Colombia’s Culinary Hall of Shame

This is a critical article on Colombian restaurants trying to do American food. To read how bad Colombian food is, see Colombian Food: Worst of the Worst

If you’d like to read a positive article about Colombian food, see 10 Things to Eat in Bogota.

#1 El Corral

I have a personal vendetta against El Corral because of how many people drool over it. I first heard of the chain from one of a well-traveled rola gomela. She recommended it for whenever I want a good cheeseburger. She added this chain could compete in the States.

You see, hamburgers in Latin America are triflin’. It’s not just Colombia but everywhere. I don’t know how you fuck up a hamburger; when I buy ground beef at the store and cook them at home they taste the same as in the States. But South American burger joints add something to make the beef weigh more, or fuck it up in some other way. I never order hamburguesas here.

El Corral opened in downtown Bogota in 1983, so it’ll soon complete twenty years of mediocrity. You see, El Corral burgers aren’t bad. They’re eatable, but they’re mediocre. The girl who said El Corral could compete in the US couldn’t have been more wrong. They wouldn’t have a chance. I’d classify El Corral quality as high-end fast food or low-end service dining. So their competition would be places like Fuddruckers, Red Robin, or America’s best FatBurger, and those same places charge less.

What’s unfortunately not mediocre at El Corral is the pricing. It’s expensive. I can’t eat there for less than $6 USD, and that’d be just a 1/3 lb burger. For a proper half pounder plus combo, you’re looking at 16,000 – 20,000 pesos ($8-10 USD). So not only would El Corral fail on taste against the American competitors, it’d also fail on price. This 1-2 combo would make for a prompt exit from the US market. A quick, decisive defeat just like the gringa women did against the Colombianas in the Women’s World Cup. I’d smile if that girl who recommended El Corral had an opportunity to invest in El Corral’s expansion into North America. I’d like to see that investment get cleared out. Not just lost a little, but CLEARED OUT.

Bottom line: You couldn’t sell El Corral burgers for $10 even in downtown Chicago.

Apparently I’m not alone here. See this old Poorbuthappy thread from 2008 where some extranjero is calling El Corral out for what it is: expensive fast food.

Here’s a street art piece linking El Corral to obesity:

Cool image, but don’t worry about El Corral causing obesity in Colombia. They can’t effect too much obesity among a people where 60-70% can’t afford to eat there.

#2 – Jeno’s Pizza

Pizza is another American food (maybe Italian originally, but it’s an American-dominated industry now) that South Americans fail in their attempts to reproduce.The cheese is fine but where our Latin friends lose the deal is in the sauce. There is no effort to develop a quality marinara sauce to begin with, but it doesn’t matter because they put so little sauce on the pie you can’t taste it anyway. I’ve watched in wonder while pizzas are being made; I estimate one teaspoon or a tablespoon at most of tomato sauce is used for an extra large 16” pie. The dough takes on a faint tint but still shines bright white when the cheese is put on.

Average slice down here is crunchy dough, no sauce, less cheese and toppings than dough. Also annoying to extranjeros are the toppings options in Colombian pizza. They have Hawaiian in the US, but it’s not a stalwart among the two or three flavors available. So if you don’t like Hawaiian pizza or Chicken with Mushrooms or Criolla, you may be out of luck for street pizza.

So if bent on pizza you’d go the corporate route. You think you’re too cool to order Papa John’s, Domino’s, or Pizza Hut, so you’d check out the Colombian pizza chain, Jeno’s. If you eat there you’ll quickly realize you should’ve gone American.

Before the bill comes, you’ll eat an inarguably low quality pizza made with inarguably low quality ingredients. The toppings looked like American pepperoni, but the taste and texture was a little off. My buddy elected for the deep dish because it’s more food, but the amount of cheese and toppings combined comprised at most a fourth of the amount of crust. I say ‘crust’ because the crust wasn’t doughy. It was hard and dry dough, some bites crunched all the way through. I believe I got fed up with the crust toward the end of my pie and just ate the cheese and toppings off it.

The second time I went with the same friend as the first because he gets coupons. The first was a buy 1 get 1 free pizza deal. He knew I would never do that again, so he asked about his 2 for 1 pasta coupon. I agreed. What I got was just as much a disappointment as the pizza. The pasta came in a box so small I could outline it with my two index fingers and thumbs. Inside was one meatball sitting on a modest amount of marinara and a pile of spaghetti. After quickly putting it down I realized I could eat two of those for a proper meal, but then I’d have had to pay the full coupon price of 13,000 pesos or whatever. Then I realized that, without the coupon, they sell that little platter I just devoured like an appetizer for 13,000 pesos. Can it really be? No way.

So where El Corral barely passed on quality and failed on exorbitant pricing, Jeno’s failed miserably on both quality and price.

#3 – Colombian Soups

Colombians are proud of their soups, which I can only explain by thinking most have never left Colombia. The US isn’t necessarily known or recognized for good soups. Chicken Noodle and Baked Potato soup are hardly inspiring. But the US came up with Chili, which may be the best soup on the whole damn planet.

Colombians can be proud of Ajiaco and Sancocho, and that’s it. Ajiaco is on my list of 10 Things to Eat in Bogota. But it’s not so good that the hip “Nuevo Latino” restaurants and lounges in the States will put Ajiaco on their menu. There are too many other Latin American items more delicious. And Sancocho’s even simpler than Ajiaco. Surprisingly, Ajiaco and Sancocho isn’t considered simple here. Colombians can go really bland, as in sopa de arroz. Yes you read that correctly, rice soup. How delicious does rice soup sound to you? I’ve also had pasta soup, it had potatoes in addition to pasta.

Another reason I give Colombia no props on their soups is because I lived in Arequipa, Peru before moving to Colombia. Peruvian food murders Colombian. And the south of Peru prides themselves on their soups. They have almost ten distinct soups. Some are dark brown, some orange, one (chupe) with loads of seafood in it. I couldn’t keep them all straight but most were better than Ajiaco and Sancocho.


#4 – Colombian Street Food

My Irish roommate told me about his first year in Bogota. He partied hard in La Candelaria. His Irish buddies and him drank almost every night chasing Colombian chicks. Their house became known as a party house for girls who wanted to hang out with extranjeros. His adventures never caused a stir in me, until he told me about his diet. He ate street food every day.

When he told me that my stomach turned, I may have shifted in my seat to defend my insides from the bad influence that is this man. Let me explain further:

He ate in the street for a year. The street joints are hamburger-and-fries stands (which suck as stated above), pizza by the slice (which suck as stated above), empanadas and fried items etc. This is obviously not food for athletics. If you’re not going to eat to improve your body, at least eat food that tastes good. All this shit makes you feel worse after eating it, but it doesn’t even taste good. The empanadas are so processed, especially in Bogota where they’re perfectly formed and shaped. When all the empanadas look the exact same, you can be sure they came in a frozen box before being deep fried.

My least favorite of Colombian street food are buñuelos, deep-fried balls of stinking dough. It’s a fried bread ball with a moldy smell. And from the windows they scream at me: “POOR PEOPLE SHIT”.

#5 – Arepas

Re: “poor people shit” – It’s kinda hard to write that the national staple and source of cultural pride is on this hall of shame, but arepas suck. I don’t eat an overwhelmingly majority of the arepas served to me. I profile several different kinds, good and bad with pics in my post Arepas in Colombia.

Did I miss anything that should be in Colombia’s Culinary Hall of Shame? Let me know!

Support what Expat Chronicles is all about. Leave a tip to keep the laughs coming (and the news, insight and other stuff too).



  1. Taking lots of mental notes on the Colombian foodstuffs. I’d like to keep my intestinal distresses low, and actually eat healthy when I move there. Good post man. I’d love to see any other posts that you think might be useful or relevant to someone who is moving there… survival tips, etc


  2. In the US and to a lesser extend in Europe fast food places such as McDonalds or Burger King can be criticized for many things, but they serve a purpose where other type of establishments fail, they are cheap and quick.

    In countries such as Colombia, they (and their local counterparts such as El Corral) are over-priced compared to your average neighborhood restaurant and are mainly frequented by middle and upper class people. Why? For two reasons only, very absurd reasons I might add, that are only one and the same in the end.

    – Because since they have seen them all over in the ‘west’ on television or when they travel, they assume that these places are synonymous with being “developed” or “western” and thus it’s somehow “cool” to go there.
    – Because it shows that they can afford to go places poor people can’t, or rarely so.

    Pretty pathetic, in my opinion. And this is not just their approach to food but pretty much to everything else, every cultural practice. Speaking about music for example It’s also pretty common for them to disregard local genres and listen only to (bad, in my humble opinion) rock or pop music.

    And then they wonder why they sometimes get called “alienated” (alienados) …


  3. In peru I loved aguadito is the soup with rice cilantro and chicken feet served at pio pio polleria and some other places. Think i made it at home once but really cant remember. Gotta love chupe de camarones I’ve ate that in the states in peruvian restaurants and made it in arequipa. My future suegrito made some soup for easter friday or saturday cuz you cant eat meat. my favorite soup. it had fish, fish eggs, potatoes, olluco, squash/calabaza, and some other stuff. Caldo blanco isnt too bad either. but i hate chuño so i always gave them to my fiancee.


  4. Good article. Latinos do not seem to get the pizza thing. they do not understand that when it comes to pizza the sauce is boss.

    Anhy chance of opening a taco stand?


  5. Good post Colin – I def am not a fan of El Corral.

    As far as hamburguesas in South America – in Bolivia they have something called a trencapecho- my spellign is F’d but it means stuck in your chest or something like that and sounds like “Tren-ca-pecho”.

    Anyhow these are street burgers that you can get basically anytime from the Indian ladies who vend on street corners, but are best at like 4 or 5 am after you leave the club/bar and are heading home. There are normally long lines of people and you sit and eat at a table in the open or stand & monch down. It’s basically a burger patty, on bread with a fried egg on it and rice. Some people get cheese, mayo, ketchup or this spicy salsa they eat but in order to avoid any stomach problems from the street vendor stick to the cooked meat and fried egg/rice combo and you’ll be golden.


  6. you know, what I think that really sucks here is your article, because you know what’s the difference between mc Donalds and most of the American’s hamburgers and el corral? el corral is 100% meat, and the things about our soups, we are proud of them because they’re from Colombia and we think that represents our culture no because the complexity and besides that we think they taste good, we don’t care if they are simple.
    And Buñuelos” It’s a fried bread ball with a moldy smell” you don’t even know what a buñuelo is and in my whole life as a Colombian I haven’t smell something bad coming from a Buñuelo, and is so stupid the fact that you set as examples el corral ad jenos pizza, 2 of the no many companies that are just trying to imitate the fast food American style, that is not even real Colombian food, I think you know nothing about Colombia , so you shouldn’t talk like that about our food, because I found really offensive that you’ve said that our arepas and Buñuelos are shit for poor people when the most of the country eats them.
    And I apologize for my poor English!


  7. Hey Juan…there is a section here on tasty Colombian foods. This is just an example of some places not to eat in Colombia.

    I don’t agree with everything Colin says all the time, but usually I do and I can say that so far he is pretty fair in criticisms, showing the good and the bad of a situation.


  8. Geez, if you’re looking for burgers and pizza, you’re about 25 degrees too far south in latitude. Move north for burgers and pizza!
    I don’t know where you are in Colombia, but the soups in are excellent everywhere I’ve been! In general, I love the traditional Colombian food. I can get a good wholesome lunch (sopa y seco) starting at 5000 pesos; that’s three bucks.
    The arepas are a thing. I love the big thin ones; I eat several a day. Haven’t gotten used to the small thick ones.
    Otherwise I agree with Ash’s comment in particular, right on. And you shouldn’t be surprised by Juan David Trujillo’s either. Your post makes us extranjeros look arrogant and ungrateful.


  9. I agree regarding El Corral. It’s a glorified latino version of Burger King. “100% Beef” doesn’t warrant gourmet prices! For such escalated prices in other countries you can buy an incredible gourmet burger. For example, GBK in the UK, who use Aberdeen Angus Beef and make fantastic combinations.

    I don’t understand why fast food chain stores in this country (Kokorico is another one) get away with charging upmarket prices for fast food. The advantages of a chain food stores are their buying power and production efficiency hence they can produce quick and CHEAP food. Yet it’s the smaller businesses that charge the cheap prices here for basically the same thing. You guys have gotten it all wrong! Chain store fast food is supposed to be cheap and nasty like McDonalds! If I pay $15.000+ I want real food like from Wok or Crepes & Waffles!! Middle of the range burgers and fried chicken do not qualify!!!

    I can’t speak for Jeno’s Pizza, there are enough Pizza restaurants in my neighbourhood without having to resort to that rubbish. Try Piko y Pizza on Calle 74 con 15 for a cheap slice of delicious Mexicana, or Bob’s on Calle 65 con 5 for delicious gourmet examples (not cheap though).

    Good empanadas can be had at the likes of speciality empanada stores like Empanadas de la Cima. Although my main gripe is nobody bakes empanadas here but only fries them. Why? Colombia is seriously lacking in oven made food. And the ovens in residential houses here look like they come from the 19th century, they don’t even have a temperature gauge…..

    As for Arepas and Soups, for foriegners it’s simply a matter of these dishes are far too lacking in flavour for the foreigner’s taste buds. We are accustomed to herbs, spices, condiments, oils, sauces, pastes. You can’t make flour and water taste interesting. That is why Mexican Tortillas and Ararbic Pita Bread are THIN and filled with interesting toppings and sauces, compared to a Colombian Arepa which is THICK with nothing on top spare a spot of butter. Tomato sauce, mayonaise and a sausage doesn’t make it any better, for christ’s sake if we want a hot dog we’ll order one. A Colombian friend of mine told me she terribly missed arepas when she lived in Australia. I said…..there is flour and water over there too you know.


  10. I will a few things to the people coming to Colombia from America or else where. BUY AND PACK YOUR OWN MEAT PROCESSING EQUIPMENT AND SPICES GET READY TO LOSE ALOT OF WEIGHT. AND BRING YOU CASHEWS AND THINGS OF THAT NATURE WITH YOU. AND IF POSSIBLE SMUGGLE YOUR OWN PIZZA INTO COLOMBIA IT CAN BE FROZE FOR LATER USE. props for the chili but it is not a soup it is actually a sauce Colin … BOB’S pizza is good but is high Mike the reason the ovens are of the 12th century is because THE WOMEN THINK THEY KNOW HOW TO COOK COLOMBIANS FRY EVERYTHING DONT ASK FOR A STEAK IT WILL BE TOUGH AND FRIED


  11. Ashley – you’re right.

    Matthew – chuño was the shit! All those Arequipa soups EXCEPT caldo blanco were awesome, take advantage!!!

    Jimmy – there’s plenty of Mexican food in Colombia. Opportunity nil.

    Juan – burgers are SUPPOSED to be 100% beef, that should be standard. I understand how Colombian soups would taste good to someone who’s never been outside Colombia. I’ve been to many places and Colombian soups can’t compete, especially with Southern Peru. As stated in the first sentence, this is a critical article. Follow that link for a positive article on Colombian food. And your English isn’t bad at all if you read this entire article!

    Anonymous – I obviously didn’t move to South America to eat American food, but sometimes I want a taste of home. When I do, El Corral and Jeno’s are NOT where I go. For burgers I cook them myself. For pizza there’s one Colombian chain that’s EXCELLENT but expensive – 1969.

    John – chili is a soup you damn redneck! 🙂 Also, from my experience the most popular food that people bring with them to South America is PEANUT BUTTER.

    Again everybody, this is a critical article. For a positive article, see 10 Things to Eat in Bogota.

    When people ask how’s the food in Colombia, I always respond “There’s a reason there are no Colombian restaurants in the States.” But that’s misleading. There are enough delicious menu items to support a Colombian restaurant, but they’re too diverse to keep in one house (see 10 Things to Eat in Bogota). And for the price they’d have to charge for that stuff (especially chiguiro), you can eat a lot better somewhere else. That’s why the only Colombian restaurants are paisa places and they’re in cities with heavy Colombian populations (MIA, NYC).


  12. I agree in only one thing… I don’teat burgers in Colombia coz there are better thnigs to eat! and about arepas and bunuelos… hey! if you don’t like them it’s OK, it’s your personal opinion, but writing “shit for poor people” I reckon it wasn’t necessary. More respect please!!!!


  13. I agree in only one thing… I don’teat burgers in Colombia coz there are better things to eat! and about arepas and bunuelos… hey! if you don’t like them it’s OK, it’s your personal opinion, but writing “shit for poor people” I reckon it wasn’t necessary. More respect please!!!!


  14. Another. Colombian Tamales.

    I loved tamales whilst travelling through Northern Argentina, Peru and of course the classic Mexican tamal. But in Colombia they are so bland. A friend bought me some tolimense tamales that her grandmother produces and sells locally which were supposedly the bees nees of tamales. I had high hopes, but was let down. Lacklustre flavour and plain. Supposedly “un poco picante” which just meant a sprinkling of black pepper. OK 5 points for trying to break the cycle of blandless, but try adding nuts, raisins, sugar, or other spices to bring the flavour to life..
    **It must be said that many Colombian dishes win you over on their simplicity, such as patacon con trucha, bandeja pasia, sancocho, arroz con coco, a good picada etc. and there are some very nice gourmet Colombian recipes out there **

    And….Colombian Cerviche. Granted there are some proper recipes out there, but ketchup and cocktail sauce does not quality as cerviche.

    One other curious point and that is potatoes in Colombia. They seem to be particularly tough and difficult to cook. It usually takes me about 2 hours to boil, season and roast and still the results are underwhelming. Papas Criollas however are fantastic!


  15. #1. Mike took the words out of my mouth on the Colombian ceviche. holy good god dear sweet 8 pound 6 ounce baby jesus it’s terrible.

    here’s a little story. i go out to eat in medellin. on the menu is a special for mango biche ceviche. I ask the waiter, what’s it like. in my head, I picture a peruvian style ceviche, except along with the shrimp and fish there will be pieces of mango biche (unripened mango). he says “oh, es un ceviche normal, pero con mango biche.”

    fair enough. I order it.

    out come a bowl of fucking ketchup with minced pieces of mango biche. no fish. no shrimp. no squid. nothing. just green fucking mango submerged in a lake of ketchup. disgusting.

    #2. chicken wings. first of all, i hate breaded chicken wings. they should be fried, only skin, and they should be crispy. for the most part, the only wings I’ve found have been breaded and fairly undercooked (meaning soggy wings). one would think with how they incinerate beef they would do the same with chicken. i guess not. second of all, they hand out plastic gloves with them. all the people in the place except for me are eating with gloves on. people looked at me like I had 6 heads. i told them it’s an american food and i’ll eat them however the hell I want (i was joking around with them). everyone had a laugh. one of the few saving graces is that wing places seem to be one of the few places you can catch american football and randomly hear english spoken by native speakers. it’s strange, but there is something comforting about that, so i deal with the breading- or try to get them

    3. incinerated beef. colombian beef tastes better, in my opinion, than american beef. it’s more flavorful and the butcher shops kick ass. however, I literally have to tell the waiter that I want my meat cooked raw to get it anywhere close to medium. medium rare? never happened. probably never would happen. one time when asked how I wanted it cooked, I said “crudo.” it came out very well done. I just don’t understand this.

    4. white arepas. i like to think of them as little edible plates. two types of white arepas – the really flat, pancake like ones, and the smaller ones that look like stones from a river. the flat ones are like eating thick matzoh, and the smaller ones might as well be stones from a river. there’s no point to this other than having a ultra cheap food product that will get you full. even slathered in butter (or margarine as is usually the case there), and salt, still nothing. i usually just put my eggs, chorizo and queso on it and eat it as if its a plate. i’m assuming it tastes about the same.

    5. mondongo. i simply cannot wrap my head around how tripe soup is so damned popular. it grosses me out and i can’t even get close to it.

    6. chicken feet in sancocho. horrific. had an amazing sancocho at a finca that was made by a little old woman that apparently had magic hands because the soup was fucking unreal. what wasn’t unreal? the chicken feet that were chillin’ in there. everyone was fighting over them and since i was a guest, i was offered one. i tried it. it was the first food i had to fight not to spit out in a long time. i felt the toe pop off in my mouth, and the gelatinous outside wasn’t helping. i was polite enough to swallow it, but passed off the foot for someone else to enjoy.

    7. trucha soup. trucha is trout. trout should not be made into soup. fry it. grill it. bake it. broil it. but under no circumstances should it be made into soup. ever.

    8. not a food – but shots. shots of guaro? ok. shots of whiskey? ok. made up ‘creative’ shots from colombian bars that try to pawn themselves off as a bar that makes shots? not ok. never in my life have I ever had worse beverages – and I really like to drink. I can’t even begin to think about what was mixed together to make these things, but they were horrible. it was like they took the swill from the bar mat and just put it in a glass. hell, they might have done it, i don’t know. but i’ve never had worse. go to the shots bar in the nw corner of parque lleras for examples of what not to make.

    all of these things being said, i’ve had some mind blowingly awesome meals in colombia, including the best fish dish I’ve ever had, anywhere. and, the single best meal I’ve ever had from the aforementioned magic hands old lady. I told her that if I knew I was going to die, I would ask for the meal she cooked for me to be the last thing that I ate.

    eating in general is awesome in colombia and I personally love it. overall had really good experiences. if i had to make a list like this for the US I could go on and on. but since we’re just talking about things to stay away from, I’d say the above sums it up for me.


  16. The problem with the food, as with many things in Colombia and other Latin countries, is that the culture is one of total acceptance. They don’t look at things with a critical eye (or tongue). It’s important to simply do what everyone else does, or what your parents do and not concern yourself with things like price, taste, efficiency, your future, your kids health, personal appearance or logic. So make a mediocre burger, and charge people stupid prices and as long as you imply it’s “western” in some way, you’ll eventually you hit that critical mass, and people will wait in line and tout how much they love it.

    I’ve long ago learned that every colombian loves ANY arepa simply because it’s “Colombian”. I’ve been amazing at the enamoured look people have on their faces moments BEFORE biting into any arepa, while I am wincing in desgust at the dried, hard disk I’ve been duped into eating. They’ve decided they love it before they ever put it in their mouth! (But when you get a good arepa, they are pretty good.)

    Yea, the mindless going through life thing is irritating on many fronts.


  17. Have you tried el corral gourmet?
    Actually pretty alright, at double the price of el corral regular though!
    I love Colombia but I am embarrassed for them when they rave about how great el corral is. Bigtime pena ajena.


  18. Arepas are probably comparable to eating a bowl of white rice, theres no real nutritional value, a true gut buster, especially the thick ones. Although, Ill give it up to my Colombian aunt in Queens who makes these thin ones with melted cheese in the middle…BUTTER…(theres no butter on it)


  19. >This one made me laugh a lot….

    There IS some great street food in Bogota though. Baquero at 46th and 8th in Chapinero… also El Viejo Omar on Cra 60 across from Isierra 100 (100 con Av. Suba) and 2 great hamburguer stands on 116 below Av Suba, plus El Paisa who sells caldo and sudado under the pedestrian bridge by Subazar…. to name a few…..

    Ceviche here is HORRIBLE I agree.

    Of course when you cook shit properly people here complain. They can’t take any FLAVOR in the food i fucking swear!!! 😛



    So I’m a big fan of Mexican food and recently purchased a tortilla press, considering the unusually high price of tortilla bread here, I thought it worthwhile making them at home.

    I foolishly thought I could make tortillas using the only corn flour that my local supermarkets (plus Carulla & Olimpica) had – Maiz de Harina. How bad could it be I thought. What my home-made tortilla turned out like with was cardboard bread (Arepas). I did think it kind of funny. What would be the shittiest Mexican tortilla ever, is actually a national Colombian dish.

    Anyways I have since been searching for “Masa para Tortillas” …..anyone know where it can be found?


  21. My big problems with Colombian food/cooking

    -People tend to think a small pinch of salt in the WHOLE damn pot is ´”spicy”

    -Serving sweet BEFORE salty, like at a birthday party they eat the cake and then a half an hour they serve dinner. Yeech………

    -More than one starch at a meal. I don’t think starches are healthy to begin with, but piling rice on top of pasta on top of potatoes… triple yeech….!

    -Those stupid effing gloves they give you at the chicken joints. Talk about PRISSY! Damn, just wash your hands well afterwards and call it a day!

    -Colombian ketchup and mustard suck big time. Why do they both taste like pure sugar?

    -For that matter, why take perfectly good fruit and make juice out of it and load it up with sugar when it tasted just fine the way Mother Nature delivered it to you??

    -I agree regarding those white-hockey-puck arepas… i couldn’t get one down to save my life!


  22. I love bunuelos! There’s a Colombian bakery in Montanita, Ecuador, and once I saw they had bunuelos I was picking one up every day. But I’ve always liked fried dough….going back to college when my local deli offered it with powdered sugar on top.

    Also, I agree most arepas suck, but the super fatty ones from the street vendors in Medellin are a great late night food after drinking. Cheese, butter, oil, fat, and then drizzling the condensed milk on top. So good, but maybe once every month or two — can’t imagine eating in the streets daily!


  23. I have to agree and disagree with this article. Yes, El Corral does not compare to an American burger, I also think they’re overpriced and dryer than the Arizona desert but I get why Colombians and other foreigners hail them as “the” burgers to eat while there, because they’re made out of 100% beef. Still, not a good reason to say they’re amazing, because they’re not. Same goes for pizza. It’s all about the sauce and depending on which part of the US you grew up in, it’s about the crust and cheese as well. You can’t compare a Chicago style pizza with a NY slice or even a Sicilian slice. That would be like comparing apples with oranges. But yes, Colombians don’t get that one either.

    Now here is where I don’t agree. Soups. It sounds to me that you were stuck eating soups made by a five year old. Sopa de arroz? Come on, that’s not a soup, that’s an emergency meal you have when the budget does not allow you to make a real soup. There’s crema de calabaza, crema de fríjoles, lentil soup, sancocho, sudado, ajiaco, sopa de mariscos (yes, they have that too), mute (the best!) and I can go on and on. With that said, I have to admit that I’m not a big soup fan but let me tell ya, I go ape shit whenever I taste a good soup and Colombia my friend, has good soups. Just need to know where to get them. Oh and I dare you go to the South and call chili a soup, especially in Texas. LOL.

    Buñuelos… tsk, tsk. That “stinking” smell is actually cheese but I get it, not everybody gets it. Same for almojábanas, pan de queso, pan de yuca, etc. I happen to think they’re amazing, especially with a nice cup of hot chocolate.

    And arepas… let me tell ya, eating an arepa is an art form. Now, eating it all by itself would be like eating pizza dough without the sauce, like eating a cake without sugar, like drinking Coke without the corn syrup. You need to pile on the good stuff, eggs, ham, chorizo, avocado, shrimp, butter, salt, morcilla, or all of the above. Making a good arepa and eating it is an artform and not everyone gets it right.

    By the way I’m a 100% Colombian who grew up in the US.


  24. Pizza 1969 isn’t the worst and the prices were ok as far as fast food type joints go . I am not sure if location matters as there are quite a few


  25. LOL… it would be my pleasure. One thing I’ve always thought about when I have a Colombian meal either here in the US or even in Colombia is how much Colombians love their carbohydrates. Every plate has to have a side of white rice, a sancocho is loaded with carbs, potatoes, yuca and yes, white rice on the side. Tamales are basically a carb bomb wrapped around a banana leaf, its got potatoes, flour and if they’re Tolimenses… you guessed it, white rice. It’s crazy!


  26. Sopa de mondongo and sopa de menudencias are two of my favorite things to eat in Colombia. I agree that arepas suck. (obviously refering to the corn meal hocky pucks) And the pizza is ridiculous in Colombia. Little or no sauce, and toppings like sliced hotdogs, corn kernals, “pepperoni” which is actually Zenu lunch meat, etc. And the cheese is treated like a commodity worth more than it’s weight in gold.


  27. I wonder if you tasted la Corralisima, which is grilled… anyway, one simple rule I have is: never take your international friends to restaurants that serve their local food. So i would never take a gringo to El Corral or an argentino to Patagonia, for the most of the times they will be dissapointed. Many non colombian friends love El Corral, go figure, but none of them is a gringo.


  28. Carlito you’re absolutely right and I realized after posting this article the top two articles of shame were American food done improperly. A correction is warranted soon ….


  29. Kind of odd for someone from a country where McDonald’s, Taco Bell and KFC rule, to go so viciously after El Corral, which is a superior (if expensive) brand of fast food. I lived in the US for almost 20 years, and one of the items I missed the most were the burgers from El Corral. I always made sure to wolf down a few whenever I came back home.


  30. Couple facts, 1) I am a Gringo 2) I bought a Colombian restaurant in Central Colombia, a pueblo of 12K Antioquenos3) I have years of experience working in restaurants in my youth while going through college including being a cook.

    I cannot disagree with much in the posting. Colombian food has many shortcomings as a cuisine as pointed out in the posting BUT one of the HUGEST, BIGGEST failures in Colombia is their bread…. OMFG, all the bread in Colombia in worst than the worst bread in the USA. I don’t live in Medellin but I suspect your can’t find any decent bread there either… Reason? the available wheat flour in Colombia is terrible, absolutely POS for making bread. All bread in Colombia has sugar added it seems and burns when it gets within 1 foot of a toaster, try finding a toaster in Colombia… it’s like ovens, people don’t even have them in their houses.. Hell we don’t have one in the restaurant I bought.. but HEY I am selling Colombian food to Colombians, ain’t no f_ckin Gringos pulling up a chair in my joint. Black pepper is the ONLY pepper you can find in a supermarket in Colombia.. I went to a huge mega supermarket in Medellin and it did not even sell Chili powder, cayenne pepper, I was shocked to find one type of pickled Jalapenos peppers. When add two dashes of black pepper to my recipes for my employees they fan their mouths and start crying “picante, picante!”. I f_cking unbelievable how sensitive they are to “savory”. I put oregano in my pasta dish and they called that “picante”. Does anyone know where I can buy some decent European or even American flour in Medellin? or Cartagena? I am going to have to start making my own bread so that I have something Italian to eat with my pasta, something I can toast to go with eggs and I would dig up Escobar’s grave for a baquette or a loaf o real French bread at this point. …. that’s is my worst rant, Colombian bread is the worst bread I have ever eaten in my travels.. and yet they make huge amounts of bread things that ALL taste the same have the exact same texture.


  31. @ Kreoth –

    I have to disagree with your assumption that El Corral is fast food. It doesn’t come out fast and, as you stated, it isn’t priced with fast food. Colombian fast food is empanadas and arepas, which are obviously awful, as well as the makeshift hamburger and pizza stands (which thrive because for many Colombians even those awful American copies are better than empanadas and arepas).

    The El Corral location in Parque 93 has waiters. Would they consider their competition to be the neighboring McDonald’s? Of course not. They compete with TGI Friday’s and Bogota Beer Company, which nobody would call fast food. The fact that those three restaurants dominate Parque 93 along with Cuban, French, and other international cuisines shows that when wealthy Colombians want to eat well, they don’t eat Colombian food.

    I’ll concede one major weakness in this article, that I went after Colombian copies of American food instead of the worst of Colombian cuisine. But I’ll write a new article soon, and it will be titled “Colombian Food: The Worst of the Worst” and will focus on arepas, patacones, panela, tamales, soups, and ACPM.


  32. one night in Salento after drinking my fill of not particularly flavourful beer and less so aguadiente, I bought one of those sausages on a stick with small puck like arepa pierced on the end. Having taken a few bites on said arepas a few times before and disregarding the rest I decided to offer this one to a stray dog. I tore off a chunk and presented it to the stray who after 2 or 3 chews spat it it out on the floor and quickly walked away from any further insult. Even the woman on the stal seemed quite amused by my obvious delight.


  33. Judging by the horrid Yelp reviews, it seems like El Corral’s attempt at breaking into the US market has failed miserably.

    If an El Corral can’t succeed in an area with one of the largest Colombian populations outside of Colombia, then what does that say about the rest of the US?


  34. This article and comments made me laugh heartily. I just got back from my 4th trip to Colombia. I love the place much, but their food is shite.

    I’m surprised no one brought up the CHEESE situation or lack thereof. Have you ever bought that cheese and meatstick snack at a US convenience store? You know how that cheese has absolutely no flavor whatsoever? That’s the epitomy of every Colombian cheese. Someone suggested I try Costena because it’s salty. Well, they were right. Costena cheese tastes like nothing with some salt added.

    And normally I love chorizo. But Colombian chorizo suffers from also having hardly any flavor. And forget trying to find something similar to Jimmy Dean. I love blood sausage, too, but morcilla also has little flavor.

    I also get a bit tickled (and annoyed) when I go into a “Chinese” restaurant in Colombia. You can’t just open store bought sweet and sour sauce, serve it with typical Colombian food like fried trout, and then call yourself a Chinese restaurant. Same with Mexican restaurants. Colombians wouldn’t know Mexican food if it bit them in the ass.

    I’ve spent 6 months in Colombia my last two visits, and I have yet to find any basil or chili powder. I don’t know why Colombians have such an aversion to flavor, but I can relate with the post above where Colombians think black pepper is picante and fan their mouths like they’ve just eaten lava. I even made fried green tomatoes one night and a Colombiana claimed it was picante. I didn’t even use black pepper like we would in the South. And I can’t imagine how anyone can find anything spicy hot about a green tomato. They’re absurd when it comes to food, I swear.

    But besides the bad food and no one ever showing up on time, I have a super time when I’m in Colombia.


  35. this article reads like someone decided to jump out of their comfort zone for a week. but, as soon as they landed thought: “what have I gotten myself into” and looked for anything remotely similar to the fatty cuisine that the american diet is known for. i mean, el coral, is the colombian that recommended that a complete idiot? because i have been here a year and not a single colombian friend would recommend that. at least go to el coral gourmet which is NOT double the price of el coral. i have never paid more than like 25000 pesos for a burger which is like 7 dollars. if you want a burger that will blow 99% of american burgers out of the water go to chia, galapagos. but do not eat breakfest, it is huge. or go to tabio and seek out the buffalo burger place in the town center. you will need a fork and knife to finish the double burger…never mind the triple!…burger kill on calle 85 is not as big but nice. using jenos as an example of how colombia can not do pizza is so misleading. go to julia around calle 85 with 19 or il mercatino or even armando records which blow the majority of grease ridden american pizza pies out of the water. here is a hint: american pizza places are NOT close to itilian style pizza, some recent bogota businesses at least try and you can find an amazing pizza place in suesca an hour outside of bogota. the ceviche comment isnpure ignorance as some of the ceviche i had in cartengna and nearby areas rivaled ceviche i had in peru. i could go on about pizza, burgers, etc. in bogota and colombia but I will let the readers enjoy their greasy artificial messes as that is what it seems these respondants like…


    1. I said a year, I meant to say two years. damn phone, sorry for typos. if people want proper burger, pizza and asian advice or colombian food advice (incorrect they do not use spices, misleading) in and around bogota, see me. I also know of a solid vietnemese place that actually reminded me of my travels in vietnam a little, in bogota. Colombians that I know laugh at jenos as if it is a joke, it is not the standard at all for colombian pizza. i can also recommend a good arepa place. colombian cuisine is way better than this fly by night author presents.


  36. I agree that Latin Americans generally don’t do hamburgers or pizza well as gringos.

    Not just South Americans or Colombians but Latin Americans broadly.

    Within Mexico City anyhow, there’s a few local restaurants I’ve known that do pizza well but I generally go for American places like Dominos for example.

    Hell, even Little Ceasers kicks the living shit out of most local pizza places down here and any Mexican who doesn’t only eat at the fancy local pizza places and who doesn’t have an insecurity complex about his own country would agree.

    Just go to any neighborhood that has a Little Ceasers and you’ll see countless people walking down with their pizza box (especially on weekends). I’ve seen people literally travel from one neighborhood to the next (specifically Pedregal de Santo Domingo to where Metro Copilco is up north) just to buy their cheap, 89 pepperoni pizza (used to be 79 but thanks BIDEN for the inflation jk jk) and bring the pizza back south while skipping past any of the local pizza options that are usually more expensive and worse in quality.

    When it comes to hamburgers, Mexicans do a better job though to be fair. No shortage of cheap ass street hamburger places all around the city that offer a decent burger.

    And actually street places usually offer tastier burgers than the burgers you get in formal local Mexican restaurants in Mexico City in my experience. I could show you very specific places all over Mexico City that I remember having a decent ass burger because it’s memorable to find a place that actually offers decent burgers.

    There’s one place in Lomas de Sotelo that’s a street food spot (close to Metro Cuatro Caminos). One On Republica de Cuba street in Historic Center. There’s one lady who cooks tasty burgers in Colonia El Manto of Iztapalapa but the burgers are sloppy as fuck. One place in Rosa neighborhood that is a street food stand right in front of the Starbucks on that street that goes from Metro Insurgentes to Reforma Avenue. Two hamburger restaurants in the Mexican city of Pachuca had some very good hamburgers I remember.

    I think that’s it?

    And keep in mind I always hunt down places that sell burgers in any new neighborhood I move into. I find out quick who makes a good burger and who doesn’t and it’s usually just 1 or 2 spots in any area of Mexico or Mexico City I move to that can do it well.

    There’s also been more formal restaurant establishments that I remember (some out of business, some not) that offer OK burgers but nothing to write home about.

    The two main issues I have with the burgers here:

    1. They often don’t do a good job at including enough flavor with the burgers.

    2. The bacon is dog shit. Mexicans do not know how to make good bacon. Like white guys who can’t dance, Mexicans can’t make good bacon. It’s a fucking fact. How do you fuck up bacon? I don’t know. Have a Mexican cook you some and you’ll find out.

    I don’t remember how bad or good the bacon was in other Latin American countries since I wasn’t taking notes on the bacon quality everywhere else I was years ago.

    Anyway, within Mexico City, for those two reasons, I’ll tell you that, after years of being in Mexico, the best burgers I’ve had were in Chilis.

    Literally Chilis.

    Sounds like a fucking joke. How could Chilis be the best?

    Definitely not the best in the US.

    But the bacon is just right and it has more flavor than most local Mexican restaurants that offer burgers.

    Whenever I eat there, it’s usually a BBQ burger with extra extra bacon and extra cheese and cheese on the fries. It just always tastes better than most hamburger places I can find here in Mexico.

    Plus everything else is better! The customer service is better, the drinks are better, etc.

    Compared to formal restaurant establishments, Chilis offers better burgers than any place I’ve been to.

    But compared to street food burgers in Mexico City?

    If Mexicans had a better idea at how to cook bacon properly though, Chilis wouldn’t be the best.

    Who would be?

    No, not the restaurants run by Bryan and Karen in Polanco. They don’t have any flavor.

    It’d be the street food spots.

    I’ve realized over the years here that there’s a correlation between how fancy seeming a restaurant is and how shit the hamburgers will be. Oddly enough, this seems to be true of the tacos also.

    A hamburger or a taco made in the barrio is consistently better than one you get run by upper class white Mexicans in Polanco.

    Like El Califa offering medicore tacos in my opinion vs any of the street taco spots I can find in Pedregal de Santo Domingo or Cuautepec that taste way better.

    Or, when it comes to hamburgers, I remember in 2017 when I first moved here how there was some chain Mexican burger place in Roma Norte called Hermanos something. Whatever the name was exactly? They made OK burgers but it again could’ve used more flavor. I could point to several street food burger spots that make better burgers than them. They also closed in 2017 and I was one of their only customers back then because I couldn’t find too many better alternatives in Roma Norte at the time.

    I heard from other gringos that the restaurant “Pinche Gringo” in CDMX makes good burgers but I never ate there because they call themselves “pinche gringo.” I’ll eat there when a Mexican eats a taco in the US from a restaurant called “pinche mexicano.”

    When it comes to burgers in other Latin American countries though (and especially fast food), I do remember one that makes OK burgers: Mostaza in Argentina. I used to eat there every once in a blue moon when I lived in Argentina briefly and they were not bad for the price years ago.

    In Colombia? Now that I’m thinking about it, there was one place that made good burgers and food called Bourbon St.

    But their prices are higher and Bourbon St wasn’t fast food like Mostaza was. It was more of a bar setting. In other Latin American countries I’ve been in like Colombia, you don’t have as many good (or any) fast food spots that make good burgers for cheap and quickly. You have to go to a nicer restaurant.

    Mexico City is different in that, while you can find an OK burger in a nicer spot (or maybe even a decent one in some establishments), you can find good street food burgers (even if their bacon isn’t as good).

    But that’s Mexico City. Street food isn’t as abundant or high quality in the rest of Mexico.

    Finally, when it comes to “rice soups,” I don’t know what you are referring to in Colombia because I never tried any Colombian soups when I was in Colombia but Mexico has a few soups that have rice in them. I wouldn’t call them “rice soups” because they have many other ingredients added but rice in soup isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s OK. Just as long as it has other ingredients to add more flavor.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s