I know that when I travel, one of the allures is getting the chance to treat myself to some good eating. As tourism continues to grow in Colombia, it’s no surprise that Cartagena, the country’s prime vacation destination, is increasingly becoming a foodie destination.
This is great since I live here and get to try all the new places opening up that feature both local and international cuisine. However, it’s also great for visitors to the city, who in addition to enjoying the Caribbean sunshine and Cartagena’s colonial charm can also enjoy the amazing food on offer.
There is an entire range of dining options in Cartagena, from cheaper, local haunts to internationally distinguished fine dining. Cartagena’s blend of Afro-Caribbean, Spanish, and Indigenous cultural traditions means a mix of great food.
Here are some recommended restaurants to try during your visit to Cartagena, Colombia:
Get Coffee, Breakfast, or Brunch at Época
I imagine when you think of Colombia, the first thing that pops into your head is coffee. Época certainly serves up some terrific, Colombian coffee, all of which is sourced from 8 small farms. One of the cool things is they serve up a variety of preparations, from classic drip, to French press, to espresso. The great coffee is reason enough to stop in and enjoy a cup Colombia’s most famous export.
However, Época is more than just a high end coffee shop. They do a great brunch with classic breakfast style foods and even chicken and waffles and the famous (or infamous) avocado toast! And, oh yea, they also have 3×2 mimosas.
If you’re not a breakfast person, then Época also has a variety of great sandwiches. My wife Susana loves their calamari poboy. While it may be the coffee that draws you in, the complete breakfast and lunch menu, not to mention a full bar, might keep you coming back to Época throughout the day during your visit to Cartagena.
Try the Local, Fresh Fare at La Mulata
While brunch might be more of a foreigner thing, the food served up at La Mulata shows off classic, local Cartagena cuisine. I recommend checking out their original location on Calle Quero, where there is a rotating menu every day, although the smaller, set menu at their newer location by Exito San Diego is also good.
La Mulata is the perfect opportunity to grab a lunch and try some of Cartagena’s traditional foods, at reasonable prices. Truthfully, everything is good here and well presented. While you can’t go wrong, I’d recommend trying the camarones al ajillo (shrimp in a garlic, butter, and white wine sauce), the cazuela de mariscos (seafood stew), or the posta negra (a local preparation of beef roast).
Best of all, all the dishes at La Mulata come with a delicious fish soup starter! I also highly recommend trying their delicious and creamy limonada de coco (coconut limeade).
Grab Some Delicious Ceviche at La Cevichería
Made famous after being featured by Anthony Bourdain, La Cevichería is one of Cartagena’s most popular spots. The fame is well deserved, as the ceviche here is absolutely terrific!
Personally, I like the traditional with lime juice, onion, and cilantro, but there are also Peruvian style, and Caribbean style, with coconut milk, ceviches on offer.
If you’re not a fan of ceviche, the warm plates on offer are also terrific, including some fabulous seafood paellas. In fact, we’ve been known to get a ceviche starter and a paella main course. La Cevichería also serves up some great mojitos, and their homemade hot sauce is absolutely banging (warning: it is very spicy).
Prone to crowds, you may have to wait a little while for a table at dinnertime, but you can often walk in and be seated right away if you opt for a late lunch or late afternoon snack. Try to go for the curbside tables.
Enjoy the Sunset and Stay for the Terrific Seafood at Club de Pesca
Located next to the marina on Cartagena’s bay in Manga, Club de Pesca has a gorgeous view over the bay. That makes it one of the best places to get sunset drinks in Cartagena.
However, do yourself the favor and stick around after the sunset for the amazing seafood at Club de Pesca. All of it is super fresh and delicious!
Built on the corner of a colonial era fort, there is often also live music and the outdoor waterside seating makes for a great atmosphere.
It can get crowded and there are sometimes events, so it’s probably worth calling ahead to make a reservation. If you plan on going as a couple, ask for one of the terrific, private feeling tables set into the old cannon slots right on the water!
Enjoy the French Inspired Food in the Romantic Garden of 1621
Located in the courtyard garden of the former convent of the Santa Clara Hotel, Restaurant 1621 is one of Cartagena’s premier fine dining spots. It also is one of the best places for a romantic dinner in Cartagena.
It is actually where I proposed to my wife. However, beyond the gorgeous atmosphere, the food is terrific. Serving up a fusion of dishes inspired by local and French traditions, you can count on everything here being flavorful and well thought out.
If you want to make sure you get one of the limited seats in the garden, be sure to make a reservation before hand. The exclusive and beautiful setting, terrific service, and great food makes it one of the very best culinary experiences in Cartagena.
Get Dessert at Mila’s
Pasterlería Mila, located in the colonial walled city near the cathedral does have a small bistro style menu, but what they are really famous for is their awesome desserts.
They have some terrific brownies, cupcakes, cookies, pastries, and cakes on offer. My personal favorites are the brownies with the golden icing drops on top. If you’re a cheesecake lover, Mila is also one of the only places in Cartagena that serves cheesecake.
If you’ve managed to save room for dessert after all the other good eating you’ve done, or if you need to come back another day solely for dessert and coffee, Mila is definitely worth a visit while in Cartagena.
Bio: Adam McConnaughhay
Adam McConnaughhay came to Cartagena as a volunteer English teacher in 2011. He both figuratively and literally fell in love, and continues to live in Cartagena with his beautiful wife Susana today. In the summer of 2018, he started writing on Cartagena to share his love of this wonderful city and growing destination. You can find him at Cartagena Explorer or follow him on Twitter at CtgExplorer
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