Traditional Colombian Food
Traditional Colombian food, especially here in Medellin, is known to be delicious but relatively heavy - many things are fried and there is a clear lack of green vegetables.
The most traditional dish of the Antioquia region is the Bandeja Paisa (the “Paisa Platter”) – a hearty mix of white rice, red beans, shredded meat, chicharrón (pork rind), chorizo, morcilla (black pudding), fried egg, avocado, arepa and plantain. It is thought that the Bandeja Paisa is a modern interpretation of the peasant food, food designed to fill the stomach and give energy to those working in the fields.
The best place to try a reasonably priced bandeja paisa is a local restaurant called La Casa de Beto, on the corner of Calle 10 and Carrera 42 just 1 block below Toucan Spanish School. As well as the bandeja paisa they also have a daily lunch special for under 11,000 COP which is also great value.
Another traditional dish is the Ajiaco a type of chicken, corn and potato soup which comes accompanied with a plate of rice, avocado, arepa, some capers, a dish of cream and a banana. You can add some or all of the side dishes into the soup, there’s no rule. Our favourite restaurant for ajiaco is 3 Tipicos which is about 5 minutes walk from Parque Lleras on the corner of Carrera 34 and Calle 7. Unless you’re really hungry we recommend you order the medium size version which is about 20,000 COP.
Another really traditional dish is Mondongo – a type of tripe soup with lots of vegetables and coriander. It often comes with a side plate of rice, ground meat, avocado, coriander, banana and of course the arepa, you can choose what you want to add to the soup or eat separately. In Medellin there is a famous restaurant named after the famous soup and is our recommendation if you wish to try this specialty. Restaurant Mondongos is on Calle 10 you can't miss them (they also have a branch in Miami serving Colombians missing the taste of home). We recommend you stave yourself before going as the portions are huge. If you’re not keen to try the Mondongo they also do a “plato tipico” which is similar to the bandeja paisa.
Another popular restaurant for a fantastic taste of traditional Colombian food is Ajiacos y Mondongos. Located on Calle 8 not far from Parque Poblado it’s a pretty small restaurant that fill up quickly at lunchtime. Loads of photos on the wall would suggest this place is famous locally amongst Colombians. Portion sizes are smaller than other restaurants so its a good option if you don't want to overeat.
The main staple food of the Paisas (people from this region) is the Arepa. The arepa is a type of corn bread and comes in various forms and sizes. If you’re eating at a local restaurant it’s guaranteed they’ll serve you one with your meal. Described by many foreigners as having the same qualities as cardboard the secret is to eat the arepa in conjunction with whatever else is sitting on your plate. However not all arepas are boring and tasteless. If you get the chance you have to try an “arepa chocolo” for breakfast, these one’s are made from sweet corn and are served with a slice of soft white cheese. Much nicer. If you’re looking for a quick hunger fix you can find an “arepa con queso” on most busy streets.
Another local specialty is the Chicharrón a type of deep fried pork rind. Probably ranks as the most unhealthy Colombian food available, however the flavor is delicious and definitely worth trying. Some of the best chicharróns can be found at restaurant Doña Gloria in Envigado to the south of Medellin, worth the journey (20 mins in taxi from Poblado). Speaking of unhealthy foods the staple diet of many hard working Colombians is the empanada, a deep fried fast food snack filled with meat or potato. The most famous empanandas in Medellin can be found at El Machetico a small hole in the wall on Calle 9, just off Parque Lleras.
If you love seafood and want a taste of the best Colombian Seafood the choice is obvious. La Niña Juani has been serving the best Costeño food in Medellin for several years now. Best to go for a big lunch, as dinner is a limited menu.
Nearly all restaurants in Medellin (except the expensive ones) have a daily lunch special called the "Ejecutivo" or "Menu del Dia". It usually comes with a soup, main meal and juice and costs around 10,000 to 12,000 COP.
This traditional Colombian set lunch will keep you full for hours, without breaking the bank.