I recently ducked up to check out San Andres, a gorgeous Colombian island located off the coast of Central America in the Caribbean. While I was still technically in Colombia, I felt like I had left the country. I love Bogota but sometimes this city can drive a person mad. I did everything I wanted to do to relax. Some of my highlights include riding around the island in a golf cart, getting lazy on the beach, meeting the locals and of course eating a lot of good food.
Here are some of my food highlights and recommendations:
I had my last meal at Miss Celia’s before ducking out to the airport and it certainly didn’t disappoint although it did have some tough competition to deal with which you’ll see below. This is a family-friendly restaurant that’s dressed up to look like a marine museum. If you’re looking for a low to medium budget meal that is authentic and non-pretentious, then this is the place to go. I ordered the house special which was a seafood platter named after the restaurant consisting of crab, lobster, prawns, fish, conch, rice and patacones.
Overall, good for a solid non-risk meal but definitely not a must-visit.
Located right on Paraiso beach which forms part of the general San Luis beaches, El Paraiso has everything you would expect from a classic beach side seafood restaurant. Think plastic chairs, picnic tables and one page laminated menus. I had heard about El Paraiso from one of the expats who owns a hostel out on the island who made it clear it was one of his favourite places to chow. Upon seeing how simple everyone’s dishes looked, I knew what made this place stand out apart from its spectacular beach front real estate was the freshness of its food and boy did it live up to my high expectations.
After a difficult morning of sun baking and ocean dipping, my body was craving some carb-loading so I went with the seafood paella. I was told it was going to take awhile so I informed the young man if he brought me a piña colada and some squid, I’d be happy to wait.
I also tried bread fruit for the first time. Bread fruit is a local staple which I would describe as a blend of potato and yuca. On first bite I actually thought it was the best yuca I had ever tasted.
The food was great and as I had expected everything tasted like it had just come out of the ocean that very morning. As a bonus, I didn’t have to stumble very far to take my beach side post meal siesta after happily carb-loading on the paella. Good times.
Going further south on the San Luis beaches you will encounter a more upmarket beach side restaurant called Donde Francesca. This place had come up many times after my extensive research and speaking with friends and locals so it was on the top of my list of places to eat. Francesca’s offer is high end seafood served in a rustic setting right on a spectacular beach. Apart from chowing down some sensational seafood, it’s also a great place to chill and have a drink as the restaurant sits on what I believe to be the finest beach on the San Andres mainland. I saw a lot of happy patrons lounging around with drinks in hand when I arrived.
Seeing as I live in the Andes, seafood is a bit of a luxury for me so I went for something I don’t normally order; grilled lobster with a side of garlic oil and coconut rice. My red shelled festivity was preceded by a gorgeous octopus cerviche. Yeah, I really did feel like a bo$$ that day.
I was extremely impressed by Donde Francesca and immediately vowed to return ASAP. I then spent the next couple of days mentally masturbating to the menu and boring my girlfriend about how succulent the lobster was. Plans were hatched to return for our final lunch but alas we heard about the following spot.
I admit I have a soft spot for authentic local cuisine. I love the experience of dressing up and going out for dinner at a high end restaurant but all the best meals that I can remember have always come from simple places. Capitan Mandy is one of those places. As I understand, this place used to just be a seafood supplier for the islanders but at some point in time they began to serve their own food. Their dishes were so good that as flocks of people started showing up for their meals, they finally expanded into a full blown restaurant.
Unlike the other joints I’ve mentioned, Mandy is located a bit off the grid in a very non-touristy section of the city and you’re probably better off catching a cab as it was a bit hard to find. If you are really into food and willing to go out of your way a little bit for a more local experience, Capitan Mandy is the place to be.
I ordered king prawns served in a spicy tomato sauce as well as a special take of the classic Cazuela de Mariscos both of which were excellent.
While I didn’t get a photo of it, I must stress that if you do make it out here you have to order the lime dessert (postre de limon).
Other good grub from the island
One of the things that you must try out when visiting the island is the food from the mesitas. Las mesitas, which means little tables in Spanish is a custom in San Andres when locals offer a home cooked buffet on the street. Rock up, drool, make your difficult decision from the numerous options available and wash it down with a cold one. Easy peasy.
My Air bnb host also hooked me up with some amazing arepa de huevos.
I ate seafood pretty much every day.
Ok that’s it, the seafood porn torture is over. Now it’s your turn.
Have you been to San Andres? If so please share your good grub knowledge below.