Okay, we know. South America is not the world’s most sought-after culinary destination. Yet our Latino amigos on this vast southern continent do know how to cook up a mean meal, whether it be in a plush fine-dining restaurant or a humble roadside stall. Here are the gastronomic highlights of South America for 2018.
Home to some of the most renowned restaurants on the planet, the foodie scene in Lima has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years thanks to the hard work and perseverance of some creative celebrity chefs. Superstar establishments such as Central and Maido continue to wow critics with their Peruvian and Nikkei cuisine, cementing the city once and for all as the epicenter of South America’s culinary scene. On the other end of the spectrum, freshly caught ceviche served up by the seashore is a delicious local snack at just a few dollars a pop.
A surprise newcomer to the international culinary scene, Santiago has been working on overdrive to shake its image as a bland foodie destination. The world-class Borago is at the forefront, leading the charge with a visionary take on wild and little-known ingredients that has earned it a spot among the top 50 restaurants worldwide. Yet plenty of more affordable traditional food can be found throughout the city too, from the humble completo hotdog to fresh crabs and eels.
São Paulo, Brazil
South America’s biggest city has long been attracting food-obsessed travelers, largely for the excellent array of high-end eateries on offer. Alex Atala’s D.O.M is the hottest ticket in town, offering an incredible Amazonian menu packed with exotic items such as rare roots and dried ants, to name just a few. Meanwhile, budget-friendly family-run operations serve up a variety of traditional cuisine, a favorite of many locals being the hearty rice and bean based Feijoada.
As Colombia’s official and cultural capital, it’s no surprise this metropolis of eight million serves up some exquisite cuisine. A number of fine-dining establishments have found their way onto the coveted Latin America Top 50 List, yet the masses are content to munch on delectable local dishes and desserts in local eateries throughout the city.
La Paz, Bolivia
Bolivia didn’t have much of an international culinary reputation until Gustu came along and put its capital on the foodie map. The brainchild of Claus Meyer (Copenhagen’s Noma), Gustu trains disadvantaged locals to work the kitchen and uses locally sourced ingredients to create a new flair for traditional cuisine. Elsewhere in the city, hearty local dishes and international eateries compete for the tourist dollar.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Meat, meat and more meat is probably what you’ve heard about Argentine cuisine. And yes, it’s true their juicy steaks rank among the best in the world, with those served in Buenos Aires being no exception to the rule. High-end Don Julio is well-known as the best steakhouse in the city, although home-grilled bife de chorizo (Sirloin steak) from the supermarket always goes down a treat.
Known for its Andean flavors combined with foreign influences, what Quito lacks in fine-dining it makes up for with a variety of cuisine. Better yet, costs are low in this mountainous Ecuadorian capital, meaning it’s as easy as ever to find a delicious exotic meal for pennies on the dollar.