Where to find the perfect meal in Arequipa? That’s the topic of this week’s post.

Keep in mind that as Peru’s second largest city, Arequipa has restaurants and cafes serving all sorts of cuisines. You can find good sushi, pasta, Indian curries, burgers and fries if that is what you are in the mood for.

Where to eat in Arequipa

That said, we focus here on Peruvian food in general and two broad categories of Arequipa restaurants in particular. First, picanterías or typical restaurants serving the classic dishes of the city’s cuisine – think rocoto relleno, chupe de camarones, etc. Second, the growing crop of novo-Andean restaurants that put a modern twist on native ingredients. We recommend a few in each category.

Picanterías in Arequipa

If you know something about what makes eating in Arequipa so special, then you have probably heard about picanterías. These traditional kitchens cook over wood fire and are known to serve generous portions. Generally speaking, women are in charge and, historically, a picantería and its recipes are handed down from generation to generation within a family.

For the citizens of Arequipa, picanterías are much more than just places to eat. The story goes that before the picantería there was the chichería, a kind of pub that served chicha. Consumed since pre-Columbian times, chicha is a corn beer fermented in large clay containers called chombas. In Arequipa, the neighborhood chichería was a place where people of different social classes would gather to drink, tell stories, and talk politics. To complement the beverage, chicherías began serving spicy (picante) food, and so the picantería was born.For decades since then, the picantería as a social institution has been important symbol of Arequipa’s identity. Today, they continue to be very lively places where friends and families gather for meals.

A word about chicha

Different types of corn used to make chicha

“Chicha” by Anthony Tong Lee / Flickr

On your visit you will see that chicha is still served at most picanterías. In a New York Times article about chicha, the author writes that “it tastes like English barley water mixed with a light pilsener.” The thick texture and slightly sour taste takes some getting used to, but Arequipans love it. A few varieties include “chicha de jora” (sprouted corn), “chicha de güiñapo” (black corn), and “chicha morada.” The latter is a non-fermented version made with purple corn and sweetened with sugar and not at all sour. If you are game to try, you can take your pick from different serving sizes ranging from the smallest “bebe” to the quart-sized “caporal.”

Without further ado, here are some of the best picanterías in Arequipa.

La Nueva Palomino

Located in Yanahuara 2 km north of the historic center, La Nueva Palomino is a 7th-generation woman-owned and -run establishment. It is not only a popular favorite in town, but it also earned the Summum Peru award for Best Restaurant in Arequipa. Try the classic dishes such as chupe de camarones, rocoto relleno, and papas ocopa. And beware of the huge portions.

Pasaje Leoncio Prado 122, Yanahuara
+51 54 252393
Sun 7:30 am – 11 am
Mon – Sat 12 pm – 5 pm

La Benita de los Claustros

One of the oldest picanterias in Arequipa, located in the suburb of Chacarata, has opened a branch in the historic center to make it more accessible to travelers who lack for time or transport to go into the countryside. The owner, Benita Quicaño Guillén, earned the prize for best cuy crocante (crispy guinea pig) at Mistura 2012.

Calle General Moran 118, inside the Compañía Cloisters, Arequipa Historic Center
+51 974 209 070
Sun Closed
Mon – Sat 9 am – 10:30 pm

Sol de Mayo

Also in Yanahuara, just a short walk from the white-stone-arched Mirador (viewpoint) that frames Misti Volcano, Sol de Mayo features live folkloric music and a large outdoor dining patio perfect for enjoying the warmth of Arequipa’s nearly constant sunshine. Sol de Mayo serves all the typical dishes including Solterito de queso (tender corn, fava bean, and cheese salad). The bar is said to prepare a great pisco sour.

Jerusalén 207, Yanahuara
+51 54 254148
Sun – Sat 11:00 am – 6:00 pm

A picenteria cook adds the finishing touches on a plate at La Nueva Palomina in Arequipa.

“una picanteria de Arequipa” by manuel bahrs / Flickr

Novo-Andean restaurants

According to Peru’s official tourism portal PromPeru, novo-Andean cuisine draws from pre-Columbian ingredients and recipes and combines them with modern trends in international cuisine. At the best restaurants in Arequipa, fresh Andean products like quinoa, potatoes, cuy, and river trout, among others are the star ingredients in innovative renditions of popular Peruvian dishes and international favorites as well.

Chicha Arequipa

For foodie travelers in Peru, eating at one of Gaston Acurio’s restaurants is de rigueur. If you miss your chance in Lima and Cusco, don’t worry because you have another opportunity at Chicha in Arequipa. If you are curious to try cuy, but are put off by the presentation in typical restaurants (head, legs, and feet remain attached), then you might be interested in Chicha’s more sophisticated version. “Peking cuy” features crispy fried guinea pig filets served over a bed of quinoa and topped with an egg.

Santa Catalina 210, Arequipa Historic Center
+51 54 287360
Sun – Sat 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Zig Zag

Excellent food, outstanding service, and a refined ambiance make this a classic choice for a special night out in Arequipa. The hallmark dish is the trio of meats (your choice of alpaca, beef steak, duck breast, pork, trout) served on a steaming volcanic stone alongside different sauces. Styled as “alp-andina” — a culinary fusion of the Alps and the Andes — the restaurant’s menu includes dishes like beef carpaccio, quinoa gnocchi, and fondues.

Calle Zela 210 – 212, Arequipa Historic Center
+51 54 206020
Sun to Sat 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Hatunpa

Meaning “Big Potato” in Quechua, Hatunpa’s menu is fittingly potato-centric. The owner and chef have teamed up with an association of small farmers who grow diverse species of native potatoes and source them to the restaurant. Every dish features a bed of potatoes of different types, flavors and sizes with your choice of topping. These include the classic aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a mild yellow pepper sauce), lomo saltado (stir-fried beef strips), or vegetable ratatouille. Customers also rave about the desserts.

Calle Ugarte 207 – 208, Arequipa Historic Center
+51 54 212918
Sun 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Mon – Sat 12:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Zingaro Restaurant and Wine Bar

Zingaro features modern Arequipan cuisine served in a fantastical white stone building in the historic center. Enjoy mains such as alpaca ribs, pork tenderloin, ceviche, salmon, or Amazonian fish. Browse the extensive wine list to find the perfect pairing for your meal.

San Francisco 309, Arequipa Historic Center
+51 54 217662
Sun 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Mon – Sat 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

 

Outdoor patio dining at Zingaro Restaurant.

Photo courtesy of Zingaro Restaurant.

Photography by Ana Castañeda

Mirador de Yanahuara. Photography by Ana Castañeda

Gorgeous weather, stunning volcanoes, and tantalizing food traditions make Arequipa one of our favorite places in all of Peru. We keep coming back because we know that every return brings a new discovery.

 

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Written by Anabel
Anabel is Incas Expert’s nomadic wordsmith. After 5 years on the road, she's developed a knack for making impromptu workplaces out of cozy cafes across South America. When not writing, she's probably out searching for the best food, coffee, and bookstores in town.