John Stage, the owner and pit master of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which has locations in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, wasn’t sure what to expect when he visited Bogotá for the city’s Wine and Food Festival last August. “All I knew of Colombia was cocaine and kidnappings,” he says. Instead, what he found were chicharrones (deep-fried pork rinds) as well as barbecued cow hump and locals who like to dine then dance. Here are the highlights from his trip.
“Tábula is a Colombian comfort food restaurant. It is rustic and soul satisfying, but you won’t find macaroni and cheese on the menu. Instead you’ll see something called raviolones de gallina con queso paipa y almendras, which is like a South American ravioli shaped like a crescent moon and stuffed with stewed chicken, cheese, and almonds. We also ate envuelto de maíz, an incredibly simple but delicious sweet corn cake cooked in the husk. The menu showcases Colombia’s ingredients, and portions are large enough to share family style.” Calle 29 No. 5–90, 57/(0) 1-285-8875
LA FAMA BARBECUE
“The owner of this restaurant, Santiago Molina, took me on a meat-eating crawl through the city. His place, La Fama, is the only restaurant with a pit smoker, and during my visit the chefs were barbecuing a cut I’d never seen, called morrillo. It’s the hump of the zebu, a cow that has a hump like a camel. It’s like a big piece of brisket, very rich and fatty. Man, when it’s pit smoked, it tastes good. Molina also serves traditional barbecue dishes like pulled pork and ribs.” Calle 65 No. 4–85, 57/(0) 1-644-7766, lafama.com.co
EL BANDIDO BISTRO
“You wouldn’t think to eat at a French bistro in Bogotá, but this place is worth a visit and has just the right amount of Colombian touches. The menu features steak in pepper sauce, Camembert cheese with pears and almonds, and pulpo a la parrilla [grilled octopus]. Ask locals to direct you here, because it’s set at the end of a road lined with churches and antique stores, so it’s a little hard to find. Unlike a true French bistro, it features live music most nights, so dinner turns into a dance party.” Calle 79B No. 7–12, 57/(0) 311-472-2327
“This 800-seat steakhouse-nightclub is the Bogotá branch of a countryside restaurant. You feel like you’re in Alice in Wonderland; the walls are covered with ornaments, wine bottles, and glowing signs. The food is outstanding, which is a feat since the menu is more than 60 pages. It includes empanadas, tostones [fried green plantains], and, of course, chicharrones. Go on Saturday, and don’t be surprised if diners start dancing on tables.” Calle 82 No. 12-21, 57/(0) 1-863-7880, andrescarnederes.com