The best place to eat in Arequipa is for sure Picanteria – a traditional Peruvian canteen. Why? Because it is the best place to try local Arquipian food in a most traditional way. Here is my top list of places to eat in Arequipa.
#1 Picanteria La Capitana
La Capitana, in my opinion, is the best place in terms of a price/quality balance. It is very traditional, simple and offers lowest prices among all other Picanterias listed here. So, if you will have just 1-2 days in Arequipa, I recommend you to visit this one. The nice and funny thing about the interior is the walls full of signatures and pictures left by visitors from all over the world at different times. What to try here? I can answer – everything! Plates are huge and a meal is delicious. Most popular dishes here are Rocoto Relleno and Chupe de Camarones.
#2 Picanteria La Nueva Palomino
La Nueva Palomino is a most beautiful and authentic place in my list. Prices here are a bit higher than in #1 La Capitana (average bill will be around $15-$20), but if you are not on a low budget I definitely recommend you to go here.
This place has a traditional canteen zone, as well as a restaurant zone in a nice indoor garden where you will enjoy not only the meal but also the atmosphere. Interior contains lots of traditional things, and the staff is very nice and dressed in traditional clothes.
#3 Picanteria La Cau Cau
Are you a gastronomic tourist? Or you’ve already visited #1 La Capitana and #2 Picanteria La Nueva Palomino and still have time in Arequipa? Then, the next point used to be Picanteria La Cau Cau. It is not so fancy and expensive like a #2 La Nueva Palomino and might be a great alternative to #1 La Capitana.
This place has a nice terrace and indoor garden, as well as a meal. The best thing I liked here is a complement starter – a plate of fresh vegetables in original vinegar sauce.
Budget alternative to Picanteria – Market San Camilo
Picanterias are not a “$1 cafes”, however, if you are traveling on a budget you still have an alternative place to try local cuisine. I’m telling about a food market. While it doesn’t have a fancy look at all, the meal here is very delicious.
The best place to comer rico (esp. “eat rich”) in Arequipa is San Camilo market. You can find here all popular Peruvian dishes just for $3-$5 and if you don’t have any idea what to try here – I can recommend you Rocoto Relleno.
#inside tips for visiting Picanteria
#1 Picanteria is a lunch place, the best time to visit it is between 12 pm and 3 pm. Most of Picanterias got closed at 5 or 6 pm. Also, if you will visit it in a late noon (e.g. 2 – 3 pm) you might be disappointed by the fact that the most popular dishes, like Chupe de Camarones (cancer soup), are sold out.
#2 Picanteria is not a tourist trap! While you may notice that the prices here are a bit higher than in the food market or other cafes, you may also notice that Picanterias are always full of local people. My golden gastronomic rule – go to the places popular among locals.
#3 Picanterias are popular and social places. Don’t worry, if you won’t be able to find a spare table. Most of the tables are pretty big and it’s common here to share a table with other visitors. Just be polite and ask permission of other people sitting at the table. Or, if you are a bit shy, ask a waiter to conquer a place for you =).
On this map, you will find all the mentioned places.
All the places are in 15-20 min walk from the historical center.
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