How To Make Cartagena The Time Of Your Life


EL GOBERNADOR BY RAUSCH – Since unveiling his award-winning Criterion in Bogota in 2004, London-trained Jorge Rausch has built a restaurant empire stretching to Costa Rica. El Gobernador, his seventh, opened last June with a wood-framed dining room where the chef gives French culinary traditions a Colombian twist: suckling pig paired with sweet potato, and tiger prawns on enyucodo, a yuca-and-anise specialty from the Caribbean coast.

EL BOLICHE CEBICHERIA – At this tiny, stylish restaurant on a San Diego backstreet, only a handful of diners at a time get to sample the excellent Colombian-style ceviche from gifted chef Oscar Colmenares. He transforms freshly caught octopus, squid, and conch by marinating them in tamarind sauce or coconut milk with cilantro.

MARIA – The jazzed-up jungle look inside Maria—white wicker chairs, giant cordyline plants, strangely hypnotic tiger-motif tapestries— is a draw in itself. But it’s worth staying for Alejandro Ramirez’s salmon poached in orange and coconut milk, or snook tirodito with fennel and grapefruit.

Each night at the Maria restaurant is an opportunity of feeling great surrounded by luxury.

LA VITROLA – This Cuban-themed landmark feels straight out of Old Havana, complete with whirring ceiling fans and bolero crooners. It’s surprisingly formal for laid-back Cartagena: expect uniformed staff, sophisticated Caribbean cooking (grilled grouper with chili) and a far-reaching wine list.

RESTAURANTE LA CASA DE SOCORRO – Color runs riot in this local institution, where even the waiters’ garb is a patriotic yellow, red, and blue. Regulars range from blue-collar workers to pearl-garlanded senoras, along with a whole telenovela’s worth of Colombian celebrities. Diners pack the place around 8 p.m. for hearty seafood soup and herb-crusted fish straight from the grill.

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