Salento is undoubtedly the most popular destination in the coffee region of the Colombian Andes. As a result, there is no shortage of food options around town. Whether you’re needing a huge meal to replenish your energy after hiking the beautiful Valle de Cocora or perhaps you’re searching for a quick snack to keep you going as you do some shopping around this chill town – you might as well eat the best! Here are our picks for best food in Salento.
Donde Laurita – The Bandeja Paisa
This rad little place is filled with vintage furniture, vinyl records on the wall and antique phones hanging on the shelves. The eclectic surroundings suggest that it’s dressed up for tourists. However, they’re certainly not overcompensating on quality – the food is outstanding. It’s a pricier spot than others in town but it’s also the most like a real restaurant that we encountered, at least when it comes to service, but it was the food that really stood out. Huge portions of typical Colombia fare, all incredibly well done.
We stopped at Donde Laurita after returning from the Cocora Valley hike. Famished, we ordered their epic Bandeja Paisa and were more than happy to pay 22,000 for the delicious platter of awesome. Considering the meal was large enough to feed us both, the price was totally worth it.
El Rincon de Lucy – Few Choices, All Good
This one should be no surprise to anyone who’s spent any time checking out where to eat in Salento. El Ricon de Lucy ranks high on every list, for good reason. Not only one of the simplest concepts of any restaurant we’ve visited in Colombia, but also some of the tastiest and cheapest. It’s without a doubt our favourite spot in town.
You grab a seat at one of the five or six tables and the server comes to take your order, without a menu. You’re simply given a few choices. First, you pick your meat – pork, chicken or trout. Next, your sides – mashed potatoes, vegetables, beans or lentils. With the sides, you can mix and match a little. That’s it, now you wait.
Within a couple of minutes, your feast arrives. Along with the choices you made, your meal comes with an arepa, corn fritter, fried plantain, salad, soup of the day and a cool glass of juice. All of it absolutely delicious. This is truly one of the best Salento restaurants.
The whole thing costs 8,000 COP or roughly $3 USD.
Shalem – Incredible, Local Trout
The restaurant has a similar selection to others around town in regards to local dishes but we came here for one thing in particular. As mentioned in our Jardin post, this region of the country is known not only for their coffee but also the delicious river trout.
We’d been asking around as to where the best restaurant in Salento to enjoy this treat and Shalem seemed to be the spot. After ordering the food, we sat there sipping our beer while pan-flute covers of 80’s power ballads played in the background.
Soon, our meal arrived and our expectations were more than met. The fish was cooked perfectly, pan seared and basted with a plentiful amount of garlic butter. Along with the trout came a giant, crispy fried plantain chip and a nice salad to cut through the richness.
For 18,000 pesos, it was a perfect lunch.
Le K’fee – The Best Cafe in Salento
Seeing as this is where coffee comes from, a cafe needs to be on this list. Not only is this possibly the chillest coffee shop, but also the best vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Salento.
While the prices are a little steep for the budget traveller, they offer some outstanding dishes. From staples such as avocado toast to incredible salad bowls and gluten free deserts. If you’re a veggie or simply in need of a break from the heavy fried dishes found elsewhere, Le K’fee is the spot.
Of course, what would a cafe be without coffee? Le K’fee offers the typical selection you’d expect from anywhere else, but the real treat – for us at least – was when we ordered a French press.
We had expected to receive a French press filled with hot water and coffee grounds, as one would make back home. But here, the barista brought a tray over with a scale, a timer, a pot of water and a generous amount of freshly ground coffee. She sat at the table next to us and proceeded to explain every step towards the perfect cup. From the amount of grounds, the surprisingly little amount of water, steep time, and even pouring method (into pre-heated cups).
I can’t think of another time I’ve had a better tasting cup of coffee. It was like the first time I really learned how to properly enjoy a glass of quality wine. Above all else, that was the highlight of the cafe.
Our Two Favourite Drinks
We can’t have a menu without a cocktail list now can we?
First, a Colombian classic: Limonada de Coco. This can be found in many different restaurants around town including the fresh fruit carts in the town centre. Sweet and refreshing limeade is mixed with real coconut milk to make a delicious and refreshing treat. Rum is optional but always encouraged.
To warm you up on those rainy days, head to La Fonda de los Arrieros in the main square, and sit down with a Canelazo. I challenge you to find a more Colombian cocktail. This tasty beverage begins with a base of warm panella, an unrefined cane sugar, with a hint of cinnamon and spiked generously with Aguardiente – a Colombian anise-flavoured liquor.
So there you have it, no excuses to starve or suffer through bland meals. Let us know what you think if you get a chance to try any of these suggestions, and please tell us of any unique finds of your own!
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