Bogotá Budget Food Awards 2010

I scrabbled through my bottom drawer.

I scattered my passport, several tickets, my cuddly giant tortoise and three ear plugs onto the floor and, eventually, I found what I wanted.

I returned to the living room and triumphantly threw three battered bars of chocolate onto our dining room table.

Caroline, my French-Colombian housemate and Andres, my friend, legal advisor and occasional student, burst out laughing.

“Is something funny?” I snapped.

(I’ll admit I felt vaguely affronted. Frankly, I’d expected the last of my personal stash to be greeted with more gratitude.)

“This is all it is with you,” Caroline managed, before dissolving into giggles.

“Red wine, chocolate… chocolate, red wine… would you like some chocolate?” Andres supplied in a terrible English accent.

Hmmph. It was a bit rich.

The pair of them were drinking my box of Chilean red wine.

They were just about to start on two steaming mugs of hot chocolate I had made. Now they were laughing at the chocolate I had provided.

“Karina,” I yelled at my gorgeous Las Vegas housemate, who was standing in the kitchen.

“Is there anything better in life than red wine and chocolate?”

There was a brief pause.

“Hot wings,” she yelled back.

I love her.

Now, I can’t be bothered to describe how much cheaper it is to eat out in Bogota, than it is to attempt to buy and cook your own food.

Similarly, I don’t need to explain that I eat a deliciously filling two-course meal every lunch time and therefore, when I come home, all I really need is chocolate.

Equally, there is no need to defend the glass of red, is there?

But I am affronted at the suggestion I know nothing about food or, worse, that I lack the imagination to appreciate the finer things in life.

Therefore I would like to present my Bogotá Budget Food Awards 2010.

(Because, some days, a glass of red and a bar of the good stuff just isn’t enough)


The City’s Best Budget Breakfast

Celipan Bakery, Pablo VI (yes, it’s the one opposite my house)

Next time you are hungover, visit my local bakery. Stuff it, even if you live thousands of miles away, buy yourself a flight. Order scrambled eggs with tomato and spring onion (pericos) a croissant, orange juice, a mug of hot chocolate and two chocolate biscuits. It’ll be the best damn breakfast you’ve ever tasted and probably the cheapest too.

The City’s Best Budget Lunch

Café Oro, Calle 94 # 14 and Candelario, La Candelaria

Aiiish. Call me indecisive.

I eat at Café Oro, a hidden gem north of Park 93, twice a week. The people are lovely. The set lunch is splendid, if a little pricey at COP 8,000 (£2.68) but they always give you a sweet or a biscuit afterwards so technically it is three courses, plus your drink.

Ahhh, but Candelario is a treat. Fabulous atmosphere, always rammed with people and the bandeja paisa (COP 8,000 – £2.68) is bloody amazing. It’s a tie.

The City’s Best Budget Dinner

Linos, Calle 45 # 13

You can keep your fancy eateries and your cosy romantic watering holes. Linos serves the best dinner in the city. Okay, so I frequently want to strangle the chef because he spends so long fussing over every plate, but anyone who garnishes a salad with chopped strawberries is fine by me. They also offer two meals for COP 15,000 (£5.02) and the jugo con leche is awesome.

The City’s Best Budget Snack (Empanada)

Smiley little man, Pablo VI

I’m not biased, I’m an English teacher. That means I’ve grabbed a deep fried empanada at practically every stall in the city, frantically dashing between classes and trying to work out what bus I need. I am telling you… the man at the entrance to Pablo VI, next to the flower sellers, is the best. He specialises in meat and potato. Go now. Buy one. Oh stuff it, they only cost 500 pesos (17p) Buy ten.

The City’s Best Budget Snack (Arepa)

Little dude, middle umbrella, Calle 45 with Avenue Caracas

I wasn’t expecting much from this man, apart from food poisoning. Running an arepa stall in the cloud of pollution surrounding Caracas is frankly insane. But it was raining and I’d been dancing salsa for two hours. I took my first bite of this hot maize cake, smeared with butter, as I jumped on the bus. It was so delicious, I almost sat on an old woman’s lap.

The City’s Best (not-so-budget) Chocolate Dessert

Crepes and Waffles, outlets across Bogota

Imagine a ball of chocolate ice cream, which, inexplicably, has a hot chocolate sauce in its centre. Imagine said chocolate ice cream ball covered in a half-solid chocolate dusting, topped with whipped cream and doused in more hot chocolate sauce. It’s called Crocantino. It costs around 6,000 pesos (£2) and it is the best thing about living in Bogota.

The City’s Best (not-so-budget) Muffin

Home Baked, Carrera 13 # 94a – 26

I’m almost sorry to introduce you to this place – it’s unbelievably expensive, unbelievably addictive will occupy an unbelievably large portion of your daily thoughts. Muffin flavours include peach melba, apple crumble, banana maple and rum and raisin. Visit at your peril.

There you go. But I could go on.

I could tell you the city’s best ajiaco soup is served in one of the little restaurants near Plaza Simon Bolivar. I could claim Dunkin Donuts does better coffee than Juan Valdez (sshhhh) or that the aromatica at the National University is the best budget beverage around.

But frankly, all this talk of food is making me hungry, so you’ll excuse me if I go and hunt through my bottom drawer.

I’m sure there’s a bar of chocolate in there somewhere…


  1. Carlos

    OMG, you are funny. I grew up in Pablo VI and have never seen someone this excited about breakfast at Celipan or Empanadas close to Carulla. You might have loved the Buñuelos at the chicken place in front of the fountain (they don’t make them anymore). Or try the pizza at Stephano’s in front of the sun dial on the “new” Pablo VI.

    I didn’t think I was going to have this much fun reading this entry. Well done.

      1. Carlos

        It is not hard to be a fan of Stephanos. There is something about that pizza…you also know what it is and I am sure neither can describe it.

        Someone once told me an expression along the lines of ….. you don’t get excited about the things you are used to. Maybe that is why we wouldn’t get excited about something we surely take for granted. We used to be very excited about having that menu at some other places after a night out… old times. You’d probable would have loved American Pizza (it used to be located across Carulla) a few years ago. I don’t think it exists anymore, and if it does I’m sure is not the same.

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