Out to lunch in downtown Medellin can often be an overwhelming experience, with hundreds of restaurants and cafes offering set-menu meals for just a few bucks. Finding gourmet getaways in “El Centro” may seem nearly impossible, but there are a few restaurants you should not miss.
Carrera 42 No. 54-60 (Cordoba con Peru)
Juan Carlos Ramirez is known downtown as “The Chef,” as in, the one and only. Juan and his beautiful wife Diana serve up gourmet lunches and dinners with flair.
The restaurant itself is tucked away between a few bookstores on the edge of downtown, with just two tables downstairs, and five nestled upstairs with some original artwork and a much-needed fan. It’s a great place to grab dinner and decide for yourself what kind of meat you’d like, with Chef’s additions, or stop by for a fixed lunch menu that comes with juice, a gourmet soup, and the main dish.
On Wednesdays they do a traditional Colombian entrée which is often their amazing Ajiaco soup, a Mondongo, or a Bandeja Paisa.
Calle 53 No. 42-17 (Maracaibo con Cordoba)
Right next door to Eslabon Prendido salsa bar, one of the best in Medellin, Lenteja Express is a vegetarian paradise. It’s a great place to stop in for lunch and try their ultra-delicious vegetarian hamburger with lentil or garbanzo patties handmade by creator Gabriel Ramirez, or to come with friends for late-night nachos and beers. This is a downtown favorite, where simplicity and creativity have met healthy eating.
Other delicacies include vegetarian ceviche, lasagna, quesadillas, and on Fridays a special vegetarian “cazuela,” with homemade vegetarian beans and toppings. If you’re needing a break from meat and arepa, this is the place to go to expand your palate with spicy salsas, jalapenos, and juice blends, including an amazing flor de jaimaica guarapo mix.
El Platano Maduro
Calle 54 No. 47- 05 (Caracas con Sucre)
This restaurant is the most hidden of the downtown gems, tucked away up a winding wooden staircase on an unassuming corner, this restaurant never disappoints. The dining room has large open wooden windows peering down onto the city streets, with window-stills adorned with trailing vines, succulents, and ripening fruits.
A typical lunch comes with your choice of fruit juice of the day, a favorite is banana, a hearty and delicious soup, and a main entrée consisting of a meat, grain, and salad. There’s also always a dessert that arrives at the end of the meal when you find yourself staring out the window with a smile on your face, or listening to the guest musicians who often make appearances during lunch hour. Change is returned to customers from an antique cash register next to an adorably small and psychedelically-painted bathroom.
Credenza (formerly known as Colombo Café)
Carrera 45 No. 53-24 (El Palo)
On the tenth floor of language institute / cultural center Colombo Americano you can escape from the roar of traffic and grime of the city streets and take in the sights from above.
With panoramic views of Medellin’s mountains and peeks into the stylish studios and apartments that make up El Centro, this getaway is a breath of fresh air. Not to mention the food is divine; with gourmet sandwiches, pastas, soups, salads, and entrées, Credenza has something for everyone. They have great seafood dishes, rich creamy sauces, and wonderfully fulfilling foods that leave you day dreaming about your menu-selection for the next time you’ll visit.
The downside of the café is the somewhat snobby atmosphere, but this is compensated by the excellent food and possibly the most original choice of music you will hear in all Medellin.