Queareparaenamorarte was the first restaurant I wanted to visit in Medellin. I was a huge Anthony Bourdain fan, and it had been featured in the Colombia episode of No Reservations (2008).
Afterwards, I showed the restaurant name to a person in a little tourist kiosk, and was informed Queareparaenamorarte was located outside of the city. I’d have to take a bus at least 40 minutes to get there.
Being new to the city, I wasn’t interested in making a mission of it, so I took the person’s recommendation to visit Hato Viejo for lunch instead.
Fast forward six years, and Katherine, an American from Miami, writes me via Facebook to introduce herself. She mentions being a fellow foodie, and expresses an interest in getting a good meal together.
“Queareparaenamorarte” I respond, explaining it was featured on Bourdain’s show, and that I’d been wanting to go for years.
She accepts, and we make a date to visit this well-regarded restaurant in El Retiro whose name neither of us could pronounce.
The name is actually a play on words. Break it up “Que / are / para / enamorarte” and the meaning becomes more clear:
“What do I have to do to make you fall in love with me.”
Getting to Queareparaenamorarte turned out to be a mini-adventure in itself. I suggested we meet at the southern bus terminal, and do a share taxi to save money on the way up.
At the bus terminal, we began asking where to get a share taxi, only to find ourselves at a bus company window buying tickets to El Retiro. What the hell, we thought. It’s hard to argue with a $2 bus ticket.
The next bus was leaving right away, so we walked outside, boarded it, and were quickly on our way. Only there’s no bus that leaves Medellin quickly. They wind their way through traffic, slowly picking up as many passengers as possible before leaving the city.
Thirty minutes later, we were finally on our way out of the valley. By now, the bus was standing room only, which made me glad we went to the terminal, versus trying to pick it up from around the start of the Las Palmas highway near the San Diego Mall (my roommate’s suggestion).
The address was even tricker. All I could find was “Partida a El Retiro, al frente de Casa Verde, Las Palmas, Rionegro.”
To deconstruct, it means the restaurant is at a traffic circle before the entrance to the town of El Retiro, in front of Casa Verde (a shop, I believe). Las Palmas is the main highway leading from Medellin to Rionegro, most commonly used to reach the airport.
Since we had no idea where to get off, I had given the bus driver the restaurant name and address when we boarded. To his credit, he dropped us off directly in front of the restaurant, before continuing on to El Retiro a few minutes away.
[Note: To get back to Medellin, the restaurant’s host called a taxi for us, which turned out to be his friend. If taking a taxi to/from Medellin, expect to pay about 50,000 pesos ($26.50) each way, or a little less than the cost to reach the airport.]
During the bus ride, Katherine was texting her Peruvian friend who was arriving at the airport for a short visit to Medellin.
The lack of a decent address meant she had some trouble reaching us, but eventually she made it too.
Queareparaenamorarte looks small from the outside, but once you walk in past the bar, and open kitchen, you’ll find a large outdoor patio, surrounded by tables. All of the tables are covered to protect customers from rain, which was important as we’d soon discover.
I was especially fond of the materials used to make the chairs and lampshades, cowhide on a wood frame. Very Antioquian.
It was a Friday afternoon, and we practically had the whole place to ourselves. The weekends, especially Sundays, are much busier.
For starters, we ordered the appetizer with three types of Colombian empanadas (Cachacas, Arrieras, and Obispos), and four types of salsas for 18,500 pesos ($10). Three of the four salsas were fruit-based, and all were delicious.
This appetizer was more than enough for three people. We still had our main courses on the way.
Additional starter options include chicharron, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), various meats, patacones, potatoes, and arepas.
Katherine ordered the Tamal de Guapi, filled with shrimp, robalo (a white fish), spices, and coconut, and topped with a lulo salsa.
It was served with patacones, and a side salad of onion and pepper on a green banana leaf. The cost for this dish was 28,800 pesos ($15).
Katherine’s friend and I ordered the same thing, the Cazuela de Pescado (35,000 pesos or $18.50), which came recommended by our waitress.
The dish consists of a filet of robalo served over rice with a sour orange sauce, onions, sweet peppers, tomatoes, limoncillo and cilantro.
The fish was perfectly cooked, and the sauce was rich and flavorful.
I liked the presentation too, with the red peppers and green cilantro adding color to an otherwise drab piece of seafood.
Other entrees include a bandeja paisa style dish, chicken breast with potatoes, pork, frijoles (beans), chicharron, and various other meats. I felt a tad odd ordering fish instead of meat, but I knew I’d enjoy it more.
Around this time, the winds picked up, and a thunderstorm blew through the area.
We were seated near a door leading to the front of the restaurant, and without notice, a strong and steady wind began blowing rain sideways through it. A nearby plant was practically blown through the door too.
We huddled together near the stacks of chopped wood behind us, trying not to get too wet in the sudden storm.
Once the winds died down, I ordered their version of a chocolate volcano cake (15,500 pesos, or $8).
It was good, but not great. The texture of the cake didn’t seem right.
I didn’t care for the popsicle. I found it difficult to eat, and would’ve preferred a scoop of regular vanilla ice cream instead.
We were all stuffed by the end. My total bill for the 3-course lunch, plus a hot chocolate with cheese, juice, tax, and tip came to $48.
It was well worth it, and I’d return any day, though I believe it’d be more fun to go on a weekend, when it’s filled with Colombians.
On our way out, I noticed a poster on the wall. One of the world’s top chefs, Ferran Adria, had visited Queareparaenamorarte on April 12, 2013 for breakfast and conversation with 25 of Colombia’s greatest chefs.