Are you visiting Arequipa for the first time and don’t know where to grab quality food? Then the must eat place in Arequipa is La Tradición Arequipeña. Located at 111 Avenida Dolores, the local is open in the center with many tables covered by umbrellas. There are also central dining areas below and above that are more like a traditional restaurant. However, days for lunch this place is packed and you choose whatever is available. There is seating for everyone. If you want to catch some sun and a gentle breeze of fresh air then sit in the more open areas. If you plan to take your time and indulge in some Cusqueña beer then sit upstairs where you can admire the local volcano, Misti. Do you want to sit and enjoy live music sit below in the central dining area where live salsa usually plays.
The food at Tradición Arequipeña is, well, traditional. Here you will find rocoto relleno, a hot stuffed pepper full of beef and a bit of cheese. Also served are adobo a traditional Arequipeña stew typically served on Sundays. People say its a cure for the common hangover, similarly to leche de tigre. Other options include Chicharron,Cuy, and traditional Peruvian dishes lomo saltado and cebiche. The menu is loaded with great options, too many to describe here. All of which can savored with a cusqueña or two, easily the best beer in Perú.
My recommendation to order at la Tradición is the Piqueo Tradición. Its basically a sampler of some options you have to choose from. Therefore its perfect for those who want taste of everything. The Piqueo comes with crunchy pork chicharron with a nice rind of crunchy, fried, pork fat; malaya dorada, which is cooked and lightly fired beef; rocoto relleno accompanied with its sidekick pastel de papa, a layered potato and cheese casserole, and finally sarza de patitas, or gelatinous pigs feet. Whatever you choose at La Tradición you will not be disappointed. At nights only fried pork pieces are served as La Tradición is the place to go dancing to a live band playing salsa and cumbia. There is a cover fee of 15 soles or approximately 5 dollars. Want to dance in safety and security La Tradición also has that on their menu.
As you may have seen Perú is loaded with pollerías serving up pollo a la brasa, rotisserie chicken, at cheap prices. My favorite spot for chicken is, PePe’s, located on Avenida de la Cultura in José Luis Bustamante y Ribero. It is located just a few blocks from Alas Peruanas University. Typically like all pollerías you can find a 1/4 chicken, a 1/2 chicken and also a whole chicken. PePe’s is almost always packed so don’t eat here if you are in a rush. On these afternoons and evenings there may be a wait for a table but don’t expect to stand more than 15 minutes.
Unlike a traditional restaurant where you order at the table you order at the cash register located just beyond the door. You can proceed past the cashier and to your table where you’ll be promptly greeted by your server. Give him your receipt and he’ll take your beverage order which is complementary with your chicken. Chickens come with salad and a generous portion of french fries. Generally before you know it your chicken has arrived. The chicken itself is of average size compared to other places. The french fries fill the rest of the space. I generally don’t eat salad as it takes up more room i need for my precious chicken and french fries. I suggest doing this and using the salad plates for your sauces which on the table include house mayonaisse, ketchup, and mustard. A hot pepped sauce made from aji amarrillo can be found in the pump at the salad bar.
What sets PePe’s apart from other pollerías is its service which is always attentive and fast. Also the french fries are the biggest portion I’ve seen at any pollería in Perú. Lastly the bang for your buck or you Peruvian Nuevo Sol is the best here. The very generous 1/4 chicken, fries, and soda costs 11 soles or about 4 dollars. Also served at PePe’s are the largest salchipapas and salchipollos I have seen. Salchipapa and salchipollo at PePe’s are a mountain of french fries topped with sausage, shredded chicken, or both. I haven’t tried these yet but they also look like the most delicious I’ve seen. While the salchipapas and pollos are the only menu items at PePe’s I can say that you shouldn’t be disappointed in what you choose. Just may sure you bring your appetite.
As an expat living here in Perú I have struggled to find good pizza. However I finally found it, Marengo Pizzeria, located just a block and a half northeast of the Plaza de Armas on 221 Calle Santa Catalina. The pizza found here is thin crust variety cooked on in a brick oven. You can’t beat that. the atmosphere is cozy and the service is decent. Expats and travelers alike can often be chowing down on what Marengo has to offer. There are a variety of toppings to be chosen. I chose an all meat pizza on my visit to Marengo. A variety of alcohols are also served. My only complaint with the pizza I’ve had with all pizzerias in Per ú including Papa Johns, Domino’s, and Pizza Hut is that there isn’t enough sauce. The sparingly used sauce at Marengo however, is tasty. I also ordered some garlic bread which also would top that of the chain pizzerias. The prices is similar to that of chains Papa Johns and Pizza Hut so there is no need to shop around. If you want pizza in Arequipa make your way over to Marengo. Overall service and atmosphere will top that of other places which seem more suited towards a Burger King than casual dining.
Last but not least I cannot end without leading you towards dessert. I have to suggest walking to 212 Pizarro in Downtown Arequipa where you’ll find the most delicious ice cream in Perú. The heladería which seems to have no name is a whole-in-the-wall. If you don’t look carefully at addresses you’ll miss it. You can take a taxi to the corner of Pizarro and Santo Domingo or from the plaza de armas walk 4 blocks east on Santo Domingo and turn right onto Pizarro. The ice cream shop is about 200 feet down on the left. There are a couple small benches to sit on and not much else. It won’t be like walking into Coldstone Creamery. However the flavor here tops that. The flavors change daily but you can normally find chocolate and Peruvian favorite lucuma. Other flavors that can be found here are mango, papaya Arequipeña, guava, strawberry, lime, and coffee. The ice cream is the creamiest I’ve ever had and is packs a punch of flavor. Three small balls cost 1 Nuevo Sol or about 35 cents. you cannot beat the price nor the flavor.
The ice cream is also available in cones and larger quantities such as half-liter and liter. A liter of the delicious ice cream costs 7 Nuevo Soles or about 2.50$. For what I think is the best ice cream ever to hit my tongue that is a steal.
Honorable mentions include Patio del Ekeko located on Mercaderes the main walking passage leading from the plaza de armas. Tradition food fare is found here. I suggest anything with a lean alpaca steak. For desserts, honorable mention goes to any place selling Iberica chocolates. Near the plaza de armas it seems like everyone sells the best chocolates Perú has to offer. I suggest pisco filled bon-bons. A package of a dozen cost around 6 Nuevo Soles in Iberica stores and are a little more in other locales.
With these select restaurants you are sure to be eating good in Arequipa. If you don;t enjoy what is offered I would sum it up as an rare occasion as I visit these places frequently and if I could I’d award them silver spoons. Don’t miss these placse as you may pay more for lesser quality and lesser quantity as well.