Cusco is one of my favorite cities and I was fortunate enough to have spent a few weeks there. One of the best things about Cusco is the food. There are several great restaurants in town that are worth trying. I wasn’t able to try every one on my list, but I did get through a good amount. These are my reviews followed by a map of all the restaurants I tried, good and bad. I rated each restaurant on a scale of five stars and listed them from highest to lowest rated.
My recommendations: If you have one full day to spend in Cusco, have breakfast at Jack’s Café, lunch at Café Morena, and dinner at Inkazuela. For a second day, breakfast AGAIN at Jack’s, lunch at Papacho’s and dinner at Marcelo Batata. Honorable mentions: Los Perros, Sumaq.
Marcelo Batata *****
For my first gourmet restaurant experience in Cusco, I went to Marcelo Batata. At S/80, it was pricy but well worth it. The server was excellent in thoroughly explaining the dishes, and the manager and chef even came by to ask me how I liked the meal, which added to the experience. The first part of the meal was complimentary potato chips with a sauce made of local spices, onion, and milk.
For my main course, I had the alpaca steak with mango and lime sauce. It came with quinoa with fruit and cheese, mashed potatoes with leeks and a hint of garlic, and a sweet pepper with honey and caramelized onion. Every part of the meal complemented the other and was full of flavor. To wash it down, I chose the milkshake de maracuyá (passionfruit milkshake). Amazing.
Jack’s Café *****
This place was awesome! They are famous for their all day breakfast. For my first visit, I tried the Combo Gordo (fat combo). It’s basically an English breakfast with a slight Peruvian twist. It comes with eggs served on a bed of toast, bacon, sausage, beans, potatoes, and tomatoes. It was heavy and delicious. I had the jugo de maracuyá y naranja (passionfruit and orange juice) to go with the meal. Altogether it cost me S/27.
For my second visit, I had the Big Fluffy Pancakes with maple syrup, a side of bacon, and the jugo de maracuyá y naranja. They truly were big and fluffy. I was very happy after this meal. It cost me S/23.
One of the best burgers I have ever had! Papacho’s is famous for burgers and they don’t disappoint. I had the Miraflorina – a massive burger with bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheddar, pickles, onion rings, and barbacoa sauce served with a side of sweet potato fries with three different dipping sauces. I had a smoothie to go with it called El Valiente – cactus fruit, mandarin, and pineapple. For about S/50, it is not cheap but extremely worth it. I would love to go back and try every single burger on the menu!
Of all the restaurants I was able to visit in Cusco, this was my favorite. It specializes in stews. There is a menu written on a large chalkboard with starters and stews (cazuelas). I had one of each on both visits. With a drink and mate de coca, it ran about S/75. Service was also excellent and personable. The servers even remembered me the second time I came back after several days. It’s a very cozy and welcoming place and I could call their food “comfort food”.
I chose a starter of ceviche on my first visit, the Ceviche Panamericano de Pescado. It is difficult to find good ceviche in Cusco, but Inkazuela did a great job.
For my main course, I had the Inkazuela Cocino Andino (lamb and chicken stew). Phenomenal.
On my second visit, I tried the Gazpacho Andaluz as my starter. It was excellent. For my main course, I had the Inkazuela Carne Picante con Ajies Peruanos (Peruvian beef with five types of chile peppers). It was nice and spicy with lots of flavor.
Café Morena *****
Everyone was raving about this restaurant so I had to give it a try. It ended up being the best sandwich I had eaten in a long time. I had the El Cusqueñito, which is basically a lomo saltado sandwich on toasted bread. I also had one of the best juices I had in Cusco – jugo de fresa, maracuyá y limón (strawberry, passionfruit, and lemon). In total, it cost about S/30.
Drawn in by the nargile, I ended up staying a good five hours and making a new Aussie friend, Peter. We had a few great drinks, the maracuyá sour, and tried the Pad Thai which was very good. I also tried a fresh juice, jugo de fresa y piña (strawberry and pineapple). The place has an eclectic mix of music, is comfortable, and attracts a good crowd of travelers. Service is lacking a bit but the atmosphere makes up for it.
El Cuate ****
When I was craving Mexican food, I went to El Cuate. Each time it cost me about S/30. They gave me tortilla chips and salsa as a starter. It wasn’t as good as Mexican food I can get in Mexico or the US, but they did a very good job. For my first visit, I had the enchiladas mixtas as the main course.
For my second visit, I tried the tacos mixtos. They were good but not exactly what I was expecting – they were more like flautas than the normal flour tortilla tacos.
Blue Alpaca ****
This place a bit off the tourist path had the best lomo saltado I ate in Cusco. With jugo de maracuyá, it ran about S/30.
Los Perros ****
Set in a very relaxing lounge with couches and catering to the backpacker crowd, Los Perros is a great place to chill. I had visited in 2009 and the quality was just as good this time as it was back then. The owner was happy that I had remembered the place and came back after so long.
I had their signature burger – andean and roquefort cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and local spices. It was huge and I had trouble finishing it, but it was excellent. I washed it down with the Special Smoothie. I don’t know what exactly was in it but I was very happy with it.
I tried this little restaurant in San Blas twice. There are only four tables and it’s a very cozy place serving authentic home cooked meals. Every customer gets a free pisco sour or glass of red wine and garlic bread. There is also a second branch just a few doors away. My first meal there was the alpaca salsa andina – an alpaca steak served with two different Andean sauces. It came with potatoes. The meat was very tender and the sauces were delicious. I washed it down with an Inca Kola. For dessert, I had the panqueque con manjar (pancake with caramel sauce) and a glass of mate de coca (coca tea). In total, the meal cost S/43.
For my second visit, I tried one of the set menus at S/20. This was a great value. It comes with a starter, main course, dessert, pisco sour or red wine, and garlic bread. I chose the sopa de quinoa (quinoa soup) as my starter. It was very tasty with lots of fresh vegetables. For the main course, I had aji de gallina – shredded chicken in a spicy sauce over a bed of potatoes, served with rice. It was excellent and probably one of the tastiest meals I had in Cusco. I finished with a panqueque con chocolate and a glass of mate de coca.
A very interesting and fun concept can be found at the ChocoMuseo. This chocolate store combines a museum about chocolate production and a café serving desserts and drinks made of chocolate. I was greeted by an employee who gave me a brief overview of how the museum works and a sample of chocolate tea. After browsing through the museum, I sat down and had a few treats. First, hot chocolate. They brought me an empty mug with a small jug of hot milk and a bowl of chocolate. I could mix my own hot chocolate and add sugar and spice to taste.
Next, I had a brownie. It was topped with chocolate sauce and a strawberry. It was very rich, almost too rich, and difficult to finish.
If learning about and eating chocolate isn’t enough, the ChocoMuseo also offers free workshops where guests can make their own chocolate from scratch! It is recommended to book ahead of time for your workshop. Hours for the store are 10:30am to 6:30pm.
Paddy’s Irish Pub ***
The “highest Irish owned pub in the world” has a great atmosphere, good beer, and decent food (including an Irish breakfast). It’s a great place to go to watch big sports games. I had the quesadillas and a chicken caesar wrap.
A Mi Manera ***
I wanted to grab a quick lunch before my flight out of Cusco, so I stopped at this restaurant specializing in homemade pastas. I had the penne rigattis infernales. It’s penne smothered in cheese. Very tasty but the portion was a bit small for the price. It cost about S/28.
Across the street from Sumaq is Pisoray. I walked in late one night and was the only customer in this small restaurant with just a few tables. I had the lomo saltado (meat sauteed with onions and tomato, served with fries and rice). It tasted ok but the portion seemed a bit small. I paid ~S/25.
Mia Pizza ***
On a small alley off Plaza de Armas I stopped inside this place to watch the end of Costa Rica versus Holland in the 2014 World Cup. I wasn’t feeling well so I opted for the S/10 chupe de quinoa (quinoa soup) and a mate de coca. The portion of soup was huge and tasty, plus I had a good conversation with the staff. Another visitor ordered the pizza which looked good.
Meson de Espaderos ***
For S/135 split between four people, we had a parillada (mixed grill) with steaks, chorizo, chicken hearts, chicken, kidneys, heart, liver, and pork. It came with fries and a salad bar. It was so much food we couldn’t finish. If you want to have a feast of meat, this is a good place to visit.
Pizzeria Dino’s ***
Next door to Blue Alpaca, I was able to get a decent individual pizza for under S/20.
Los Balcones ***
I was looking for a decent breakfast and found Los Balcones overlooking Plaza de Armas. I had a very nice seat right on the balcony with a great view of the plaza. I had the desayuno Los Balcones, which was eggs, bacon, tea, juice, and toast. It was S/20 and service was very friendly.
Los Costumbres **
For cheap and quick sandwiches, snacks, soups, and sweets, this little café right on Plaza de Armas is a good place to stop. I visited a couple times. I had a chorizo sandwich with orange juice for S/18 on my first visit and sopa de quinoa for S/12 on my second.
I was disappointed in this restaurant near Plaza de Armas. I had the lomo saltado and an Inca Kola. The meat was tough and the meal was overpriced for the quality. I paid about S/35.
Sabores del Inka *
I stopped in here not for the food but to watch Germany play France during the 2014 World Cup. I had the omelet mixto (mixed omelette) with jugo de platano con leche (banana juice in milk). I paid S/16. Nothing special.
That wraps up all of the restaurants I ate at in Cusco. I had a few more on my list that I wasn’t able to try because of time constraints or because they were completely booked at the time of visit – Uchu, Pachapapa, and Chicha.