Welcome to the small, sleepy town of Salento! Although you won’t find too many clubs or much to do past 10PM here, you will easily find the most breathtaking landscape, kind and caring people, and some pretty amazing food. For these reasons, it is my favorite place to visit in Colombia, apart from the famous city of eternal spring, of course!
After spending a few days in Salento, it will quickly become obvious that the majority of the restaurants serve the exact same dishes, the main one being trout. After my fourth trout dish in a row, I was eager to find the few restaurants that offered some variety. While the five restaurants listed below do serve local delicacies, they also offer a wide variety of options for meat-lovers, vegetarians, and vegans alike. Whether you’re in the mood for the perfect cut of steak, a veggie burger, or even some green Thai curry, these places have got you covered!
This hip and happening restaurant is owned by two very amazing Spaniards who opened this place less than a year ago. Although it's one of the newest restaurants in Salento, these guys have got their shit together. The menu is diverse, vegan and vegetarian friendly, and inspired by their roots. You can order Spanish tapas (I highly recommend the cheese board), fresh salads, sandwiches, lasagnas (the veggie lasagna is to die for), a variety of meat dishes, and fish. Although trout is the most popular dish in Salento, Makao's fish is the best I’ve tasted in the two weeks I've spent here. The drinks, both alcoholic and non, are delicious. In fact, my ultimate favorite treat at this restaurant is the coconut juice! The desserts are fresh and change daily, but you absolutely must try the passion fruit tart if it is available. The true beauty and uniqueness of this restaurant comes from the people that work there. If you find yourself dining at Makao, get to know your waiter or waitress. This shouldn't be too hard because everyone at Makao is so interesting and eager to make sure you are having a good time!
Luciérnaga has a special place in my heart not only because of its great food and cheap prices, but because the place has live music almost every night of the week. The music here is sensational and the main band that plays offers the perfect mix of Colombian and American tunes. You can dine inside or outside on the veranda (I recommend the latter). Apart from the ambience, the food is very fresh and delicious. I love the salads and vegan plate, while Alex gets a little more excited about the chicken dishes and pizza. I've dined here multiple times and never left feeling anything less than satisfied. The desserts are stellar too; be sure to order the waffle with chocolate, berries, and ice cream!
3. La Eliana
This quaint and cute restaurant is situated on the porch of a hostel, which affords a beautiful view of the lush green landscape and mountains. The ambiance is quite romantic at night. You'll feel right at home as soon as you meet the owner, who is very friendly and funny. My favorite dish to order at La Eliana (maybe in all of Salento) is the Green Thai Curry with vegetables. The curries are the signature dish here, so definitely give one of them a try! The appetizers are great as well (my favorites are the hummus and pesto with pita), however, nothing compares to the homemade tiramisu made by the owner's wife! Check out La Eliana for food, drinks, and even accommodation. I've never stayed there, but have heard the rooms are nice, clean, and very affordable.
4. Brunch Diner
If you want to eat at a place “where everybody knows your name”, this is your restaurant. Brunch truly encapsulates the small town vibe of Salento. It’s the kind of place where a friendly, “I’ll have the usual” can suffice as your order. Needless to say, the staff is very welcoming and attentive. And, although most service throughout Colombia runs at a slower pace than many foreigners are used to, you won’t have to wait long here because this team hustles! Apart from the friendly and fast service, the food is fresh and delicious. The menu offers a wide variety of breakfast foods (I highly recommend the waffles and omelettes), as well as burgers (vegetarian options available), tex-mex, sandwiches, burritos, smoothies, juices, and more. I’ve ordered the fruit bowl alone for breakfast multiple times because the portion is incredibly generous and fruit is so fresh! Another unique thing about Brunch: they make and sell their own peanut, almond, and sesame butter. So, if you’re an almond butter addict like me, you’ll need to stock up here because it’s impossible to find almond butter elsewhere!
5. Beta Town
I came across Beta Town after seeing advertisements in my hostel that this restaurant was showing the Super Bowl. It seemed like a fun gringo hang out, so I stumbled into the restaurant with no expectations other than to see Peyton Manning kick some ass and enjoy a cold drink. I was surprised to find the awesome outdoor ambiance, wonderfully welcoming staff, an extensive menu, and a big screen tv showing American football! Of course, this was a special occasion, however, every night that I went back to Beta after my Super Bowl experience, the food, service, and ambiance was just as great. Like Brunch, this restaurant has a diverse menu filled with foods for any palate. From steaks to salads and veggie burgers, this place has it all; they even offer breakfast. If you're not too hungry, stop by for a drink and an appetizer. The drinks (alcoholic and non) are really tasty and there are plenty of snacks to choose from!
Little Slice Of Paradise
Although more and more tourists are flocking to Salento to enjoy the scenic views, tour the famous coffee farms, and go horseback riding through the mountains... to me, Salento still feels like a hidden little piece of treasure. By bus or by plane, I hope you can make it to this little slice of paradise to sip (or in my case, gulp) some traditional coffee and feast on some fabulous food!