The signature dish of Salento, Colombia, is trucha con patacones— trout with mashed, fried plantains—and the most delicious version in town can be found at El Rincon de Lucy. The cozy, family-run eatery serves huge, inexpensive set meals with the star attractions accompanied by soup, rice, beans, cheese, eggs, arepas, fresh juice, and desserts. The basic elements stay the same, but matron and chef Lucy routinely tweaks the dishes, which keeps customers returning day after day.
Located in the Zona Cafetera, or coffee-growing region, Salento draws Colombian tourists each weekend, when its streets fill with foods tents and music. Most of the food stalls serve the town’s signature dish, but my wife and I opted for paper-thin, crispy patacones with cheese, beans, tomatoes, and onions one Sunday night. While we delighted in the nachos, we experienced one of the auspicious occurrences that occasionally happen when traveling. A man approached us from across the tent, beaming and welcoming us to his country in broken English. He was all smiles and gestures, pointing to his family who waved enthusiastically. Then he told us not to pay for our meal. We protested, of course, thinking he was offering to pay, but he cut us short—he had already paid for it before coming to our table. We were astonished, humbled, and grateful at the generosity and goodwill toward strangers. It was the most memorable of many moments of hospitality and graciousness we experienced throughout Colombia.