Cartagena: The New Culinary Capital of Colombia?

Paris, Rome, Cartagena? While this city might not be on your short list of romantic cities with an out of this world gastronomic experience, we want to show you that it should be

Colombian Flag in Cartagena

Photo: Bill O'Connor

Paris, Rome, Cartagena? While this city might not be on your short list of romantic cities with an out of this world gastronomic experience, we want to show you that it should be. Cartagena, Colombia is the home of a blossoming culinary scene unique from its larger cousins of Bogotá and Medellín.

I just so happened to be in Cartagena for Valentine’s Day, and it proved itself to be a great city to bring your date to conquer its culinary scene. Here are five of my faves…

Maria Restaurant in Cartagena

Photo: Bill O’Connor


We hit up this Cartagenan hotspot on Valentine’s Day. The menu is mostly seafood but has choices for the land lover as well. While most menu items are contemporary takes on traditional Colombian dishes with the freshest ingredients, some even have an Asian flair if you’re looking for something a little different. The waiters will be happy to help you select a wine to pair with your meal. It was just fancy enough, which was much needed after lots of no frills meals from the street vendors in Bogotá. The only downside was the table next to us. It looked like an episode of Rica Famosa Latina gone all wrong. But I guess it’s not their fault they didn’t have Valentine’s Day dates.wp_*posts

La Cevicheria Cartagena

Photo: Bill O’Connor

La Cevicheria

My friend had never eaten ceviche before, and this was definitely the place to try it. While Anthony Bourdain beat us to the restaurant, we still tried to channel his inner foodie while we were there. The ceviche options are so extensive that you’re sure to find one that works for you. And their tart and fruity vino de verano sangria was perhaps as fresh as the ceviche itself.wp_*posts

Patagonia Asados del Sur - Cartagena

Photo: Bill O’Connor

Patagonia Asados del Sur

I was pretty intrigued by the quirky décor of this restaurant—which I think can only be described as Argentina meets Applebee’s (note the framed soccer jersey displayed on the crowded wall). Of course I mean that in the best way possible. We stopped here while we were waiting for a table at La Cevicheria. The cocktail menu was simple yet the options were still on point and tasty. We almost thought of canceling our dinner plans as we saw and smelled the mouthwatering steak dishes being served. wp_*posts

Mila Pasteleria in Cartagena

Photo: Bill O’Connor

Mila Pasteleria

As I walked in here I had to ask myself whether I was actually in Cartagena, or actually at a hip brunch spot in the West Village or West Hollywood. While Medellin’s signature dish, the bandeja paisa, includes a fried egg, it was a nice change to try these innovative egg options in Cartagena. Once we finished our Colombian-inspired meals we decided to order an improvised brownie sundae for dessert. #becausevacation. Brownie sundaes may not be that Colombian, but at least the syrup was dulce de leche! The only thing we missed out on here was their extensive mimosa menu. We didn’t realize they served bubbles until we were paying the check!wp_*posts

Cafe del Mar in Cartagena

Photo: Bill O’Connor

Café del Mar

While the menu at this place might not be anything special, the breathtaking sunset views certainly are. We had an improvised botellón (just be careful as the Cartagena police are starting to crack down on this) with 2500 peso ($1) beers on the edge of the Walled City and continued our happy hour at Café del Mar. Whether you’re with your boo  or a good friend, you won’t regret stopping by for a cocktail and snack under these pink sunset skies.

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Colombia food tourism gastronomy latin food
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