Bolivia’s La Paz is the highest capital in the world, and although, historically, it’s not a prime spot for ‘haute cuisine’, quality places to eat are on the rise. We have picked out ten of the best restaurants in La Paz for top-of-the-world top-notch nosh.
When food critics found out that Claus Meyer, co-founder of the current second best restaurant in the world (Noma, in Copenhagen), was to open a new restaurant, no-one expected it to be in Bolivia, least of all the residents of La Paz. But that is exactly what this Scandinavian marvel-worker did. He brought cordon bleu to the Andes, incorporating local flavours into the colours of the cushions, as well as exotic local produce and animals into the menu. For ‘the works’, go for the taster menu (five, seven or fifteen courses). Á la carte offerings have been carefully picked to reflect Bolivia’s biodiversity and tradition, and tempt the hungry visitors with options such as the silky palm marrow with charque and egg yolk or the llama fillet with chuño glaced in apple and banana syrup.
Claiming to be unique in the city, this food delivery service boasts that it provides a wide choice of not only vegetarian, but healthy dishes, drinks and botanas (nibbles). Ser Sano is a good place to consider for a night in, if only for the names of the dishes, which inspire pun-induced awe and appetite. The highlights include Papicar bien (translating as either ‘to nibble healthily’ or ‘to make love well’), Atún romántico (‘romantic tuna’, in case there is any doubt) and the natural juice Fuera toxinas (‘get out, toxins’).
Switzerland comes to La Paz in the Chalet La Suisse and manages to transport its guests to the Alps as opposed to the Andes. Imported wines, cheeses and chocolate fondue co-exist peacefully with Bolivian trout, llama meat and hunks of beef at this upmarket, culturally diverse La Paz restaurant.
Almost all of what Bolivia has to offer in terms of culinary experiences on a reasonable budget is served up on a plate (or more precisely, several large plates) in this restaurant just above the witches’ market. This authentic, local place is especially worth visiting at lunchtime when it is heaving with paceños getting their daily rations. Hearty fare and generous portions are the staple here at El Pueblito.
Here is another one to titillate the linguists or fans of rhymes, whilst also satiating those looking for an authentic street food outlet in central La Paz. A salteña is a traditional Bolivian empanada (a small pie, similar in form to a Cornish pasty), which was supposedly brought to Bolivia by an Argentinean woman from the province of Salta, hence the name for this filling little delicacy. A paceña, on the other hand, is a female resident of La Paz, showing that the salteña is an institution as Bolivian as the salt flats. Pick from a selection of meat, chicken or vegetarian salteñas sure to please any fast-food lover. This award-winning mini-chain of outlets is more than a quarter of a century old, and resides in four locations around the city.
Imagine falling in love with Bolivia, moving there and opening up a café-restaurant which combines international cuisine, an atmosphere brimming with hospitality and warmth, and a well-travelled selection of clients and book-exchange opportunities. That is what Rick has done, creating Sol y Luna. Although it may not be an exemplary ‘Bolivian’ restaurant, is a perfect place to get a proper meal surrounded by a truly international clientele and sip a cocktail at one of the regular salsa or cultural nights.
For guaranteed good eats in Latin America, the local market is almost always the safest bet. In La Paz, foodies are spoilt for choice with the most famed and popular food market in the country. A stroll around the outdoor food paradise will reveal fresh fruit with shapes and tastes beyond belief, or sizzling, mouth-watering dishes from one of the small restaurants within the market. The produce in the salteñas, broths or meat dishes is bound to be as fresh as possible, and the atmosphere will be lively. For the brave traveller, the bull’s penis soup at Mercado Rodriguez is reportedly the best soup available in the best market in Bolivia.
Bolivian lunchtime comes rather late in the day, midday is the time when Bolivians finish off their mid-morning snacks, as opposed to settling down to a full meal. And so a visit to Coroico In Sur at 2 or 3pm is a genuine insight what a true Bolivian lunch consists of. Spicy meat dishes, beans, rice, corn-based deliciousness and tongue, all smothered in delicately sweet and spicy sauces. Locals love this little restaurant and rightly so, with excellent value for money and value for full stomach.
This local favourite sits in a converted family house, and retains some of the family-run atmosphere that seems to keep the residents of the surrounding Zona Sur area coming back for more. With its attention to ingredients and the desire to spice up most of the dishes, El Vagon del Sur cooks up traditional and hearty Bolivian fare. Beef, chicken and fish dishes are coupled with fresh and local vegetables, then stirred up with flavoursome spicy notes.
The name, Villa Serena, is the first hint of the restaurant’s ambiance, as tranquil and serene as Bolivia’s nature. The food very much underlines this feeling, even if the cultural evenings and music nights get a bit lively. Here, visitors can encounter contemporary Bolivian cuisine in an atmosphere, which conjures up the perfect image of the ‘petite bourgeoisie’, with white tablecloths and slightly uncomfortable chairs. What makes this a truly cultural restaurant is the aptly-named ‘centro cultural’ on the floor above. Sit, order, eat, peruse, and come back for pudding.