Top 10 Restaurants In Popayán, Colombia

Photo of Zoe McIntyre
9 February 2017

UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2005, Popayán, capital of the Cauca region in Colombia, is full of intriguing culinary specialties. Top-notch restaurants are supplemented by street vendors and hole-in-the-wall diners offering fresh juices and regional specialties, from corn tamales to empanadas de Pipián. We list 10 of the best eats here.

Popayán at night | © inyucho/Flickr

La Cosecha Parrillada

Situated slap-bang in the center of town, La Cosecha Parrillada can be counted on to curb all your meat-eating urges. Huge beef cuts are cooked on an open-air grill before being served to diners spread about red-checkered tables waited on by staff in smart white shirts and dickie bow ties. With both international and local eats on the menu, the place has an old-fashioned air and Club Colombia beer on tap, making it a reliably inviting dining option.

Balcón de los Santos

Overlooking Popayán’s public park, Balcón de los Santos will appeal to those who enjoy a good view with their evening meal. The interiors take on a typical Colombian charm, with their thick stonewalls painted white and red, shuttered windows and dark mahogany tables. The food is equally traditional and each dish given a religious epithet such as Pollo a la Magdenlena and La Lengua de Judas that eludes to the restaurant’s name, ‘Balcony of the Saints.’

Courtesy of Hotel Camino Real de Popayán

Hotel Camino Real

The stunning Hotel Camino Real, set in an old colonial mansion, is owned by some of the key figures of Popayán’s Congreso Gastronómico, and its restaurant is arguably the finest in town. The menu combines both authentic French and Colombian flavors with startlingly good results.

El Quijote

Restaurant, South American, Street Food, Fast Food, $$$
It’s well worth the taxi ride to El Quijote, located in the suburbs a little out of town, for its succulent grilled meat and wonderfully colorful salads. Boasting a large patio, the buzzy restaurant attracts all sorts of clientele during the weekends when you’ll often find live guitar music contributing to its magical dining atmosphere.

La Fresa

Don’t leave town before sampling the local empanadas de Pipián; a speciality of Popayán that can be described as South America’s answer to the meat pasty, filled with potatoes and garnished with a delicious aji de mani, peanut salsa. La Fresa is not much more than a few plastic tables and some paper serviettes, but its addictive empanadas are locally renowned.

La Fresa, Calle 5 No. 8-89, Popayán, Colombia, +57 2 822 0696

Mora de Castilla

This miniature-sized joint is one of the best places to try some of Popayán’s traditional bites, including champús, salpicón, and payanese. Dishes are served on tapas-sized small plates, and the fresh juices made with exotic local fruits are so thick you can drink them with a spoon. Attracting travelers from far and wide, Mora’s intimate, convivial feel means it’s easy to pass an indulgent afternoon here.

Mora de Castilla, Cl. 2 #4-44, Popayán, Cauca, Colombia, +57 2 824 1513

Loncheria La Viña

Prepare to rub shoulders with your fellow diners in this family-run grill, which is open all hours. Both locals and travelers swarm in for the generous portions of meaty fare prepared on a large barbecue in the dining room. Choose between 10 different cuts of beef as well as chicken, fish and a few salads. The set menu del día is economical and will definitely curb your appetite for a good few hours.

Loncheria La Viña, Calle 4 No. 7-79, Popayán, Colombia

Doña Chepa

This legendary little pastry shop is run by veteran baker Doña Chepa who has been rolling dough and dolling out buns for some 70 years. Her namesake is synonymous with the finest of aplanchados, an oven-baked flat pastry and mandatory eat for anyone visiting town. Over the years, little has changed here neither in the method of the baking nor in the look of the place, and the magic of leaving filled with delicious sweets and a sense of nostalgia will be an unbeatable experience.

Doña Chepa, Calle 2 No. 4-46, Popayán, Cauca, Colombia, +57 2 824 0071

Restaurante Pizzeria Italiano

Swing through the saloon doors and you’ll find this colorful little nook to be a great place for flavorful Italian food, particularly its sizable pizzas. Dishes are often given a Colombian twist, but all the classics are there to enjoy, including lasagna, spaghetti and fresh bread. The welcoming Swiss owners make sure it’s always an inviting place to dine.

Restaurante Pizzeria Italiano, Calle 4 No. 8-83, Popayán, Cauca, Colombia, +57 2 824 0607

La Semilla Escondida

Restaurant, French, European, Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-free, $$$
La Semilla Escondida is a snug little bistro located on one of Popayán’s old streets. Under French ownership, it’s the go-to for delicious crêpes, both sweet and savory. Try the four-cheese crêpe followed by a classic Normande with butter, sugar and lemon juice. There are also pasta and sandwich options, some great desserts and a menu del día more sophisticated than you’ll find anywhere else in town.

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