It so transpired that I got an insiders’ list of a different kind. Through a cousin of a former colleague’s colleague, I was sent a list of recommendations of, “names of restaurants and trendy places attended by upper class and local inhabitants.” Not all these places are upscale.
At the restaurant Quinto Roma, you can eat in igloos.
Il Datterino Giallo, Piazza Ledro: “Il Datterino Giallo, vi propone una cucina genuina e verace, al contempo sana e molto attuale, in un ambiente sofisticato ma non troppo, un mix di arredo tra il provenzale e l’industriale in una ‘location’ prestigiosa come quella del quartiere romano…” translates to: … offers traditional Italian cuisine, Mediterranean, at the same time innovative, in a welcoming location, inspired by a hybrid style between Provencal and industrial… in a prestigious location of Rome.
I have not been to any of these places. If you go, let me know how it was.
Traditional classic Roman dishes are heavily “nose to tail” or “quinto quarto” as this city is proud of eating ALL of the animal, and all plants. Some of these traditional dishes are coda alla vaccinaria (beef tail), trippa (tripe), and pajata. Romans also eat an immense amount of seafood, much of it raw. In terms of classic dishes not mentioned earlier, here is my list of Roman dishes to try. I have listed the dishes sort of in order of what time of the day you might try them, not in order of preference. I’ll mention what I think of them in the description.
Maritozzo: Is a cream filled brioche bun. Usually eaten for breakfast or as a snack. This is delicious but quite ridiculous.
Suppli: Is the deep fried rice or pasta croquette incredible popular with Romans. Available everywhere and usually sold at pizzerias (which is weird because there is nothing deep fried at a pizza place except for this…) and eaten as a snack or appetizer. “Suppli” is the word for telephone cord because the melted cheese looks like an old fashioned telephone cord. I don’t really like this but it is super famous.
Fiore di zucca: Stuffed zucchini flowers almost always filled with mozzarella and salted anchovy. Some places will make it without the anchovy if you ask, but that would not be authentic. The anchovy adds a touch of salt and umami. Most places make this dish and it looks like a UFO, unidentified fried object. I prefer it at places where they use light batter or breadcrumbs. I also prefer it without the anchovy because I like the delicate flavor of the zucchini flower.
Taglio pizza: Is square focaccia type pizza sold by weight. There are so many kinds of pizza I recommend going to a chain like Alice (ah-lee-cheh) and ask for small pieces so that you can try different flavors (This is also a good thing to order for a party). Romans eat pizza for breakfast (my preferred Roman breakfast), lunch, and party snack. Usually the pizza had for dinner is not “al taglio” but Roman style. A Roman style pizza is ONE round pizza per person. No sharing. You eat with a knife and fork. Beer is usually the thing to drink with pizza in the evening. Pizza is not something you would cook at home because you need a pizza oven. The taglio pizzas are baked in industrial electric ovens but a dinner pizza (The Romans consider it a social thing done from 9 pm to midnight) is usually baked in a wood fired oven (forno a legna).
Porchetta: Is from a town near Rome (but then everyone likes to claim that they invented gelato, so don’t let that stop you), but is much beloved here. It is a deboned pig rolled up with crackling/pork rind on the outside and inside it is flavored with rosemary and other herbs. Usually served sliced as a sandwich component.
Pasta carbonara, cacio e pepe, gricia, and amatriciana: These are the four most common pasta sauces in Rome. Carbonara is made with guanciale (pork jowl bacon) and egg yolk. Usually with spaghetti or short pasta. Almost never with fresh pasta. Cacio e pepe (caw-chee-oh-eh-peh-peh) is pecorino cheese and black pepper. People make a big deal that this is a creamy sauce without any cream. Pecorino is sheep’s milk cheese common to this part of Italy. It is much in texture like Parmesan. Cacio e pepe (cacio is related to the Latin word for cheese. Formaggio is the modern Italian word for cheese). Gricia (Gree-chaw)is the same sauce as carbonara but without the egg. Amatriciana (Ah-mah-trey-chee-ah-na) is named after a town called Amatrice. It is a sauce with tomatoes, guanciale, and pecorino. I prefer the carbonara, but generally I prefer pasta with clams or meat sauce.
Pasta is eaten as a meal on its own or as a first course. In general, most Romans do not eat three or four course meals on a daily basis. If they eat pasta for lunch, then they probably won’t eat it for dinner. Also, the portions in Rome are not as huge as in the USA. Italians generally consider certain sauces appropriate for certain shapes of pasta. Most of the Roman sauces I have mentioned work on both long and short pasta. Almost always on dried pasta, which gives a better tooth and mouth feel.
Gnocchi alla romana: Roman gnocchi are larger dumplings that are sliced and served “au gratin” hot from the oven. Thursday is the day to eat gnocchi because traditionally, as Catholics, Friday would be a day of fasting or lights meals, like fish. Gnocchi are usually on the pasta menu because it is a type of pasta made of potato and flour.
Puntarelle: Is the classic Roman salad. It is made with the white stalk of the chicory leaf which are trimmed, put through a metal tool to split, left in cold water to “open up,” and then served with anchovy dressing. I prefer this without anchovies, because then it’s a crunchy fresh tasting salad.
Cicoria: Is usually sautéed chicory. It is always in season, on every menu, and always the vegetable of the day. It’s bitter.
Carciofi alla giudia (Jewish style artichoke) and Roman style artichoke: The Jewish style is deep fried until the artichoke looks like a flower. The Roman style is steamed and dressed with olive oil. I do not like the deep fried ones because the artichoke flavor is gone. I adore steamed artichokes, but I usually just steam them in my microwave. Italians also eat the stalk of the artichoke so when you buy them, they will sell them with the stalk attached.
Guanciale di manzo: Is beef cheek. This is always served slow roasted. The Romans are famous for eating the “off” cuts.
These were the dishes that are typically Roman and perhaps less “scary” to try. Plus, gelato. Always gelato and tiramisu. If you are given a choice of dessert, I would always choose the tiramisu. Otherwise, have a coffee and go get a gelato. Gelato shops are open all day, usually from morning (when they may serve pastries) to midnight or later. While restaurants almost always close from 3 pm to 7:30 pm, a gelateria will always be open.
Colazione (breakfast): Breakfast is a cup of coffee with milk like a cappuccino. Maybe a croissant or a sandwich (triangular white sandwiches like the triples in Peru). Italians don’t really eat much for breakfast. They consider the milk in the coffee to be the “food.” But, later in the morning, they will have more coffee. Coffee is a small cup of coffee like an espresso. No coffee in Italy is ever the size of American coffees. Italians will have many coffees throughout the day, although milk in coffee is only for breakfast (so before 11 a.m.).
Around 10 or 11 a.m., Italians might have a small snack with their next coffee.
Pranzo (lunch): Lunch is generally eaten from noon to 2 p.m. but on a Sunday, lunch can be later.
Merenda (tea): At around 3 p.m., Italians (and certainly children) will have a snack. One could have a gelato… or some crackers and cheese.
Aperitivo (happy hour): after work, Italians may have a tapas/mezze style spread. Many judge the bar based on the selection of free nibbles. During the current COVID restrictions (restaurants close for in restaurant dining at 6 p.m.), many people are having aperitivo at 3 p.m. Why not?
Cena “che-na” (dinner): Dinner is generally at 8:30 p.m. or later. One had a snack earlier, thankfully.
The city of Trujillo, an easy hour flight north of Lima, is a great weekend destination. Trujillo is called the city of eternal spring. In the depth of Lima winter, I went looking for some spring. Flying up on a Friday evening, the pickup from the airport was easily done by the hotel located on the central square. The airport is located 20 minutes from the city and you even pass one of the tourist sites on the way in — Chan Chan — before passing a modern mall and convention center.
The archaeological site of the Huaca of the Moon and the Sun is a mere 20 minutes outside of the city so easily visited. The new site called “El Brujo”, is only 63 kilometers to the north but due to the road conditions, it takes 80 minutes. I’d recommend going to these two sites in one day, with lunch in the coastal town of Huanchaco, eat at Big Ben.
Then go for a walk along the Huanchaco malecon (boardwalk – sidewalk) and take your selfies with the reed boats, “caballitos de totora” — reed horsies, so called because the fishermen ride astride the boats, instead of sitting in them. Back in Trujillo, enjoy, on Saturday evenings, the free marinera (a type of dance) performances in the main square, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Join in! Then walk down to one of the famous restaurants for dinner. The photo of the Waldorf salad is from the famous restaurant with the balcony, El Celler de Cler.
On Sunday mornings, the main square is blocked off and the town dignitaries walk about in a procession. This is a good time to get photos of the square. Later, go to Chan Chan.
When you buy pottery reproduction souvenirs, make sure that the item is stamped as a reproduction so that you aren’t accused of buying cultural patrimony. The reproductions are some of the highest quality I’ve seen, as souvenirs go.
Then back to Huanchaco for lunch. The whole malecon is shoulder to shoulder with restaurants. Try the special “aji de gallina” of this area, made with crab. Or stick to ceviche which will be some of the best you’ve had.
An aside: I’m contributing a word to Peruvian Spanish: Bronche — to rhyme with Lonche. Brunch is a new entry in the Peruvian daily food schedule so the Peruvians call brunch “bruench” based on the gringo term. I think it would be cuter if they called it “bron-chay”to rhyme with their term for tea time. Just my suggestion… **** July 28, 2018**** I heard a waiter say this word today! And I have a witness!
For a late night culture, it’s a little odd that the Limenos haven’t embraced brunch yet. Most of the places that serve “Gringo style brunch” — eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, and so on, stop serving breakfast food items before noon (this is utterly wrong because the essence of brunch is that breakfast items can be had until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Here are a few places (not hotel restaurants or American chain restaurants) that serve brunch… okay, the two places.
Homemade, Revett 259, Miraflores. Closed on Sundays. All food is homemade.
Las Vecinas, Domeyer 219, Barranco. All the food is homemade including the pasta on the lunch menu (which is available at noon during the same time as the brunch menu). Most of the food is healthy and organic. I’d like more grease.
I will update this posting if I find any more places. Or a place that serves American style breakfast sausages.
Meal times are slightly different in Lima. For breakfast, Limenos eat a sandwich and cup of coffee for breakfast (desayuno), in the 7-9 times frame. Like the Colombians, they don’t eat sweets early in the morning so the idea of pancakes in the morning is an odd idea to them. Then, a cafecito (everything is ‘ito”in Lima) later in the morning (the Brits have “elevenses” at 11 a.m.) and in Lima coffee is always served with a mini-cookie.
Lunch (almuerzo) is from 1-2:30 p.m. (12 for those who work early shifts) and usually includes rice, protein, salad, and soup and/or a side dish — and don’t forget that potatoes are a vegetable.
Then, from 4-6 p.m., when the cold tea-time cold winds move in, there is “lonche” — a version of the word “lunch” — which involves something warm to drink like tea, coffee, chocolate, plus a sandwich. The sandwiches are usually the triangular shaped sandwiches like large British tea sandwiches. It’s the local version of high tea.
Dinner (cena) is from 8-10 p.m. which means that many restaurant do not even open until 7:30 p.m.
*** Updated January 29, 2020 *** I get a lot of questions about the “must eat” restaurants in Lima. Lima is a gastronomic tourist’s South American destination. So here is the list, from the fanciest (as in they are listed on the list of 50 best restaurants list) to some that I recommend, including breakfast places. Or you can go according to this list from Eater. All these places (even La Grimanesa–see photo above) are not hole-in-the-wall places, and some are downright white tablecloth fancy-pantsy. Michelin has not bestowed any stars here yet (Michelin only recently moved into Asia and North America — Michelin was a company just trying to get their customers to wear out their tires by going for drives…).
3: Maido (it’s Japanese-Peruvian), Ca. San Martín 399, Miraflores
4-7: La Mar, Av. La Mar 770, Miraflores, is a cevicheria which is part of Gaston Acurio’s empire, as are: Astrid y Gaston, Madam Tusan, Panchita, Tanta, Papachos, Los Bachiche (Italian-Peruvian and no longer part of his empire-sold to an Italian) and his newest place, La Bodega.
8: Cosme (best secret), Tudela Y Varela 160-162, San Isidro
9: Malabar, Av. Camino Real 101, San Isidro
10: El Mercado (also a Rafael Osterling restaurant), Hipólito Unanue 203, Miraflores: get the shrimp mini burger. It’s the most unusual dish here…
11: Osaka (Japanese), Av. Pardo y Aliaga 660, San Isidro: I wish they would turn up the lights but the single best bite of food that I had in 2016 — was here.
12: amaZ (Amazonian food), Av. La Paz 1079, Miraflores
13: El Seniorio de Sulco (on the malecon with a view of the ocean), Malecón Cisneros 1470, Miraflores
14: La Isolina, Av San Martin 101, (serves heritage Peruvian dishes): as it’s in Barranco, go during a summer lunch time. From the son of the lady who started La Red.
15: La Grimanesa (the only slightly hole-in-the-wall place), Ca. Ignacio Merino 466, Miraflores (practically across the street from La Mar). These are the award winning beef hearts on skewers. If you are going to do it, do it here.
16: Chez Wong (known for cooking in his home). Ca. Enrique León García 114, Santa Catalina
17: El Pan de la Chola (go for breakfast or for a light dinner), Av. La Mar 918, Miraflores. His newest location in Calle Miguel Dasso serves completely different breads etc. Jonathan Day, opened a pizzeria on Avenida La Mar in June 2018 just down the street from his flagship location.
32: El Rocoto: named after the famous large picante red chili from Arequipa.
33: Maria Almenara (for breakfast) or lunch, or dinner.
34: Blu (gelato), in Barranco
35: Paseo Colon, Av. Pardo y Aliaga 697. Like a TGIF or Friendly’s of Peruvian food.
36: Aji555, Av San Luis 2879, San Borja (delicious and Thai — really!!!), started in the ‘hood but moved to San Borja (and the prices reflect this).
37: Cafe Mozart (Italian and Euro flavor)
38: Spizza (in San Isidro). Great Italian style pizza. The best.
39: Taller Razeto, in La Punta.
40: La Mora (also for those who like a good northern European style meal or schnitzel) is a chain with reliable food and more cozy European cafe feel.
41: Las Vecinas, in Barranco, just down the small street by La Isolina. A cafe which is pet-friendly and eco-friendly. And they serve eggs for breakfast, and all the way till 2 pm!
42: Don Cucho’s, in Pachacamac. It’s way out by itself, an adventure to find, and sprawling. ****closed**** but, apparently the employees opened their own place somewhere nearby.
43: Tzu Chifa, Larcomar Mall, Miraflores. It’s elegant, got great views of the ocean, and the food it Chinese.
44: Jian Xing, in the old Chinatown or “Barrio Chino” downtown. A restaurant with the same name is on the new Chinatown (Aviacion). This place in downtown is not fancy like at Tzu but it’s economical.
45: Arirang, Calle Las Orquídeas 447, San Isidro. Authentic Korean barbecue.
46: Tambo Rural, Kilometer marker 52, Panamerican highway, south. Fresh bread out of the oven, stuffed with olives and cheese. Plus coffee so local that you might not understand the accent.
47: Juicy Lucy, Av Mariscal La Mar 1328, Miraflores . Go for the name alone. It’s burgers.
48: El Batan, Km. 198.5, Carretera Panamericana Sur, Chincha Alta. The MOST delicious lomo saltado to date. It’s located at a gas station in the middle of a town.
49. Amorelado, ice cream shop across from La Mar. Just because you will need something to do while you wait for your table at La Mar… try the lucuma. Then you can tick that off the list.
50. 500 Degrees, on Av. Camino Real. They have breakfast from 7-12. Then lunch. It’s a sunken patio. The juice is good, the salads are good.
51. La Ciccolina, Cusco. It’s upstairs from a courtyard. One of Gaston Acurio’s kingdom.
52. Fiesta Gourmet. The original place. Now they also have La Picanteria.
53. Amoramar, Garcia y Garcia 175, Barranco. For the love of seafood. The large restaurant is hidden behind a wall on one of the residential streets of “the other part” of Barranco as in the non-touristy part. The food and drinks are good. It’s a bit pricey, and some dishes are slightly off (too salty, etc.) but overall, it’s worth recommending.
55. Bao, José Domingo Choquehuanca 411, Miraflores (go west from La Mar and turn on Jose’s street). Not completely authentic but, who cares? It’s got hipster vibe. Also in Calle Manuel Bonilla off of Parque Kennedy.
56. Jeronimo, Av Mariscal La Mar 1209. Apparently one of the top places to eat. Shhh, don’t tell anyone. Completely international class food. The beef short rib was great if you are a meat lover. The grilled artichokes were a delightful surprise (scrapping the flesh off the leaves with fingers slick with garlic butter…) Also, the Poke (“poke-A”) bowl is passable for those who miss Poke.
57. La Cucharita. Also tapas, across from Jeronimo.
58. Morelia, Calle Atahualpa 196, Miraflores. Home made pasta, nice salads, and crispy flatbread pizza.
59. Mantra, Avenida Alfredo Benavides, 1761, Miraflores. Third best place to eat Indian. (Massala is not on the list.)
60. Puku Puku, Narciso de la Colina 297. Premier cafe with biodegradable straws.
61. La Linterna: The location in San Isidro is a family place where many of the local families walk over. The pizza is flat Peruvian style and the food is much like I imagine a Peruvian Italian grandma would serve.
62. Rasson. Calle Gral Mendiburu 1007, Miraflores. The name is the reverse of the last name of the siblings who opened this place. They also own La Panka. Rasson has lots of space. Comfy food. I liked their warm choclo with cheese, their grilled mushrooms, the anticucho of chicken breast was juicy (and healthy), the brownie dessert was excellent, and their “waters” with fruit infusions and lots of mint leaves are good as well. And they have SWEET POTATO FRIES!
63. Pan Sal Aire. Almirante Miguel Grau 320, Barranco. The best pizza so far. Service is slow but the atmosphere and the pizza is great. Too bad they use canned mushrooms. One of the few places with fancy breakfast. The interior is quite stylish and you can take your upper crust friends here. But, why, why, use canned mushrooms?
64. Homemade. Revett 259, Miraflores . They serve breakfast all day. It is homemade and organic. And yes, everything is homemade.
65. Franklin, Avenida Alvarez Calderon 198, in the Roosevelt Hotel. Very American food including pastrami.
66. La Milanesa Verdadera, several locations. It’s chicken fried steak. Also have salads and veggie options.
67. Antica, several locations. Good pizza, good pasta, good salad.
68. Quisso, Av. Paseo de la República 5250. Open 1-3 PM, 5-11 PM. The name is combo of “queso” and “guisso” which are are the words for cheese and stew. It’s a raclette restaurant (the first in Peru) but the idea is typical Peruvian fast food (burgers, hotdog and fries) with a raclette-melted ooze of cheese on top.
69. Dondoh, Av. Los Conquistadores 999, San Isidro. According to some, the best sushi place in town (Maido is in it’s own class).
70. Fuji, Av. Paseo de la República 4084, Miraflores. Apparently a favorite with the Japanese. It was good and they have a menu all in Japanese. Probably the most “authentic” Japanese food in Lima.
71. Punto Italiano, La Molina: Good Italian food.
72. Matria, Calle Gral Mendiburu 823, Miraflores: one of the few restaurant owned by a female chef.
73. Frida, across from Matria: Chef Moma of Jeronimo and Chinga Tu Taco’s Mexican restaurant, opened in August 2018, and a raging success.
74. Los Dos Hermanos Coreanos: on Aviacion. Korean and quite authentic.
75. Statera, Av Mariscal La Mar 463, Miraflores. Described as “like Central but bigger portions.”
76. La Pizza de la Chola: Chola of El Pan de La Chola’s third iteration. Italian style artisanal pizza but the oven uses gas after a bit of wood for show. As of May 2019, they now serve breakfast.
77. Las Tres Suecas, Av. Gral. Córdoba 1193, Miraflores: Three Swedish ladies have opened this little corner of Scandinavia, right around the corner from Avenida La Mar.
78. Dhaasu, Avenida Republica de Panama 245, Barranco. Delish food! Indian food has arrived in Lima! This place opened in early October 2018 and it’s blowing up Instagram. The line is going out the door. Luckily, the owner, Rish, and his Peruvian girlfriend, Camilla, both speak excellent English, and Spanish, so they can explain “what is hindu food?”
80. JianXing, Avenida Aviacion 2619, San Borja: across the street from Viet. This place serves authentic Chinese Chinese food, not Chifa. Not sure if this is true when not with a Chinese speaker…
81. Siete Sopas, Av. Arequipa 2394, Lince (Open 24 hours; seven days a week): This is a soup restaurant from the chain La Lucha Sangucheria. They have three soups each day. They always have “criolla” and “diet” (chicken soup) and then the day’s soup. It’s advertised on the wall outside so you can see the soup of the day from outside (or just have it memorized like some of my friends… “today’s Tuesday, so not MY soup day.”). As of May 2019, they have a second location in Surquillo.
82. Bangkok, José Bernardo Alcedo 460, Lince: This is the other Thai restaurant with Thai owners (a factoid that seems to be important to some). Some of the dishes were nothing but their papaya salad and green curry were good.
83. Carnal, Calle Elías Aguirre 698, Miraflores: steak. This is where the Juicy Lucy chain was born. Same owners.
84. Mérito, Jr, 28 De Julio 206, Barranco: Venezuelan chefs making delicious food. Biggest yuca fries…
85. El Mexicano, Calle Manuel Bonilla 248, Miraflores: Lots of sauces.
86. Sushi Pop, Calle Manuel Bonilla 112, Miraflores: Surprisingly good burger (Angus) and so on.
87. Guru Kebab & Curry, Av. Alfredo Benavides 4518, Surco: Second best Indian. Sit down restaurant.
88. Maria Panela, on La Mar. It’s Brazilian. It’s a cute little place. Not amazing but I did like some of the food. Did I mention it is cute? The owner is friendly.
89. Las Reyes, corner of Mendiburu. Third restaurant from La Red, La Isolina…
90. Boca y Vaca, on Dos de Mayo. It’s a steak house but has everything on the menu.
91. Kaikan, Ovalo Guitierrez, from the same people who brought you Noruto. Cute manga figures and the place is like a Fridays or Chillis of Nikkei food.
92. Enkai, from one of the former chefs at Maido. The hottest new place to go!
93. Monstruo, Nicolas de Pierola 113, Barranco: sandwiches and juice. Open since the 80s. Open from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m.
94. Bingsu, in downtown and Jesus Maria. Korean style shaved ice dessert. Yum.
95. Cafe A Bistro, Av. Augusto Pérez Araníbar 2193, San Isidro, brunch and other things. Located next to a gas station.
96. TipTop, Av. Arenales 2499, Lince: open since 1953. A drive-in diner where you can still get your food on a tray attached to your car. Delicious soft serve. Go to this location.
97. La Traviata, small Italian place with a really good caprese salad.
98. La Casa de la Nonna Lina, Av Brasil 3898,Magdalena: Some of the dishes were acceptable. Not bad. Spacious interior.
99. Siete, Jirón Domeyer 260, Barranco. It’s got a dark Madrid cosmopolitan feel. Food is good.
100. Troppo: Calle Los Libertadores 199, San Isidro. Best pizza dough in town. Excellent pistachio gelato, tiramisu, meatballs, pasta, salad, ricotta, and bread.
Obviously, I’m not including the places I’ve been where the food was awful or mediocre.
Breakfast is one of my favorite meals (well, so are: brunch, elevenses, lunch, sobremesa, linner, high tea, supper, dinner, natmad “nightmeal”, and stumble-home-greasy-and-spicy-mouthful…). Some people consider eggs to be a vital part of a “breakfast” and others consider a piece of bread dipped in coffee to be the start to the day. In some countries, soup is it. In Vietnam, it’s pho (as in my photo from New Mexico, USA) and in Colombia, it’s a broth with rib meat and potatoes. In China and Thailand, the breakfast “oatmeal” is a rice porridge soup… I hereby advocate for more soup for breakfast!
When entering a restaurant in Lima these days, the waiter will automatically ask if you have a reservation. Even if the restaurant is empty and it’s 5 p.m. So what do you do? How do you get to eat at the places that are a MUST? Like Maido, recently ranked as the number 1 — No. 1 — numero uno restaurant in the world by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants?
What indeed. What’s the secret? Go at an off-hour. Walk in at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. and promise to be done by 7 or 8. Maido doesn’t even open for dinner until 7 so try going at 3:30 p.m. at the end of their lunch hours or be at the doors waiting to get in at 12:25, five minutes before they open for lunch (try a Saturday or Sunday when Peruvians would normally eat lunch at 1:30 or later). Or at a place like La Mar, which serves lunch (they are not open for dinner) until 5:30 p.m., try going at 4 p.m. for an early dinner or “linner” as the kitchen is still open until 5:30 p.m. For other places, try going on a Monday or Tuesday night. If it’s a famous breakfast place like El Pan de la Chola, try eating there at night (when you might actually feel like having a glass of wine or beer — which they always have on the menu — but you perhaps don’t want at 9 a.m.).
Or you can plan your visit around the restaurant visit. Make the reservation and plan your visit around it. Perhaps this is the solution for places like Central. It’s possible that you are super well-connected, but for the rest of us, try one of my tips.
Or, go to one of the lesser famous places but with equally delicious food (a chain — horror! — like La Seguende Muelle, or La Preferida) or my secret, Cosme. The current trend in gastronomy is a wee bit too fancy for me, but then I don’t like hype over foam and tiny portions. The exception is Statera. Easy to get in to and the owner worked at Central for two years.
Note: Most of the photos are from Astrid and Gaston, including the Guinea Pig Peking “Duck” Style (object in photo appears larger than in real life).
Trying the food in Trinidad requires learning the vocabulary:
Pepper (said, “pehpah”) sauce: made from pureed Scotch Bonnet chili peppers. In the lingo of the today, “they don’t play” in “scoville” here. This pepper sauce is flame-thrower hot. Tread lightly. When ordering pepper sauce, it’s “light, medium, and heavy.”
Doubles: this is the most famous of Trini foods. It’s eaten for breakfast and is comprised of two (hence the name) pieces of fried flatbread topped with cooked chickpeas (garbanzos) in curry, with sauces (see one in hand in photo above). Some of the sauces are pepper/chili sauce and some vendors have their own tamarind sauce to add a sweetness to the mix. At most doubles stands, there are two lines. One for eat-in and one for take-out. The take-out line takes longer as the doubles are wrapped in wax paper. The eat-in line is faster partly because some people will eat six to seven doubles at one time. Now, apparently, there are places serving “triples.” You pay after you have eaten.
Buss up shut: A dish of Indian origin with a large stretchy roti in two layers (inside is a think powdery layer inside) which is ripped up to resemble a ripped shirt. Hence the name.
Roti: is a flat stretchy bread. Eaten with curry (curry goat, curry chicken, etc.).
Callaloo soup: Also very popular. Callaloo is a vegetable. The soup is fairly thick and looks a bit like stewed collard greens.
Crab and dumpling (it is a large pasta piece, no filling). See below. In a curry sauce.
Bodi: is the Indian name for long green beans.
Channa: is lentils.
Dasheen bush choka: dasheen is another name for callaloo and when it is stewed, it becomes a dish called choka.
Fry Bake: is fried flat bread usually served as a breakfast sandwich with dried salt cod or smoked herring. Both taste slightly fishy so I’d recommend getting them with a good amount of pepper sauce.
Bake and Shark: is a fish sandwich like a po’ boy in the U.S. The most famous place for this is Richard’s in Maracas Bay. Stop for some pineapple chow.
Chow: is fruit in a slightly spicy brine.
Oil down: is a stew much like chicken and dumplings in flavor but often made with pigtail. As seen here, it is served with “provisions” which are dumplings, plaintains, breadfruit, potatoes, and other carbohydrate-rich foods.
Macaroni pie: like mac and cheese but cut in squares.
The drinks of Trinidad and Tobago are plentiful. They drink rum and more rum. I was told that the best rum here was Angostura. They also have a ‘punch’ which is made up of all kinds of other alcohol so strong enough to punch you down for a day or two. One person I talked to told me that he had something to drink that was so strong that it made him stop drinking! Again, the national pastime seems to be “to lime” which is to hang out somewhere to drink.
I did not have cow heel soup which is also a famous Trini food. It’s a thick soup made with cow hoof.
The larger than life Jamaican woman is the event. Sure, go for the ribs and potatoes too. Plus the German beer. But, mainly, it’s a good place to drink and carouse. Carolina, the Jamaican German who owns this place makes this one of those places where you feel welcome. (If you like fancy places, look away now.) It’s a self service sort of place, or rather, self order. There are various men and boys, like the baker’s son, who will deliver your food to you, but you order stuff inside. This is a place where the water is the most expensive item on the menu. A lunch plate for two of ribs and potatoes (split open like hot cross buns and soaked in chives and butter), with meatball thrown in, cost around 545 pesos ($10). The potatoes are golden mega-nuggets of comfort. Carolina (great name for a lady who serves barbecue) serves grilled ribs, sausages, meatballs, and she sells them too. The addictive potatoes are the accompaniment, and when she remembers, there is sauerkraut. The only sauce is a sweet mustard, unless she remembers to make a chili sauce. When I asked for chili sauce, she brought me the tiniest chili peppers (they were under an inch in size) to chew on. I did. The location is on a street off the malecon (coast road): Calle Hermanas Mirabal, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. This place is easy to find on Google. Once you find the street, the restaurant is a few hundred yards up the street, next to another stall. The German place is quite large with a small beer garden feel. There are lots of fans and shade to keep you cool if the icy cold beer doesn’t. Inside, you order your food at the deli counter and the beers at the other corner. They will keep track on a chit and you pay when you leave. Not sure about credit cards as I paid cash. Inside, the German Baker had a table set up selling his breads. He sells pretzel bread and many other items.You can’t miss it as Carolina will be the LOUD large lady yelling and singing in Spanish, German, and English. She likes to talk dirty and flirt in a big way. If you get there before noon, she may be less racy. May. Be. She does thirsty work so we bought her many a beer and she sat with us, in between bursts of hugging, dancing, or yelling!Sometimes there is entertainment, other than Carolina, and that will bring about more carousing. Despite this place being “famous” — it doesn’t feel super touristy. Maybe because Anthony Bourdain hasn’t been here.If I lived here, I would probably be here every Saturday.