Get the inside track on Cartagena’s burgeoning restaurant scene
Indulge in traditional Caribbean classics or wildly inventive Latin-Japanese cuisine
Dine out for a worthy cause—inside a women’s prison
As Cartagena’s dining scene expands, picking favorites has become a lot more difficult. It’s a good problem to have. For traditional Caribbean fare, locals are evenly split between La Mulata, a hip, reasonably priced haunt in Centro known for fresh fish-of-the-day platters, and La Cocina de Pepina, an institution in Getsemaní, for the misleadingly named cabezas de gato, balls of mashed plantain or yuca with onion, garlic, and a spicy-sweet chili sauce. Then there are the two innovative restaurants run by husband-and-wife team and California transplants Carmen Angel and Rob Pevitts, which sit side by side in a converted colonial residence: Carmen, with its glassed-in, greenhouse-like bar and tranquil courtyard, serves Caribbean-Latin dishes with a twist (try the pargo platero, a tropical-tinged, pan-seared snapper in a pineapple, cachaça, and yellow curry sauce); while the Japanese-inflected Moshi is a wildly creative omakase-style adventure with either a seven-course tasting menu or small plates such as flaky sea bass collar or a soulful ramen with 12-hour-roasted pork chicharrón. Chef Alejandro Ramirez’s spot Maria (next door to Juan Felipe Camacho’s popular Don Juan restaurant) has design-magazine interiors and beautifully plated dishes to match, including a grilled sea bass with bacon succotash or a coconut-and-peanut salmon curry. But the city’s most innovative restaurant concept, Interno, also has the most surprising address: inside the San Diego Women’s Prison. Conceived by actress and model Johana Bahamón, Interno employs the female inmates as kitchen and front-of-house staff. The lively, open-air patio dining room buzzes with fashionable Cartageneros, and the three-course menu offers comfort-food classics that Colombian grandmothers have been making for generations.
Ask the concierge to make reservations for any of the above restaurants, as they all tend to book up in advance. All are within a 30-minute taxi ride of the hotel.