Comida, bebida, y fiesta! Those are the three words you need to know when traveling to Peru. Why? Because everything revolves around food (comida), drinks (bebida), and parties (fiesta). This saying was made up during my trip to Lima, Peru with my dad and step-mother, and quickly became the theme of the trip. If there's one thing for certain, Peruvians definitely know their food and drinks and love to party, and love to show the ropes to visiting guests on their lifestyle.
During our time in Lima, when we weren't sightseeing we were either eating, drinking, or partying- and I'm not even being dramatic. We would bounce from one place to the next, trying to take in as much as we could during our few days before we left for Cusco. One of the things that has stuck with me from Lima is the outstanding service we received at a number of places and the drinks and food we enjoyed. The cost of food and drinks in Peru is also so very affordable compared to what we are used to paying in the U.S. A beer averages about $3 dollars, a strong cocktail about $5, and a large meal, about $8-10 (prices vary depending on the establishment, of course). Today's post is a recount of some of the restaurants and bars we visited on our travels, with a focus on the traditional dishes and drinks that you can expect to find in Lima.
Pictured: Ceviche and Pisco Sour from Mango's
While I knew that there were Chinese influences in Peruvian food (thanks in part to China Chilcano), I had no idea there was a term coined for this style of food and its insanely popular in Lima. This Peruvian Chinese style food is called Chifa, and you seriously can't throw a wonton without hitting a Chifa restaurant in Lima. We counted one time, and in a span of about 10 minutes we saw ~15 Chifa spots. So whats so great about this Chifa? LET ME TELL YOU. For one, the fried wontons are amazing; second, the Kam Lu Wanton dish (yes, more wontons), which is wontons stir fried with sweet and sour sauce, veggies, pineapples, and meat, is borderline addictive; and third, the Tallarin Saltado, which is a Peruvian version of chow mein. The Chifa restaurants stay packed, with good reason, and are a can't miss in Lima. Now if you'll excuse me while I go daydream about those wontons.....
Country Club Lima Hotel & the Chilcano
Bringing some serious class and fanciness to Lima is the Country Club Lima Hotel, which is located in the embassy area of the city. The hotel is a Peruvian Culture Monument, and is absolutely gorgeous inside. My dad is a huge fan of this hotel from previous trips to Peru, so he was eager to show me his favorite aspect of it- the English Bar famous for their Pisco Sour. The bar gives off fancy pub-style vibes with its dark wood panels and tables and leather couches for lounging. I took a great liking to their Chilcano cocktail, which is Pisco with lime and ginger ale. The bartender made the Chilcanos perfectly and I wish I had gotten his recipe as I've tried to recreate the drink at home, and I can't get it right. We also had an exceptional server named Brian who was attentive and made our experience even more enjoyable by bringing quick drinks, bar snacks- sweet potato chips, nuts, and a great specialty appetizer dish.
La Lucha- Peruvian Sandwiches & Huayaro
By far my favorite meal in Lima was from La Lucha- a specialty Peruvian sandwich shop in the Miraflores district. It's a simple order and serve establishment, but it is run with great efficiency and the staff was SO welcoming and nice. I had the Lucha sandwich at the recommendation of one of the staff, who greeted us and walked me through the entire menu in English. I figured he probably knew what he was talking about, and he totally did. The sandwich was amazing. It was thinly sliced Peruvian steak with cheese melted into a gooey deliciousness. In addition to the sandwich, we ordered a side of the famous Papas Fritas Huayaro (Huayaro is a typical Peruvian potato) to share, which were equally as good, and the staff brought out generous servings of their specialty dipping sauces for us to try. I can't say enough good things about this place, seriously. I'm even friends with one of the staff who helped us, Jane, now on Instagram! The best part of La Lucha? The cost. The price of my sandwich, a side of papas fritas, and a Cusquena beer was only about $8-9 in U.S. dollars! Definitely add this to your list of places to eat in Lima, you can thank me later.
Mango's Cafe & Ceviche
You may have seen my reference to Mango's Cafe in my last Peru Travel Diaries post, where I finished the photo shoot collab with Triz y Juan Fotos. After the photos, my dad, step-mother, and I stayed to have some drinks and share the ceviche, a popular dish that Mango's is known for, in addition to their beautiful ocean views and outdoor seating. Never having tried ceviche before, I was pessimistic about the dish, but my mind quickly changed as soon as I tasted it. The ceviche was fantastic- the mix of the fish, corn, sweet potatoes, and spices was so flavorful and definitely not what I had expected. Not only was the ceviche wonderful, but the cocktail list is fantastic. This is the perfect place to sip drinks and take in the beautiful scenery.
Norky's- Pollo a la Brasa
You can't go to Peru and not have traditional Peruvian chicken. Norky's is a popular chain that can be found throughout Lima, but we went to the Miraflores location which is considered to be the best. The traditional Peruvian chicken is simple- spiced well and served with papas fritas, a large fresh salad, and dipping sauces- ketchup, a mayo-based sauce, and a spicy sauce. The staple drink served with this is almost always Inca Cola or Coca Cola, but Norky's had a great happy hour when we went, so we opted for cocktails. The spicy sauce was my favorite- if I could have brought it home in bulk I would have! And in case you're curious, Norky's definitely gives Super Pollo a run for their money.
Gran Hotel Bolivar Cocktail Lounge & the Pisco Sour
We found ourselves at the Gran Hotel Bolivar while we had some time in between sightseeing we needed to waste. We wandered in for their famed Cathedral Pisco Sours, which were definitely worth writing home about. The Pisco Sour is a traditional cocktail from Peru and it consists of Pisco, lemon juice, egg white, and simple syrup. I know from the description it doesn't sound that good, but it is surprisingly refreshing and the mix of lemon juice with the other ingredients masks the egg whites and packs a great citrus flavor. The Gran Hotel Bolivar's Cocktail Lounge has a nice patio that is perfect to enjoy one (or three) Pisco Sours while taking in the hustle and bustle of downtown Lima.
El Tio Mario- Anticuchos If you know what anticuchos are, you'll understand when I tell you I had complications with this dish at El Tio Mario, a popular spot in the Barranco district of Lima. If you don't know what anticuchos are, let me tell you. Anticuchos are skewered pieces of beef heart served with corn and boiled potatoes. Yes, beef heart- you read that right. While I have tried a tiny piece of beef heart once before at El Chalan in DC (and wasn't a fan), I decided I'd be adventurous since its considered a specialty in Peru and wanted to keep an open mind. After one bite, my mind closed and I saved my appetite for the boiled potatoes and dessert. There was another dish that was served with the anticuchos, but no one would tell me what it was in hopes I'd eat it (I didn't), so I still to this day am not positive was it was, lol. Hey, I tried the beef, but I just couldn't stomach the fact I was eating hearts. If you are an adventurous eater, I'm sure you would love the dish, but it was unfortunately a failed attempt for me. Luckily, El Tio Mario is also known for their delicious donut-like fried dough desserts, so I filled up on those and still left happy.
Blonde in the District