This was our first brush with Mr. Juan Valdez and despite everyone complaining about it being a Starbucks clone with no local flavor, we quite liked our first impression of the place. It didn't hurt that we hadn't had a good cup of java since Tunja, about a week earlier! First things first. The place is ice cold and in Cartegena, that's a big plus if you're walking around during the day. There is an armed guard making sure no one bothers you for a handout since you are spending more on a coffee than many people do on a full meal.

Favorite Dish: Since it was so hot out we both went for an iced coffee and though I tend to like my coffee bitter, there was something intriguing about a coffee laced with coconut and chocolate so two Choco Coco Frias it was. It was tasty and very refreshing but again such good things in life are not cheap. Our bill came to 12000 COP ($6) but must say it was a better deal than our meal at La Cervicheria and probably more filling too!

Price Comparison: more expensive than average

Directions: There are quite a few locations around Cartagena.

Price: less than US$10

Rating: 5

Theme: Coffeehouse

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Nov 7, 2010
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looks big with the zoom lens but.... - Cartagena

looks big with the zoom lens but....

La Cervicheria: never to be Bourdained again

This was the straw that broke the culinary camel's back. We were batting .500 on our splurge meals up to this point and on the sole power of Anthony Bourdain we decided to give one more place a shot. The tiny and admittedly very cool looking eatery was packed when we walked by but we managed to get a table fairly quickly since we wanted to sit inside while everyone else wanted to dine outside. Again, prices had us ready to stand up and leave but we ordered something small despite there not being any of the unusual ingredients mentioned in our guidebook in their cerviches. So much for mango, garlic butter and mozzarella.

Favorite Dish: We both ordered medium portions (16000 COP or $8) as it was about all we wanted to spend and rather than pay for very overpriced beers, we got very pricey mojitas. Hey, at least it was a crappy Colombian beer we had drank on many occasions at a fraction of the coast. The 10000 COP ($5) drinks were very good, strong and we soon forgot it was nearly half the price of a room in most Colombian towns but when the very cute cups of cerviche arrived, we knew a street vendor would have to fill our tummies when we left the obviously over-priced La Cervicheria. To be fair, it was a very good cerviche but it was nothing different than what you would get in Lima at a fraction of the price and let's not talk about how small it was again. Just know that it was small, especially for the price.

One problem with upscale eateries in Colombia is they add tax and tip on top of your bill while cheaper places have this built into their already economical prices. So, our bill came to a whopping 65000 COP ($32.50) for this “snack,” rather than the already inflated 52000 COP we were expecting. The tip/tax alone would be a fair meal in many Colombian eateries. One good thing about this place was it made us feel a lot better about our meal at La Casa de Socorro the night before! It was time to start eating with the less affluent locals again.

Address: Calle Stuart No. 7-14

Price Comparison: more expensive than average

Directions: In the quiet San Diego neighborhood, across from the most expensive hotel in town. I guess that should have given us a clue about its value quotient.

Price: US$21-30

Rating: 2

Theme: Seafood

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Nov 7, 2010
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a trendy decor for upscale Colombians - Cartagena

a trendy decor for upscale Colombians

Casa de Socorro: not quite up to expectations but interesting

We had such a great experience at La Mulata that we decided to give the even more upscale La Casa de Socorro a shot. It was on the “nicer” waterfront side of Getsamani so it looked from the map fairly close to our hotel but the walk there was through some dark and somewhat dodgy looking streets that had us questioning our sanity en route. Once there, it was hard to believe such a fancy looking place was at the end of this rainbow but of course the largely local and obviously well-to-do clientele had surely come in their equally nice cars. That aside, it was a very nice place and the service was exceptional but you do pay for such things in Colombia. We nearly walked out when we saw the prices but we'd come such a long way and it was late so we plunged in nevertheless.

Favorite Dish: We both ordered one of their signature meals, robalo (sea bass) smothered in garlic and cheese. It came with a nice salad, coconut rice and fried plaintains. The meal was plentiful as you would hope at these prices but overall we found everything a tad bland. While we had stopped expecting anything from cheese in Colombia, we figured something melted on fish would have some kind of flavor. While it was a pleasant experience despite the food, we decided this was one long walk we'd never make again.

Our bill came to 65000 COP ($32.50) including an added service charge and two Club Colombia beers.

Address: Calle Larga No. 88-12

Price Comparison: more expensive than average

Directions: On the outer edge of Getsemani near the water, probably best reached at night by cab though we walked.

Price: US$11-20

Rating: 3

Theme: Seafood

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Nov 7, 2010
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the well presented marinero - Cartagena

the well presented marinero

La Mulata: first step into trendy places goes well

Since Cartegena is Colombia's number one tourist destination, it should come as no surprise that it has the widest variety of restaurants to match. Though we ate many local foods while in town, we wanted to expand our horizons somewhat and tried a couple more upscale options. Some of these experiments had questionable results but others like La Mulata were quite good. This small stylish eatery was always packed with locals and tourists alike. Even though prices seemed to have risen a bit since our guidebook came out, their food quality was excellent and while the portions were not overly big, they were sufficient and the prices reasonable enough. The décor was a real departure from the cheapies we had eaten in throughout the first month of our trip and a bit of a welcome one for my wife who is always a great sport about my wanting to eat in what I find more authentic places. Of course, many local well-to-do Colombians eat in places very much like La Mulata too and it's nice to see another side of a country that has its share monied people.

Favorite Dish: Though we had planned on coming back, we only got to eat at La Mulata once. We both went for the Marinero for 9000 COP ($4.50). This creamy sauced conglomeration of seafood featured shrimp, fish, squid and scallops. It came with a nice salad, some fried plantains and finally some coconut rice. The meal was excellent and even better were the coco limonadas. This sourish fresh-squeezed lime drink had just the perfect addition of sweetish coconut milk to make it entirely refreshing. They were not cheap at 3000 COP ($1.50) but we never stopped thinking about them the rest of our trip and perhaps they were the main reason we wanted to go back. Our bill came to 24000 COP ($12) for the two beverages and two meals.

Address: Calle Quero No. 9-58

Price Comparison: less expensive than average

Directions: In the quiet San Diego area of town, a real find midday when the rest of the town is packed with cruise ship people.

Price: less than US$10

Rating: 5

Theme: Local

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Nov 7, 2010
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richiecdisc

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