Downtown Medellin is famous for many things, but not for fine dining. While most places offer a good bandeja paisa, it can sometimes feel as if that’s all there is. Following up on a series of gastranomic havens, here are a few more places to try.
El Tunel Cafe & Cocina
Carrera 42 # 54-62
El Tunel is an incospicuous, cozy restaurant with a relaxed attitude and friendly feel – if eating alone be sure to sit at the bar, where you can watch your food being prepared and chat with locals or other travelers. While perhaps slightly more expensive for the area ($6.17) the staff knows how to produce a good meal. The daily dish typically comprises a fresh salad followed by soup, but take some time deciding which one, as both seem to be equally delicious. The main meal of pan-fried meat (pork, chicken or beef) in a slightly sticky sauce tastes great and the surprising addition of creamy mashed potato makes for a nice change of pace – especially if you’re slightly fed up with beans. For no extra cost, the meal can include juice, dessert and also a coffee, making the extra expense seem not too bad at all.
Calle 55 # 37-46
Boston Bife is situated near Parque de Boston in a more residential part of downtown Medellin. The restaurant is small and the menu is equally so, but this isn’t a problem because the chefs seriously know their stuff. As more of an evening venue, expect to pay slightly more than at a lunchtime cafe – a main meal with a drink and no starter will probably cost $11.32, so it’s still reasonable. The steak at Boston Bife is brilliant and more than likely the best thing on the menu. No matter how much a burger seems tempting, resist the urge and order a steak – the option with demiglace sauce is particularly good. Boston Bife also produces an exceptional coconut lemonade.
Bija y Barullo
Carrera 42 # 52-73
Bija y Barullo is special for more than one reason. Firstly, perhaps unique to Medellin, it serves food inspired by the Pacific region of the country – expect fruity, spicy soups with well-grilled meats. Secondly, the restaurant was formed as part of a co-operative movement by a group of Afro-Colombian women and has direct benefits for some 50 women who work towards this venue. For $4.63, a decent meal of soup, complete with meatball and salsa, is followed by a plate of rice, grilled meat, and shredded pickled salad. Meat is spiced with a flavorful dry rub before it is placed on the grill. The menu changes depending on which day of the week it is, but all meals are the same price, so it would be quite possible to eat there for seven days straight and never eat the same dish twice.