Cusco is a great place for backpackers. It is cheap, there is plenty to see and has one of the best nightlife in the Andes. But what about the food? Is it tasty? Cheap? Local? Yes, yes, and yes! If you know the places to go you will have an amazing food experience in Cusco. So, let us guide you through the culinary highlights of our old Inka-capital.
The city is full of restaurants in which you can have both breakfast, lunch and dinner. We have picked our favourite stays for backpackers. This means they are reasonably priced (all courses under S/.30) but still the best picks!
Cheap & Local: Simple Peruvian dishes on a budget:
This is the best option if you want to eat as much and as cheap as possible. Cusco is full of small restaurants in which you can get a ‘menu del dia’ for lunch, dinner and sometimes even breakfast. The prices usually vary between S/.5 to S/.10, for which you get a 2-3 course dinner.
Just take a seat ask for the ‘menu del dia’. You first get their soup-of-the-day and then have the choice between about 3 different main courses. Most of the time these are ‘Trucha Frita’ (fried fish with vegetables, french fries and rice}, ‘Lomo Saltado’ (beef, onion, tomato, french fries and rice) or a ‘Milanesa’ (breaded meat filet with vegetables and rice). Sometimes, a dessert or a drink is included. Going to places like this is a cheap and tasty way to experience some typical Peruvian dishes.
So what are our favourite places? While we encourage you to just walk around and find your own favourite place, we have some tips for you.
The first is El Mordisco, at which you can get a 3-course lunch or dinner for just S/.9. You’ll get a soup, 2-4 main courses and a dessert (most of the time ice or gelatine) ánd one of their chica morada’s. It is simple, local ánd a lot. You can find El Mordisco on Nuevo Baja 298.
Then we have a place called Delicias Saludables, which is even cheaper. For S/.5 you get a soup, main course and a small dessert. It is all pretty basic, but sometimes, when they’re out of soup, you get a delicious yoghurt with papaya. Delicias Saludables is located at San Andres 469.
The last place, with a bit more variety is called Qori Sara. The menu del dia costs you S/.10, for which you get one of their delicious homemade chica morada’s, and a bit more diversity in the main courses. They have some interesting local dishes, but if you want to stay safe, just get their Lomo Saltado if it’s an option on the menu del dia. Calle Garcilaso 290 is the address of Qori Sara.
Pollerias: Chicken. Fries. Salad. It’s that simple!
Maybe you have heard of it: Pollerias. In these populars restaurants, scattered all over Cusco, you can eat delicious, coal-oven-cooked chicken. You can order 1/8th of a chicken for about S/.8 or 1/4th for about S/.15. If you are really hungry you could go for a half or whole chicken, but a quarter is sufficient for a good lunch or dinner. Ordering the chicken gives you access to a simple salad buffet with tomato, cucumber some lettuce, but with great dressings. Sometimes, you get a soup before you get your chicken. Don’t be scared when you find a chicken foot in your soup, that’s pretty common here! The chicken usually comes with French fries, and sauces. If you prefer rice, just ask. Make sure to get some extra salad, it’s a buffet so why not make us of it!
One of our favourite pollerias is Los Toldos. It has a large menu, but for S/.15 you can get 1/4th chicken with crispy fries and access to the salad buffet. The chicken is great: big, juicy and tender. Make sure to try out their 4 sauces (ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard and spicy-garlic) that accompany your French fries. Los Toldos is just a few blocks away from the Plaza de Armas, at Calle Almargo 171.
Organic Food: delicious vegan and vegetarian restaurants (but also great for meat-eaters)
As a backpacker, your eating pattern can be pretty messed up. Especially when you have found the amazing nightlife of Cusco. That’s why it can be great to detox and visit to one of the organic restaurants here. Because apart from the rice, meat and soups you usually find in Cusco, we have some great organic restaurants.
Ofcourse Green Point can not be missed on when talking about organic food. It is the only 100% vegan restaurant in Cusco and already expanded with a second restaurant. They have great smoothies and delicious grill and taco plates to share. We cannot forget to tell about the daily lunch deal they have. For S/.12 you get access to the salad buffet, soup, a choice from two main courses, a dessert and a drink. This menú del dia starts at 12pm an lasts until around 2pm, when they usually run out of food for this deal. The rest of the prices are usually below S/.30, so it definitely suited for backpackers. You can find Green Point at Calle Carmen Bajo 235 in San Blas and at Plaza San Francisco 310.
Another great place for organic food is Organika. It is hidden at the bottom of a steep, narrow street leading to the San Cristóbal church. The open kitchen within the small restaurant creates a wonderful atmosphere. Your surrounded by the fragrances of the freshly prepared food. Try the refreshing Naranjada (S/.4) or one of their other juices. The food on the menu is around S/.20, which is great value for what you are getting. Most of the vegetables they use come from their own garden, so especially their salads are super local-organic-perfect! If you have some space left, you need to taste their chocolate tart with strawberry sorbet. The combination of warm chocolate and the fresh sorbet it is divine! Want to find out for yourself? Organika’s address is Calle Resbalosa 410.
As you read, there are plenty of good and cheap restaurants in town. But amazingly, hostels offer great food as well. It is convenient, focussed at backpackers and often good value-for-money. Especially when you are staying in a hostel with a restaurant. For example, the Wild Rover Hostel offers all sorts of foods, from burgers to pasta to typical Irish dishes. The same goes for Loki and Pariwana who offer a mix of local and international dishes.
A hostel and a crêperie in one? In Cusco it exists! La Boheme created a fusion of French crêpes and Peruvian food. So, if you are dying for a crêpe with avocado, you should definitely take a visit. For guests staying at the hostel they have a 10% discount. If you want to go just for their crêpes, Carmen Alto 283 is where you’ll find them!
Late Night Food
Have you been exploring Cusco’s nightlife and in need for a unhealthy snack? Apart from [the best bars and clubs] to get drunk, we will know the best place to go for some late night food. Around Plaza de Armas you will find a few kebab and burger places which offer some regular food. But you’ll want the best right? Take a look at this:
What seems like a normal travel agency during daytimes transforms into one of Cusco’s best snackbars at night. At Calle Plateros 332, next to the Plaza de Armas, they serve the best chicken, beef and sausage snacks from the doorstep. At this place, let’s call it ‘Tours Manu’ you can create your own sandwich/burger for just S/.5 – S/.7. Although it looks a bit shady, it is sane, so just build your favourite snack ever with egg, salad, sauce and whatever you like!
Now you know where you have to go when your stomach is rumbling! We hope you will have an amazing culinary experience in Cusco . If you have some questions, tips or just want to share your opinion, drop it below! If you are in Cusco you should definitely come by our office to check out what activities we are having. To stay up-to-date, just like our Facebook page. We look forward to see you in Cusco!