Writer’s note: This is the seventh story in a monthly series on the “best of” Medellín and the surrounding area. To read the sixth story, click here.
The plate came with so much food, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Ground beef, fried pork, chorizo, rice, avocado, salad, a fried egg, and a tiny, disc-shaped delicacy that I had not seen before.
The little disc: an arepa, or arepita to be specific since it was of the smaller variety. The fried pork: chicharrón, which is actually fried pork belly.
The dish: the bandeja paisa.
The place: Las Delicias, a Colombian-owned North Fort Myers restaurant that became one of my favorites in Southwest Florida.
It was definitely my favorite Colombian restaurant, but it had no competition. In Medellín, where I’ve lived for almost two years, it’s a little different.
I know, right…who would have thought there’d be competing Colombian restaurants here?
Well, there are, and it’s my job to pick the best five for this blog, choices I know will not be universally excepted but I’m truly hoping that’s the case.
That’s how I find out about more great places in this super city and its surrounding area, so please, share your thoughts with me in the comments section below.
But first, the list…
1. Buena Mar (Cra. 48 #85-198, Itagüí, 285 1090)
I am willing to bet that if you are a foreigner, you probably have never heard of this place.
It’s hidden down a street across from the Plaza Mayorista and this area of town is known more for its nighttime debauchery than a great seafood restaurant.
But the seafood is so damn good here that it should overshadow anything else. It really is.
My favorite menu item is the cazuela de mariscos, a big bowl of seafood stew with fresh fish, calamari, shrimp and octopus.
Juan Carlos, the owner, takes pride in the freshness of his food. He’s quite the fisherman and has spent a lot of time on the Pacific Coast, catching what he cooks, preparing the dishes the way they do on the coast, but better.
He’s very nice too, always wanting to help people, so say hi if he’s there, which is not often.
You’ll still enjoy the food, though, no matter what you order.
Not only is Buena Mar the best Colombian restaurant in the city, it’s one of the best overall.
2. La Gloria de Gloria (Calle 37S #35-06, Envigado, 270 1967)
My goodness, that’s a lot of food!
That was my first reaction.
My second: this is deja vu from my first experience eating Colombian food.
My third: it’s too bad I weigh only 128 pounds or I’d try to finish all of this delicious food in one sitting.
The first part of the image depicts my plate, pork ribs with a bandeja paisa, which means sides of salad, avocado, ground beef, fried banana, arepas, fries, an egg over easy, and beans and rice.
Now follow the image farther, toward the top of the picture. Is that not the biggest piece of chicharrón you’ve ever seen? It’s so big it’s obscuring the sides that come with it.
The two plates with two sodas cost 52,000 pesos (about $28.50), definitely not cheap, at least by Colombian standards. But we brought home enough of it to give us each another two or three meals.
I’d say that’s a good deal.
3. Brasarepa (Calle 46 sur #42-75, Envigado)
This place is most famous among neighbor residents — and those who follow Anthony Bourdain.
The travel show host ate here when he was visiting Colombia, and that motivated Dave to write a story about it.
I used to live near here, but there’s not much more I can add. Dave’s story (click the link on the name) pretty much sums everything up.
4. El Rancherito (Calle 30A #82A-26, Belén, 235 6506)
I’ve seen them everywhere, usually from buses or friends’ cars when I’m on my way back to Medellín, but I had never stopped to try the food. I decided it was time.
I went to the El Rancherito in Centro Comercial Los Molinos, one of seven of them either in or just outside Medellín.
I liked the variety on the menu so instead of picking a typical Colombian meal, I went for something a little different.
The grilled pork with a soy-based sauce looked like a great option and it was.
I wish it cost less than 21,600 pesos (about $12), but it was tasty enough that I won’t complain.
5. Ajiacos y Mondongos (Calle 8 #42-46, Poblado, 266 5505)
Dave swears this is the best place for comida tipica in Medellín and if you haven’t noticed, I don’t agree.
Doesn’t matter, though, because I’m sure there are a lot of people who agree with Dave and I think it’s good enough to put in the Top 5 so that means it is delicious.
The title of the place enticed me to go with the first word in its name, the ajiaco, my favorite dish in the country.
The popular Colombian soup was enough to satisfy me, both filling and taste-wise, but it still just a notch down from the ajiaco I ate last month at a La Candelaria restaurant for which the name escapes me.
To be fair, Bogotá is to ajiaco what James Naismith is to basketball.
The only real criticism is the price: 17,000 (about $9), more expensive than I have ever seen it. Two of my friends left because they didn’t want to pay that much.
They missed something good, no doubt, but I won’t hassle them about their decision.