The Best Places To Dine Like a Local in Cusco, Peru
By Lloyd C | Updated November 21st, 2010
We had just handed over a hefty amount of money to pay for a month’s rent (extortionate for Cusco). We thought it included everything (hot water, electricity, internet…) when, ‘Excuse me, but the stove doesn’t work’.
‘Oh yes, you have to buy gas. You can buy some from me for 20 soles’. As a matter of principle (which gets us in trouble more often than not), we told him to stick it and we resigned ourselves to a month’s worth of eating out. The upside? We became quite intimate with Cusco’s most treasured eateries.
With so many places to explore, we wanted to taste a day in the life of the locals and to enjoy some of their favorite hangouts. From street food to cafes, to some of the fancier establishments, here we explore the best places to dine like a local in Cusco, Peru.
Doner “Kebab” by Mr. Giros
Located on Calle Choquechaka (2 blocks from Plaza de Armas), up from the infamous Jack’s Cafe.
The swiveling tower of meat doesn’t give the best first impressions, but don’t let that deter you. For just 5 soles ($1.80) you can get one of the best vegetarian felafel burgers on the planet. Expect huge proportions of every salad ingredient (including thin, crunchy strips of fried potatoes) and super crunchy freshly cooked felafels.
On Calle Plateros, just a few steps away from Plaza de Armas.
If you’re craving anything from home, this is the place to go. They have Sunday roast dinners, fun trivia nights (Mondays and Wednesdays), wifi to skype the family, and big serving sizes of typical English, Australian and Canadian cuisine. A must-have is the pancakes with banana, bacon & maple syrup.
Located on Calle Tecsecocha just down from Babieca.
The best way to spot Los Perros is to look for the huge Aussie flag waving out the front. It’s relaxing but pricey lounge-bar offering a wide variety of foods from around the world (including Peru). Some of our favorites included the alpaca meatballs, yuccas with blue cheese sauce, yummy wontons, pumpkin soup, chili tequeños, and mulled wine.
La Divina Comedia
Corner of Calle Palacio and Huaynapata, a short hike from Plaza de Armas.
The best food in Cusco, but you’ll pay for it (though only $25-30 per head). If you’re wanting a nice night out, check out this secluded spot just a few blocks up from the main plaza. Fresh home-made ravioli (the best I’ve had), slow-cooked ossobuco (the best Todd’s had), and roasted alpaca. You may also be treated to a performance by the wait-staff, one who is an opera singer… it was a little weird actually, as we were the only ones in the restaurant when she started to belt out her number, but it was an unforgettable experience nonetheless.
Close to the 12 angled stone, it’s located just off Calle Triunfo on Calle Herrajes.
The first impression when you approach Justina’s is that you’re walking into someone’s home. A garden welcomes you to the hidden pizzeria where there are only a few tourists if any. While waiting for your wood-fired pizza, you are treated to free garlic bread and dips. A nice, quiet atmosphere for two or a group of friends.
Calle Choquechaka 229, across the road from Doner Kebab.
This cute cafe is perfect to bring your laptop, catch up on emails, have a coffee or a beer and enjoy a delicious snack. They have a whole range of food that they freshly prepare, the sandwiches are big and tasty, soups are small but worth it, and the pièce de résistance: the potatoes! You can order a platter of 6 different potatoes, which are specialties of Peru, with scrummy sauces for 15 soles (the US ~$5), and it will fill 2 people easily.
Located behind Plaza de Armas looking onto Plaza Regocijo.
A tourist trap if I ever saw one, this modern bakery oozes western style but loses any Peruvian influence because of it. But… they have the best alfajores in town, a small one for 1 sole and a big mama for just 2. The empanadas and chocolate croissants are quite the treat as well.
One block north of Plaza de Armas, on the corner of Calle Tecsecocha.
Great wood-fired pizzas by a charming fella. A pizza to feed two people costs 30 soles (~$10) which is a little expensive for Cusco, but it’s worth it and comes with free garlic bread to start you off. A warning though: the smoke from the wood-fired pizza oven clings to your clothes, so you leave smelling like you’ve been dipped into a bonfire. But it’s worth it.
El Cafe de Mama Oli
One block away from Plaza de Armas in Plazoleta de las Nazarenas.
Good cheap sandwiches and hefty salads, and you can’t go past one of their huge, fresh smoothies or juices, even for the weighty price tag.
The Meeting Place
Located in San Blas Square, right next to the fountain.
The yummiest chai tea in Cusco and a range of different coffees and specialty teas. It’s only open in the mornings until around 2 pm though because it’s a non-for-profit and relies solely on volunteers. A really nice bunch of people always up for a chat, yummy waffles and wifi are also available. It was our favorite morning spot to practice Spanish before class.
Sidewalk & Street Food
If you’re just in need of a quick bite, little ladies sit on every second corner selling corn on the cob and yummy tamales. For 1 sole (US 35 cents), you can get a big cob of hot corn, add another sole for some cheese. Tamales are a type of corn-dough steamed or boiled in corn wrappers, you can either have savory or sweet tamales (dulce are the best). And the best thing about them is that they only cost around 80 céntimos (US 30 cents), but it’s not a meal, only a healthy snack.