The beauty of La Paz is that whilst it is quite obviously a third world city which, as a result, has an authentic culture permeating every pavement, square and horizon, it has a impressive plethora of world cuisine that you would struggle to content with anywhere else in South America. Whilst Buenos Aires might have the European comforts, you would hardly believe you were in Argentina per se; meanwhile many ‘traditional’ towns and cities in South America lack any deviation from local food, drink and culture. La Paz, on the other hand, offers the best of both worlds.
Bolivian cuisine has anything but an international status, and in all truth after two weeks here ourselves we too have found it hard to define exactly what makes up its local food. Its cuisine is simple and, most of all, cheap. Walking through the sprawling sidewalks of La Paz, you can find fruit stalls, burger vans, fritters, choripan and saltenas, the Bolivian take on an empanada. However be careful when eating on the go to use your judgement that the food is fresh and hasn’t been standing there lukewarm all day, or you might find yourself with a case of Bolivia belly as we found out to our naivety.
A safer bet is taking yourself to the top floor of the central indoor shopping plaza, where bus loads of Bolivians pile themselves into pequenito restaurants, about the size of your double bed at home, where you bang elbows and chatter with locals over the set menu of the day. For 10 Bs (about a pound), you can have a hearty soup, a main course, a drink, and a pretty authentic experience of Bolivian culture. The locals like to eat big meals at lunchtime, so if you want a cheap eat and a good fill, this is the place to go.
But since Bolivian food is limited in its charms, what really captures the backpacking heart is the wonderful array of world foods available in the city. Whether you fancy a special meal out or want a takeaway that you can really get your teeth into, La Paz has got it covered. Here is a non-exhaustive list of places where you can indulge your guilty pleasures.
La Cueva – Mexican food in a quirky setting with good music and great cocktails, this place is a perfect spot to start an evening. With sharing boards and awesome nachos, it’s fun for eating out with friends.
The English Pub – For a Yorkshire lass like myself, stumbling across this little gem was a godsend. With all the classics on the menu from fish and chips to a proper pub lasagne, you can tuck into your grub to the sounds of classic English hits and a cold refreshing beer.
Sol Y Luna – An unbeatable taste of European bistro, Sol Y Luna has an ambient vibe that fits any bill, whether you want a romantic meal out or a few drinks with friends over delicious food. With drinks deals, live music and wi-fi, you would hardly think you were in Bolivia after a few hours in this place.
Pollo Copacabana – KFC watch this space, if you want good old greasy fried chicken after a big night out, this is the place to be. Succulent pieces of crispy pollo and cracking chips, it’s no wonder that there is no room for McDonalds in La Paz.
The Steakhouse – After 3 weeks in Argentina, we had got an insatiable taste for steak and wine that we were already craving after some time in Bolivia. A trip to this restaurant didn’t disappoint. Expensive by Bolivian prices but for a good reason, here you can find great wine (which is hard to come by in the country!), colossal chunks of steak, and great service.
Mr Pizza – Wanting a quiet night in with a good film and tasty pizza? Mr Pizza has it covered. Delicious thin crust pizzas with a variety of toppings, here you can get an enormous pizza delivered to your door that will easily serve 4 (or 3 pigs like us) for 100Bs.
Wild Rover – Mostly responsible for the reason why I haven’t been blogging recently, you can easily lose a week at this place. One of La Paz’s most popular hostels, it prides itself in being a top place to eat, drink and party in the city. Get merry at the happy hour, gorge on milkshakes and Irish breakfasts, come for the Wednesday BBQ or simply turn up to see what’s going on, there is never a dull moment here.
There are plenty more places to eat and drink in La Paz, including Thai, Chinese, Vegetarian, Indian and Italian restaurants, but since most of my fortnight has disappeared into a haze of Bolivia belly, Wild Rover madness and trying to earn some dollar before xmas, this is as far as my wining and dining experiences have taken me thus far! Nonetheless, enjoy, and if you have any tips on places to eat and drink please fill me in!