Peru travel guide: Where to eat in Arequipa
An Arequipa introduction…
Peru’s second-largest city of Arequipa remains a precious jewel influenced more by Mother Nature than modern technology. Constructed primarily of an off-white sillar stone formed from volcanic ash, much of the “White City’s” extensive colonial center is built with walls a meter thick to maintain stability during an earthquake.
As a result, many of the structures are only one or two stories high, conveniently allowing for uninterrupted 360 degree views of the city’s stunning lunar-like surroundings. Perhaps this is why Arequipeños have a reputation of being fun, lively, and always enjoying the best things in life with a devil-may-care attitude, from spicy foods to stylish shopping and a memorable nightlife; they never know when the towering giant El Misti Volcano will awake from its slumber!
With underlying strains of fierce independence (the city once tried to create its own flag and passport) and historically strong identity, it is hardly a surprise that Arequipa’s residents encourage respect and sometimes outright envy from many across the country.
The two defining elements of Arequipa? Its stunning beauty and its excellent regional culinary traditions, from Incan recipes still popular today such as rocoto relleno (stuffed pepper) and cuy (guinea pig) to rich chowders (chupes) that change daily depending on tradition; and sweet stuff, like creamy queso helado, chocolates and honey-bathed fritters.
6 Popular restaurants in Arequipa
Well aware of the popularity of Arequipeño cuisine within the rest of Peru, we researched the city’s most popular restaurants, to bring you the best variety of the city’s delicious dishes. With picanterías (traditional cafes) on virtually every dazzling white corner and archway, excellent food is hardly difficult to come by, but (and in no particular order) here are some of Peru For Less’ favorite picks!
1. Sol de Mayo
Tel: (54) 254148 (reservations recommended)
Movistar Cell: 957600133
Located in Yanahuara, the nicest neighborhood of the city, this institution of Arequipa dining has been around for more than a century. Not only are the meals a delight, but so is the entire dining experience, with colonial style tables set in a leafy white-walled courtyard adorned by geraniums, a gurgling waterfall and strolling musicians to serenade you throughout the evening. Traditional Arequipeño cuisine is Sol de Mayo’s specialty, with a diverse menu offering the best recipes of the region, from fresh shellfish and ostrich, to chicharron de chancho (fried pork) and a variety of tantalizing ceviche. Splurging here is highly recommended and unlikely to break the bank, as all meals cost less than $15.
2. Ary, Quepay
Tel: (54) 204583
This husband-and-wife-run restaurant has the winning combination of a fun dining atmosphere and a delicious menu. With the great authentic ambiance of a traditional Arequipeño picanteria, live folklorico music every night and only the greatest classics of Arequipa cuisine on the menu, this rustic garden-themed restaurant is an excellent argument for the popularity of the region’s dishes. Not to be missed are the restaurants’ starters of choclo con queso (white corn with cheese) or egg-based sopa a la criolla, followed by the traditional stuffed pepper, escabeche de pescado (spicy fish stew) or roasted guinea pig. Ideally located in the city center, this restaurant is popular among both locals and tourists ‘in the know;’ making it a more convenient and cheaper option than those on the outskirts of town. Main courses cost from S/.12-27, or US$ 4-9.
3. El Turko II
Calle San Francisco 315
Tel: (54) 215729
A huge favorite known for its delicious cuisine and eclectic menú offering a variety middle eastern specialties such as falafel, baba ganush and hummus, plus other delicious fusions such as alpaca prepared by wok or smothered in coconut milk sauce, shrimp tagliatelle, crispy Mediterranean salads to cuy bathed in spicy chocolate adobo. The surroundings in this classy establishment are a nice escape from what some view as Arequipeño rustic kitsch; the marble tiled cavernous rooms in the chic Turko II lead to a large sunny courtyard perfect for relaxing from hectic travel and merely enjoying the view. With many vegetarian options to choose from as well, this restaurant is a great choice for those unwilling (or unable) to agree on any one type of cuisine! Main courses priced between S/.12 and S/.36 (US$ 4-12)
4. Tradicion Arequipeña
Av. Dolores 111
Tel: (54) 246467
The stunning view of the snow-capped El Misti volcano from Tradicion’s garden balcony is reason enough to make a taxi trip out to this popular restaurant, but a taste of the delicious spread will reassure any doubts!
Offering only lunch (or very early dinner options), proof of this restaurant’s excellent kitchen comes from the fact that much of the tourists who dine here get their recommendations from city natives. Servings of traditional Arequipeño and Peruvian food are substantial and satisfying, with the extensive menu including tasty versions of classic standbys like adobo, ceviche and cuy. Meals are reasonably priced given the elegant atmosphere and excellent location, from S/.12-39, or US$ 4-13.
5. La Trattoria del Monasterio
Santa Catalina 309
Tel: (54) 204062
Divided into three small rooms carved into the white ashy walls of the Santa Catalina Convent, this new addition to the Arequipa dining scene is an excellent antidote to endless recommendations of cuy and alpaca; or for those in search of a less touristic and more intimate candlelit dining experience. Boasting an excellent menu designed by Peru’s most famous chef, Gaston Acurio of Astrid and Gaston and La Mar, this unassuming café specializes in Italian favorites like lasagna, risotto and osso bucco. Additionally, conoscitore guests also have the option of long or short pasta. With a fine wine list and desert menu to round out the meal, La Trattoria guarantees a memorable evening of a different sort, in downtown Arequipa. Main courses priced between S18-36, or US$6-12.
6. Los Gauchos Parilladas
Portal de Flores 112
Tel: (54) 220301
Not for those in search of a light and balanced meal, this rustic-styled restaurant located right off the main Plaza de Armas serves up hearty, stick-to-your ribs meals for the very hungry. In addition to a free salad bar, this restaurant also periodically offers a great lunchtime promotion with wine, soda, fries, open salad bar and any choice of meat for under $9. (S/. 25).
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