Go on one of Colombia’s most exciting food tours
“Medellín Does Know,” or Medellin Sí Sabe, is more than the greatest gastronomic tour of Medellin: it’s a culinary heritage movement to preserve the delicious cultural food in the Antioquia region.
Started in 2012 by Claudia Cadavid, the initiative was to preserve the existence of traditional Colombian dishes through sharing and enjoyment, while promoting local entrepreneurship.
Indeed, it has done just that. This wildly popular event offers 17 different tours, by way of 154 restaurants around Medellin. For any foodie worth their salt, Medellín Sí Sabe is a must-have.
It’s far more than just a bandeja paisa.
So grab your utensils, don’t forget your appetite, and we’ll take a peek at a sampling of the marvelous cuisine you can enjoy across the various “lines” – or tours, in this off-the-beaten path adventure through Medellín restaurants.
Pan de Queso – With a special recipe intact after 22 years, Nicholas ‘El Mono’ Atehortua makes some divine pan de queso from his family establishment, Mona Estado. What could be better than bread with cheese? Not much. The texture of this spun-wheel savory pastries in rich, flavorful and buttery smooth. Combining fresh quesito and costeño cheeses, ‘El Mono’ oversees a team of bakers to keep up with demand for his array of pan de queso, arepas, fried cheese curds, and more.
Chunchurria – John Quiroz and his brother Wilmar have been selling their savory and splendid chunchurria around Medellin since 1983. This dish is a seasoned, spiced, and roasted-til’-crispy intestine of pig. The brothers, to this day, affectionately hand select the best dressings for their dishes. Currently served with 12 tostaditas, corn bread, and barbeque sauce, these succulent meat morsels are a locals favorite 33 years in the making.
Morcilla Sausage – Morcilla, or blood sausage, is the specialty at Asados Don Jorge. It’s certainly rare to find hand-stuffed sausages, but owner Don Jorge insists upon a traditional process, one permitting no fat-gut and using only the best ingredients. The result is a rich, gamey flavor profile served alongside cassava or corn bread. The proud owner himself happily proclaims that he raised his children on the fare he lovingly provides his customers. In the future, his own children plan to jump into making “the best black pudding” in town.
Liver encebollado (with onions) – Antioquian food places a high value on using the whole animal, and in preparing dish both nutritious and delicious. Bern Restaurant service a loyal clientele their favorite cultural mainstays: green beans with hoof, pork or beef with caramelized onions and carrots, beans and pork rind – all with owner Don Berna’s signature seasonings. Indeed, this delicate and robust flavors have come to distinguish Bern Restaurant from those in the surround San Cristobal neighborhood.
Fish Stew – Slow preparation and generations of family recipes are the hallmark of Sazon America. Offering fish and shrimp stew, hearty stews or ear and tongue, succulent beans, this restaurant, and its owner, Javier Amariles, stake their culinary identity upon staying clear of processed products. The attention to detail and slow-cooked flavors are evident, and positively sing of the heritage and cooking traditions of the Colombian hillsides.
Mondongo – The rich, flavorful tripe and vegetable soup is sure to wow foodies at Rapimondongo. Fleshy, tasty and outright delicious, this soup pairs well with a side of homemade corn bread, fresh tamales of organic corn, or homemade pork rinds. One can practically taste the vitality from the warmth of this family-run establishment.
Cake dried fish and soursop juice – Owner of Buñuelos Especiales, John Cardona always nurtured the idea that fried savory delicacies would match nicely with fresh squeezed fruit juices. Selling soursop, passion fruit, and blackberry juice alongside chicken and potato pies, buñuelos, fritters, and cake dried fish (served crispy with lime wedges) has proven very successful for Cardona. Indeed, rare is the day that his fried confections aren’t completely sold out.
Rice and Potato Stuffed Empanadas – Fritters first, please! So say the happy frequenters of Delicas Nutibara, much to the happy smile of Maria Sorelly. Grinding corn and making dough early in the mornings, this matron of mouthwatering snacks puts forth delicious empanadas, egg stuffed arepas, corncob cake and chicken pot pies for appreciative patrons.
Beyond this, she provides delightful home-made sauces like ‘hogao’ and pineapple, tangy tomato, and a picante sweet pepper and hot pepper sauce that makes an already mouthwatering mouthful even more outstanding.
Arepa Paisa (tenderloin with house salsa) – The charcoal roasted arepas of Carbon Flavored bring loyal customers from miles around. The modern presentation, along with delicious fillings, toppings, and innovative packaging make eating at this neighborhood staple a treat. The stuffed tenderloin arepa with with house salsa, corn, and beans is a decided favorite. But with a diverse menu and a salad bar, this tucked away gastronomic gem warrants repeat visits.
Arepa corncob with quesita – Fluffy arepas made with select ingredients and daily ground local corn is what makes La Chocolerita so great. Try the white corn cake stuffed with quesito. Or savor a four cheese and ham arepa, made exquisitely with condensed milk and butter. After fifteen years, Diana ‘The Queen’ Restrepo and her team of dedicated bakers know what makes a wonderful arepa.
Breaded Sea Bass w/ Parmesan Cheese – Take the blue tour for deliciously prepared seafood dishes. While many are not Antioquian per se, they are certainly Colombian: a fillet of sea bass breaded in Parmesan cheese, grilled salmon, prawns with garlic and parmesan, seafood paella, plus solomito pork roast, baby back ribs, and other red meats. Also hosting breakfast, Luis Diaz’s own Here I Fight Unemployment is restaurant for those hankering for surf and turf, Colombian style.
Fish Bouillon Soup – For those who ‘fall in love’ with marine flavors, The Exquisite Sea is the place to be. Combining an urbañera palate with traditional seaside flavors, diners here are immersed in fried and grilled fish, seafood casseroles, jumbo prawn with garlic and coconut, ceviches – all with coconut rice, fried plantains, and bright, zesty salads. Lourdes Gamboa, spent years learning his refined craft in Apartado with his grandmother. One of her secrets? All fish are cooked in coconut milk.
Three milk flan with tamarind cuvee – Where Edward is a cafe specializing in true Colombian desserts. Don Edward, later educated in traditional French cooking, was born to a Colombian mother. She made sure he could cook Antioquian desserts: sweet tomatoes with anise, figs in syrup, green papaya puff, wafers in caramel, rice pudding, custard with caramel. This rustic, charming restaurant is full of flowers and even accommodates an herb garden out back.
Strawberries with cream, homemade caramel wafers and cream cheese – That’s quite the mouthful, huh? Delectable too. After forty years of crafting sweet treats of strawberries, peaches, plums, cream and wafers, Rumaldo Espinosa is the undoubted guardian of the best-kept dessert secrets in the region.
The Palace of Strawberries, with caramel wafers, banana splits, berries and ice cream, blackberry cream cakes is a labor of love that started with Espinosa first job in a strawberry field decades ago. While it may seem forever ago, these strawberry dreams are a short shot to sweet heaven.
Coconut Caramel Panelita – Can a dessert change your fortune? As Dona Castaneda shares, the name Panalita’s Are My Fortune is derived from the feeling of sharing one of his beloved treats with guests.
Creating candies, cookies, chocolate coconut balls, coconut candies, jelly beans, apples, marzipan, sweet tamarind, solteritas, wafers, and more brings a smile to Dona’s face. Every variety of authentic Colombian sweet is a great encounter.
Pan Molde (Black Cake Envinada) – Pastry Boyaca is a family establishment whose foremost specialty is cakes. Moist, delicious cakes. Maybe with prunes, figs, citron shed, pineapple – or dark milk chocolate. Open for 35 years now, the pastry shop has grown to accommodate a breakfast, lunch, and dinner crowd. No matter when you arrive, make sure to stay for the most important course. Or just have dessert first.
Cafe Velvet – A man from Brussels, with his love of pastry and chocolate, built a coffee house with the best varietals in Antioquian coffee and European brewing techniques. The result is Velvet, a cafe with a terrific open-air design, plenty of seating, and a swanky floorplan. Enjoy it for a gathering spot, work-zone, or simply means to the best of Colombian coffees.
Kirsten Cafe – What happens when a Colombian and an Antioquian make a coffee house? Answer: Kristen Cafe, which invites the visitor to explore coffee in all its subtle and exotic forms. With a plethora of preparation methods for their Antiochian farm beans, Kristen Cafe provides lectures and educational activities surrounding the processes and nuances of coffee culture.
La Cuenta, Por Favor (Bill Please!)
Well, I don’t know about you, but after all that I’m quite full. And I’m always hungry. This should give you a brief sample of the sheer variety of tantalizing and unique dishes native to the Antioquian region and Medellin itself. When you come to Colombia, be sure to hop on the Medellín Si Sabe gastro-tour. There’s so much more to taste!