The Best of La Paz
22 Dec, 2017 | Fruzsina Gál
Photos: Fruzsina Gál
Our guide to the must-try specialties of the city
In La Paz, culinary wonders are never far off. Whether it is questionable street vendors offering a taste of tradition or renowned restaurants luring in crowds with the promise of an unrivalled experience, one need never go hungry or thirsty under the sea of terracotta-coloured buildings stretching from hill to hill. But to find the best of the best, trial and error is the only way. To save some time, money and the potential of food poisoning, here are some of the best, most delicious specialities of the sprawling city of La Paz.
Lady on the corner of Calle Cervantes and Avenida Ecuador (Sopocachi)
No buzzing intersection, plaza or mercado can do without a joyful arrangement of colourful fruits. Whether it is only juice, fruit salad or an assortment of whatever the current season has to offer, one never has to go too far for some refreshment in La Paz. On the corner of Calle Cervantes and Avenida Ecuador is a joyful sight – a small cart filled with oranges, smelling of summer and sunshine. There is nothing better than pure, freshly squeezed orange juice amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
To wander the maze of Mercado Lanza next to Plaza San Francisco is an experience in itself, with levels folding in on themselves and stalls selling everything and anything one can think of. But to make it even more extraordinary, one must try what the depth of this eccentric market has to offer – and what better thing to go for than a glass filled to the brim with vitamin C? Jugo de toronja, refreshingly sour, is something everyone must try.
In La Paz, culinary wonders are never far off.
Antigua Miami Café
Hidden in the tourist centre of Calle Murillo is Antigua Miami, a quirky café offering the best coffees and seasonal juices. The interior design paired with the chilled atmosphere of the place is reminiscent of artistic cities with their secret spots – it is a re-imagination of a more modern, younger Bolivia. The juices complement the aesthetic – refreshing, the same old thing, but somehow new. The surroundings are merely the icing on the cake.
Sandwich de Palta
In other countries, avocado on toast is associated with excess money spent on Sunday brunches by young adults who cannot afford any of it. In Bolivia, sandwich de palta is not only a usual meal, but the go-to delicacy both of the streets and of the fanciest cafés. Mercado Obrajes might be the former, but no other place can compete with the perfect balance of flavours of this small eccentric cubby hole. Complete with apanado, vegetables, artisanal cheese and just the right amount of salt, this sandwich de palta is undoubtedly number one on the list. While they say always to choose quality over quantity, it is safe to say that Mercado Obrajes satisfies both. It will leave you wanting more.
To think of San Miguel is to think of the endless amounts of cosy cafés paired with an abundance of little shops far from the honking of the rest of Zona Sur. Amidst this setting, Café Typica is the perfect getaway – hidden and vine-covered, it offers escape from the noise of the city. Its sandwich de palta, consisting of, of course, avocado, the most incredible grilled cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, is just all the more reason to spend a sunshine-filled afternoon under the shade of umbrellas outside.
Who says one has to stick with the expected, even when the traditional is involved?
Who says one has to stick with the expected, even when the traditional is involved? A magical place for both tourists and Bolivians, MagicK offers a great sandwich de palta, reimagined to suit the ever-evolving image of this beautiful city. The combination of avocado, green tomatoes and sunflower seeds creates a sensation that lingers long after the iron gates have closed for the night. To make the experience even better, sprinkle some locoto oil on top, and thus a truly Bolivian avocado sandwich is complete.
Singani is the heart, life and soul of Bolivia. If a restaurant does not have at least one singani-based cocktail, then it is probably not in Bolivia. MagicK does best what the people love best – chuflay. Mixed either with ginger ale or Sprite, this all-time classic brings home the flavour of its base in the most refreshing, and often overly alcoholic way. Because if there is one thing Bolivians like more than a chuflay, it is a strong chuflay.
Denying the genius behind Gustu would be like denying the significance of football in Bolivia – untrue and pointless. Following along the lines of the ‘zero kilometre’ sentiment, it is only fitting that Gustu would have singani-based cocktails, the best of which is the chancaca. Consisting of a charming mixture of singani macerado, licor de naranja and chancaca (a type of raw sugar, for which the drink is named), this cocktail brings all Bolivian flavours together – the strong, the sweet, the sour. Nothing better to sip on while trying to sneak in a look at the famous local at the table opposite.
Amidst the industrial-metal interior design of Diesel lies the key to an unforgettable night – the younger sibling of the chancaca called the yungueño. Although the recipe seems unremarkable – singani and orange juice, sometimes with a dash of sugar syrup – the combination of sweet and strong brings out the best in both. However, one must watch out, as drinking a yungueño is like drinking moscato – the realisation of its strength only hits when it is already too late. But what makes a good cocktail a good cocktail, if not the abundance of lost memories that follow?