Gourmet Delights: Cartagena’s 4-Star Dining Destinations

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La Cevicheria

Calle 39 #7 14
+57 5 679 8743

As the name might suggest, La Cevichería specializes in and prepares the freshest and most appetizing ceviches that are now famous on the streets of Cartagena.

With many different varieties created with the freshest select ingredients, the super-friendly small establishment with tables on the sidewalk goes further and also fuses other seafood dishes, such as octopus, lobster salad, and paella.

The style is simple and there are a limited number of tables available, which are always very popular and generally occupied. Should you wish to sample the city’s most famous ceviche, plan to arrive early.

Lively and colorful, this is what a cevichería should feel like. Choose from the tables outside for the al fresco experience, while white wrought-iron stools at the kitchen bar inside or aged wooden tables dotted around the small but festively decorated dining area are another option. A dramatic blue and white chequered floor with plenty of nautical details adds to the overall atmosphere of the cevichería.

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La Cevicheria is not the fanciest place in Cartagena. A wine bottle of homemade hot sauce, full of herbs and spices, sits on every table. The owner, Jorge Escandón, has become one of Cartagena’s and indeed Colombia’s most iconic culinary ambassadors. Anthony Bourdain famously dined here in No Reservations and Charlie Sheen even showed up on one occasion.

The atmosphere that pervades here is very relaxed, with a strong emphasis on authenticity. The freshness and quality of the ingredients, primarily seafood as one would expect, are accentuated. The dishes are not overly complex but are pieced together with cunning wisdom. Ceviche de coco y límon is fantastic.  While another ceviche uses mango, a pleasant change from the more typical ceviches.

Pulpo en Salsa de Maní (octopus in peanut sauce) is about as wonderful a dish as you will find on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. It is divine and so flavourful, yet you will only find it here. The tropical paella is memorable. Even the mojitos can lay claim to being among the best in Cartagena.

With fantastic food in a casual and exciting, buzzing atmosphere and a seafood menu that goes far beyond ceviche, you might find yourself at La Cevicheria more than once.

Dress code: Casual and relaxed.
Reservations needed: Not accepted, so there may be a wait at busier times.

Harry Sasson

Carrera 3 #31-19
+57 5 650 1015

Harry Sasson, one of Colombia’s most famous chefs, opened his sixth restaurant, in Cartagena’s Charleston Santa Teresa. There was no doubt that it would be a hit as his name has become synonymous with high-quality food. The exquisite location within a restored 17th-century convent only adds to the recipe for success.

The décor inside the restaurant is nice if a little universal. However, the view from the patio is stunning. The location makes Harry Sasson’s a great place to enjoy an excellent cocktail and meet friends.

It is the food that brings visitors to this establishment because it is so outstandingly good. The restaurant can be crowded at times, although it is fairly easy to find a table during lunch service, but dinner usually requires a reservation unless you do not mind waiting. However, if you do not want to wait, sitting at the bar tables gets you seated faster, and still you can have access to many of the best offerings on the main menu.

Being that Cartagena is a coastal city teeming with fishermen, their seafood is truly amazing and usually always the wisest choice on any menu. Their most famous dish is the nachos de cangreja (crab nachos) which are a phenomenal mix of crab with a rich cheese sauce.

Another plate that never disappoints is the chicharron de pulpo. This is fried octopus, crunchy on the outside and deliciously soft and tender on the inside. Paired with black olive puree and grilled shishito peppers, this is an absolute must.

These two dishes are available at the bar too, should you elect to go for a drink and lighter fare rather than a full-course dinner. The mojitos are exceptional.

As for main courses, the grilled grouper always amazes. It is impossible to top such a fresh item that has been cooked to perfection. Their meats such as the filet mignon are top class as well, but the seafood is what it is all about.

Some visitors mention that the service seems to be slow, however, it is typical for many restaurants to run on island time in Cartagena. In reality, Harry actually does better than many.
The space itself is open and airy with the restaurant being located on the patio of a hotel. There is a retractable roof covering the courtyard, with giant palm trees gently swaying in the light breeze, a style so typical to Cartagena.

It is easy to get lost in the maze of tiny bistros and gastro pubs amongst Cartagena’s cobbled streets, not to mention the voluminous street vendors and bars with excellent pub fairs. However, should you desire some fine dining with authentic flavors and great ambiance, remember Harry Sasson’s in Cartagena.

Dress code: Smart, long pants and shoes.
Reservations needed: Not necessary for luncheon, advisable at night.

Mar y Zielo

Carrera. 5 #34-63
+57 317 691 1393

Located right in the heart of the colorful main central area of Cartagena, Mar y Zielo Restaurant and Bar is famous for its ability to prepare delicious traditional cuisine in a modern and innovative way, using the freshest Colombian ingredients and the restaurant is particularly distinguished for its fresh seafood dishes. Mar y Zielo is a picturesque restaurant hidden inside a colonial mansion in the center of the Old Town.

This trendy and classy Caribbean gastro bar, with signature cocktails and caringly crafted dishes that take inspiration from the four corners of Colombia, is a joyful place. All may be enjoyed in an elegant and contemporary setting showcasing the beauty of Colombian design and thoughtful hospitality.

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Arranged over several levels, with a stylish main dining room, the open kitchen faces a wall of tropical plants and a mercurial, open-air bar. Next flight up is an intimate cava area and then a lavish, tropical top-floor rooftop bar awaits for a wonderful starlit meal. Overlooking the historical rooftops and the cathedral with incredible views of the colorful historic buildings in Cartagena’s old town, snag a spot here if you can.

Focusing on traditional Colombian food, but using modern techniques, here you can enjoy exquisite and creative dishes. Revel in the freshness of the sea with the ever-popular ceviche baronia, or indulge in a soulful union of tastes with the reinvented matrimonio, a dish that harmonizes local fare into a single symphonic plate.

Try too delicious options with regional ingredients like stewed goat croquettes of jaiba, fresh crab, pulpo and sea bass all found along the Colombian coast.

So many wonderful seasonal specialty cocktails to enjoy. A frozen, magenta-coloured corozo juice, made from the tart, cherry-like local fruit, is amazing. Along with modern cocktails, premium spirits and a large selection of wine and champagne are readily available.

It is not just the food that captivates at Mar y Zielo, it is the unparalleled ambiance and the romantic air that envelops this place, making every visit truly memorable. Enjoy a fabulous full lunch or dinner at the Mar y Zielo or just visit for some drinks, views and soft house beats from the live music.

Dress code: Casual but smart.
Reservations needed: Not necessary for luncheon, good idea for the evening.

UMA Cantina Peruana

Calle del Curato # 38-99
+57 302 462 2665

Uma Cantina Peruana, run by the renowned Peruvian chef Felipe Villanueva , offers the best gastronomic experience, with extraordinary options of ceviches, anticuchos and tiraditos. Discover the authentic flavour of Peruvian food, from a kitchen full of tradition translated into today’s world thanks to modern techniques. 

“We are a contemporary restaurant based on signature Peruvian cuisine. We came to Colombia to tell our story through food in a different way,” so says Villanueva.

Cuisine with Inca roots is one of the most prestigious and mysterious in the world. Its culinary history initially developed through potatoes, corn, and local seasonings. Then through gastronomic influences brought by the Spanish Conquistadors, with grapes, olives, and comestibles such as chicken and meat, began to build into one of the most diverse cuisines in the world.

At Uma Cantina, culinary creativity takes center stage. Explore a mesmerizing menu displaying a diverse array of dishes that exemplify the culinary traditions of Peru. Enter the exquisite world of ceviche, where you will savor some of the finest offerings in town, meticulously crafted to tantalize your taste buds.

The top restaurants in Cartagena would not be complete without international cuisine. In Uma Cantina you will experience classic Peruvian dishes including lomo saltado (loin of beef) or ají de gallina (garlic chicken). Also innovative creations like quinoa risotto or ceviche de pato (duck). Vegetarian options are well provided including quinoa chufa, an excellent dish with crispy tofu, shiitakes and sautéed asparagus.

To make the experience completely immersive, the restaurant has a Pisco Bar that offers mixology based on different preparations of pisco. It is almost obligatory to imbibe the traditional Peruvian cocktail,  Pisco Sour. This is a drink made from the distillation of different types of grapes, used in the production of wine, emulsified egg whites, lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar.

This cocktail has an international character, ideal for cooling off from the heat and humidity of Cartagena. There are several versions of the Pisco Sour, with different carefully selected ingredients, in this amazing Peruvian restaurant. You can even get the famous non-alcoholic Inka Kola! (if you have been to Peru, you will recognize this fluorescent green soda).

Step into a world of modern elegance as Uma Cantina beguiles with its stunning interior design. The ambiance is a harmonious blend of sophistication and comfort, providing the perfect backdrop for an array of occasions. The restaurant has a modern and chic design, a lively bar, and a terrace.

There is no need to travel to Lima to find the best Peruvian gastronomy as it is right here in Cartagena. From traditional ceviches to tiraditos (fish sashimi) and anticuchos (beef heart), it could not get more authentic than this. The food is fresh, colorful, and visually stunning. Enjoy the grilled octopus with bok choy and shiitake mushrooms. It is truly some of the best octopus to be had anywhere. The black spaghetti with tiger milk and prawns is totally memorable. UMA is perfect for a romantic night on a special occasion, or for exploring the majestic flavors of Latin America with friends.

Your visit to Cartagena would be incomplete without savoring the delights of Uma Cantina.

Dress code: Smart and casual.
Reservations needed: Recommended as it does get very

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