As any traveler to the area knows, Cartagena, Colombia, comes alive at night. Dinner is rarely served before 9 p.m., and as street food is king in this burgeoning bohemian district, you’ll likely find your best meal outside of restaurant doors. On a recent visit, I wandered Getsemaní’s Plaza de la Trinidad just as the city was waking from its daytime slumber. Skateboarders zoomed by, street dancers prepped in the courtyard, and street vendors of every variety surrounded the plaza.
With an empty stomach, I dove in. Here are seven ways to make a (very filling) meal.
7 Insanely Delicious Street Foods You Must Eat in Cartagena
- 1 / 8Dessert first: PaletasStarting with dessert may seem counterintuitive, but since temperatures rarely drop below 70 degrees in Cartagena, paletas (popsicles) are a must to keep cool. Local paleterías (popsicle shops) open in the evening hours, serving vibrantly colorful varieties made from native Colombian fruits. Maracuja (passion fruit), guanábana (soursop) and ron con pasas (rum and raisins) are just a few of the flavors to choose from at D’li Paletería in Plaza de la Trinidad.
- 2 / 8Kebab timeColombian chuzos (kebabs) are a staple in Getsemaní. The wooden skewers hold meat, potatoes, peppers, and onions, but the real secret to their deliciousness is the sauce used to marinate the chuzo. The kebabs are covered in a blend of cumin, cilantro, garlic, onions, salt, pepper, and olive oil before they are placed on the grill, which creates a mouthwatering aroma. The chuzos are often combined with arepas and doused, post-grill, with a medley of lime, mayonnaise, and ketchup.
- 3 / 8Just say yes to empanadasEmpanadas are fried Latin American pastries, typically filled with savory ingredients like beef, chicken, pork and cheese. In Plaza de la Trinidad, you can find empanadas de pollo y papas, which are filled potatoes and aji, a regional spicy sauce made from the habanero pepper.
- 4 / 8Hamburguesa and friesNo street food spread is complete without a mouthwatering hamburger, called a hamburguesa in Spanish. Vendors in Plaza de la Trinidad turn out several hamburguesas by the minute, with the most popular order being a hamburguesa con queso y jamon (hamburger with cheese and ham), which includes a greasy mix of beef, melted mozzarella, papitas fritas (shoestring potatoes), ham, onions, lettuce, mushrooms, mayonnaise, and ketchup.
- 5 / 8Hot dog!Perros Calientes (hot dogs) are the most in-demand street snack in the Plaza de la Trinidad. It’s no surprise this stall has the longest line out of any in the square, as every order is customized with a mix of melted cheese, patacones (fried plantains), onions, mayonnaise, and ketchup.
- 6 / 8One sinful snackIf you like chorizo, sausage, potatoes, and cheese, then an arepa rellena (stuffed corn cake) may be the street snack for you. The ingredients are piled into a butter-lathered corn cake, then left to melt in an oven attached to the stall. Once sufficiently hot and browned, the arepa rellena is topped with mustard and salsa de ajo.
- 7 / 8The palate cleanserNira’s jugo (juice) stall is a very distinct member of the Plaza de la Trinidad, marked with an iridescent Jesus image that proudly oversees his flock of fruit. Nira is on her 17th year of business, and every day she arrives in Plaza de la Trinidad at 5 p.m. to serve mixtures of local Colombian fruits. You can pick any two varieties and Nira will blend them with your choice of either milk or water—perfect for washing down your arepa rellena.
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