I must admit that when I first came to Bogota, I had no idea what to eat. I remember I’d stumble out of my hostel in the Zona Rosa for a food troll, looking for something that would call out my attention only to find myself going for the cheap fix in the form of an unsatisfying slice of street pizza. This went on for weeks as my lack of understanding of Colombian traditions, coupled with my extremely limited Spanish at the time led me to believe that Colombia was lacking some legit food.
My search for some legit Colombian grub finally ended when one of the guys at the hostel who was fluent in Spanish, introduced me to the ‘Corrientazo`, the traditional day to day Colombian lunch.
The tradition of the corrientazo comes from previous generations when working men would go home during their lunch hour so they could enjoy a sit down lunch and maybe even sneak in a siesta. While this tradition does continue in smaller cities and towns in Colombia, it’s nearly impossible to do in Bogota unless you live within walking distance from your work or you have an extremely flexible work schedule. However, as Bogotanos still enjoy their sit down meals as much as their compatriots who live outside the Capital, you shouldn’t have to go venture too far to find a decent Corrientazo restaurant.
‘Corrientazos’ work on a ‘Menu of the Day’ basis and will typically include a choice of soup or fruit as a starter as well as a main course which consists of a choice of beef, chicken or fish, along with rice, plantain, beans, salad AND a sweet (if you’re lucky, sometimes a little desert). How much does all this food cost you wonder? Well, in Bogota your average Corrientazo will set you back anywhere between $3.5-$5.00 (6,000-8,000 Pesos). Not bad for a sit down lunch.
How to spot a good Corrientazo?
If you’re hungry and just looking for a simple sit down meal, you shouldn’t need to stroll too far to find your local corrientazo restaurant. They’re usually small establishments and will have their menu listed out front on a whiteboard during lunch hour. Just take a walk around the block and see what appeals to you.
However, seeing as we’re in Bogota, corrientazo restaurants are on nearly every block and the quality ranges from barely edible to riquisimo. I’ve eaten far more corrientazos than I care to recall and while I’m no Anthony Bourdain, I like to think I can spot a good corrientazo when I see one. Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a corrientazo restaurant:
Who’s eating there?
This is the golden rule with restaurant selection in foreign countries. If the place is packed with locals and they look happy, then it’s very likely you’ll be happy too. It’s the locals that eat their food every day so they’re going to be experts when it comes to their own food so forget the lonely planet restaurant section and just keep your eyes out for where hungry locals are dining at lunch time. Do what the locals do and eat what the locals eat.
The concept of the corrientazo is simple. Get a home cooked, sit down meal for lunch without having to actually go home. As such, the best corrientazos are small operations, usually run by a family with a small kitchen staff and one or two waiters. What you are looking for is something home made, something that is more likely to come out of Grandma’s kitchen and not a commercial kitchen and this often means dining in a smaller establishment.
Sometimes, especially in Bogota, restaurants tend to get carried away and offer up to five or more different options as their menu del dia. While the saying goes, the more the merrier, this is not the case when it comes to corrientazos as a larger menu translates to a dilution in the quality. Every decent corrientazo I know offers up no more than 2 or 3 options.
So there you have it, a quick guide on how to eat like a local in Bogota. If you’re interested in finding out more about what the locals eat, get in touch and join us on one of our food tours.