Cartagena has plenty of history, culture and architecture, but the city is also full of fabulous food. You can eat and drink like a local connoisseur with these food and bar tips from three of the city’s top restaurateurs.
Nicolas Wiesner is the owner of the sexy Demente Tapas Bar and the newly opened Demente Beer Garden. Cartagena is a city of indulgences if you follow Wiesner’s advice.
Andante Allegro Vicace – There are plenty of Italian restaurants in Cartagena, but only a few make their own pasta. This place, with red and white checkered table cloths near Plaza Santo Domingo, is one of those exceptions. Wiesner recommends the tagliatelle amatriciana.
Donde Pacho – Part liquor store, part gourmet deli, this is a low-key institution in the Centro Commercial in the Getsemani neighborhood. “Get a shrimp cocktail and a cold beer from the refrigerator,” advises Wiesner, “and enjoy your meal at one of the tables in front of the store.”
La Cava del Puro – This high-end cigar store is also one of Wiesner’s favorite places to relax with a glass of local Dictador rum and, of course, a good puro. If you’re lucky, the owner, Domenico, will be there to join you amongst the leather sofas and elegant humidors. (And remember, Cuban cigars are legal in Colombia.)
Carmen Angel and Rob Pevitt run the sleek, daring Carmen Cartagena restaurant. If you’re looking for seafood or something refreshing and quick, they’ve got you covered.
El Boliche Cebicheria – In a city of restaurants brimming with fresh fish, this cevicheria is the go-to choice for Angel and Pevitt. “The crab empanadas and ceviche costeño are not to be missed,” says Angel.
La Comunion – Located in the Kartaxa Hotel, this is the place to go to sample Colombian coastal cuisine made with locally sourced, regional ingredients. Angel says the duck riceatollado (think Colombian fried rice) is amazing.
Gokela -With locations in the Bocagrande neighborhood and the historic city center, this is a great place for a light lunch in the Caribbean heat, such as a smoothie, custom salad or wrap. “Everything is very fresh and very healthy with add-in options like goji berries, spirolina and chia,” says Angel. “I like the Smoothie Deportista with peanut butter.”
Chef Daniel Castaño runs the acclaimed Vera restaurant in the Tcherassi Hotel, where he produces inventive Italian cuisine. Castaño can tell you everything you need to know about getting a drink in Cartagena.
El Baron Café & Liquor Bar – Castaño credits tiny El Baron, near Plaza de San Pedro Claver, with serving the “best cocktail in Cartagena” by mixing the best ingredients with attention to every detail. “Get the gimlet,” he advises.
Agua de Mar – If it’s a gin and tonic you’re after, Castaño recommends the Agua de Mar’s gin bar, which boasts the most comprehensive menu of both gins and tonics in the city.
El Coro Bar – Located inside the Sofitel Santa Clara Hotel, this is one of Castaño’s favorite hangouts, thanks to an ample bar, big couches and the city’s best air conditioning. “I always order a parrot, which is made with Pernod, water and crème de menthe.”