From bustling food carts that are upending traditional street food to the opening of innovative, high-concept restaurants, the food scene in Colombia’s energetic capital is on the rise. “When I was growing up, it was hard to go out for a decent meal,” recalls Yasmin Sabet, Bogotá native and designer of chic Colombian accessories brand Mola Sasa. “Now there’s a profusion of hip restaurants popping up every day. At the most popular spots, it’s become tough to get a table, even on a Monday!”
And while Sabet has plenty of love for the city’s classics like established Casa Vieja, which serves up dishes such as ajiaco (a hearty Andean soup) in an old colonial mansion, and the wildly convivial and kitschy landmark Andrés Carne de Res, she opts to spend most of her time in the city’s lesser-known hot spots. Here, her guide to the best neighborhood haunts that only locals know about.
For a night out with girlfriends or a casual date, this little restaurant by Peruvian chef Rafael Osterling is ideal. Located in an airy, laid-back space in the restaurant-heavy Quinta Camacho neighborhood, it’s easy to make this place a go-to. Start any meal with a delicious pisco sour; the fish curry is also a must. And be sure to leave room for something from the incredible dessert menu (think: churros with Nutella sauce and passion fruit cake). After dinner, you can stop inBruto, the bar right next door, for a nightcap.
If you’re in the mood for Mexican food, this restaurant serves sophisticated, modern takes on typical dishes in an impeccably designed space. The house specialties include super-fresh ceviche and inventive tacos, and the menu even offers options for vegans. The vibe is young and fun, and the cocktails are always excellent. Come here for a long brunch (chilaquiles is served on Sunday) or a festive dinner, and be sure to explore the cute shops in the surrounding area before or after you eat.
This is a tiny, unpretentious place with only four tables in a fun, bohemian neighborhood (also called La Macarena). Order a tableful of the Spanish-style small plates and pair them with plenty of the house sangria. When you’re done, you can walk over to salsa bar El Bembé. The crowd here is really fun and diverse, and the decor makes it feel very tropical and Latin. Take a shot or two of aguardiente and you’ll be twirling on the dance floor in no time.
For a light lunch or afternoon snack, this Israeli coffee shop and café is perfect. The space is light and airy, and the fresh juices and spicy falafel are the perfect antidote to a late night out. If you’re craving some sugar, step across the street to husband-and-wife–owned Grazia, a French patisserie with delicate and delicious sweets (the husband used to create desserts at two Daniel Boulud restaurants).
Here, it’s all about live music and strong cocktails. Bistro El Bandido is one of Bogotá’s most vibrant bar scenes, though it offers a nice dinner menu as well. The look is kitschy and eclectic, and it’s equally good for a night of lounging and people-watching or lively dancing. The best spot to hang out with a mojito in hand is on the cool back terrace. And if you ever want a change of scene, there’s the tiny bar Enano next door, which feels like it was transported straight out of turn-of-the-century Vienna. It’s often packed, but if you’re patient, you can usually get a seat.