I discovered Hato Viejo January 26, 2009. It was my second full day in Medellin, and I’d taken the metro downtown to see Botero Plaza.
After checking out the sculptures, I approached a tourism kiosk to ask for help finding La Queareparaenamorarte, where Anthony Bourdain had eaten during his No Reservations Colombia show.
I learned that restaurant was an hour outside of the city.
When I responded that I preferred some place nearby, the person recommended Hato Viejo, a five to ten minute walk away.
Hato Viejo has been serving traditional Colombian food in Medellin for over 30 years.
Originally opened in Las Palmas, Hato Viejo has since opened locations in Centro and the Oviedo mall.
The interior design is reminiscent of an older, pre-Columbian era. In the Centro location, there’s a red tile floor while wood beams line the ceiling.
Bandeja Paisa, the mother of all Antioquian dishes. So of course that’s what I ordered.
But first, they brought out an assortment of complimentary, deep-fried appetizers, including mini empanadas, patacones (plantains), and chicharron (pork cracklings).
I began nibbling away, not realizing the much larger meal that lay ahead of me.
When the bandeja paisa arrived, I was immediately intimidated by the grease and grandeur.
More chicharron, chorizo, ground meat, patacones, a fried egg, plantain, avocado, rice, a leaf of lettuce to garnish, and the bowl of refried beans which I would barely even touch.
Did I really need to order the glass of white wine too?
I dug into my first bandeja paisa, much to the chagrin of my heart and arteries, but would not be able to clear my plate.
It was too much for me then, and it’s still too much for me today.
Earlier this year, I met a friend for lunch at the same Centro location. This time, I ordered my all-time favorite Colombian dish, ajiaco.
As with the bandeja paisa, they did an excellent job and I left the restaurant completely satisfied.
Let’s face it, you can find typical Colombian food in almost every restaurant in the city.
Go to Hato Viejo if you want to pair the regional cuisine with a higher quality of service, and atmosphere.
It’ll cost you a little extra, but if you’re visiting on vacation, it’s the #1 place I’d recommend in terms of experiencing traditional Colombian food.