When you get to know Bogotá with its cacophony of culinary bells and whistles, one has to leave restrictive gastro “Zones” and tread the turf of locals. And this means walking, exploring a neighborhood to discover that new café, mirror-encased bakery or traditional eatery. While tourists tend to gravitate towards La Candelaria, Zona Rosa and Usaquén following a trail of guide book recommendations, in a city of enclaves, the area of Parkway– Palermo is among the most eclectic, and a destination synonymous with theatre.
Facing the green corridor between Calles 36 and 45 is Casa Ensemble founded by actress and women’s rights activist Alejandra Borrero. Casa E’s multi-complex theatre includes an Oma café on the ground floor and courtyard cocktail-lounge. The National Theatre’s Casa del Teatro National (Cra 20 No.37-54) also draws audiences with improv and experimental dance. Among the many craft-beer watering holes along Parkway is Statua Rota (Calle 40 No.21-34), a popular spot for pre-performance pints.
Parkway could also be dubbed “Bakery Row” given the many family-run establishments that cater to the sweet tooth of Bogotanos. And Parkway’s proximity to Palermo, one of the oldest hospitals in the city, could have attracted Italian immigrants, and today, there is no shortage of pizzerias to choose from. Pastelería Rommanoti on the corner of Cra 28 with Calle 37 is where you’ll find bread pilgrims hunched over hot chocolate and sugar-glazed rolls. The more austere Pastelería Toledo (Calle 45 with Cra 24) refers to itself as a “wedding bakery” with stands decked with jarring colorful cakes.
The Parkway/Palermo corridor caters to students from Universidad Nacional, and many of the two-tier homes built during the Bauhaus era now serve as artist studios and language academies. Given affordable rents in this predominately residential community, dry cleaners, travel agencies and fast food outlets have grown along the strip. Many others, especially those food-dedicated, endure with a no-frills take on gastronomy, such as the Pacific seafood restaurant Pescadería d’Apolonia (Cra 24 No.49A-0). Here, you can enjoy a heaping platter of fried fish with coconut rice and bowl of fish stew – sancocho – on the side. Across Carrera 24 from the street front of this restaurant is another popular restaurant Al Gratin, which specializes in cheese dishes, including lasagna, and offers a daily special for $15,000 pesos.
As a young generation turns to food as means of diversifying the gastronomy profile of the city, the Parkway/Palermo district is rapidly changing, mixing old school stalwarts with start-ups, especially along Calle 45, below Avenida Caracas. In this neighborhood of used furniture and book dealers, antiquarians and Shoreditch inspired barbers, you’ll not only pick up some great bargains on home furnishings for your first apartment in the city, but if you collect vinyl records, Los Clasicos (Calle 45 No.20- 62) has a musty collection.
Galerías is the main commercial hub in this part of Bogotá, and an easy walk from Palermo to the retail outlets of Calle 53, a shopping mall and cluster of do-it-yourself handicraft emporiums. During the Christmas season, this street is where you’ll find real bargains on lights and bling covered decorations. Among the most-recommended coffee shops in the district is Quipile Café de Origen (Cra 24 No.42-71) that offers blends of Cundinamarca-grown Arabica. Started by Luisa Pizarro and Eduardo Esquivel in 2012 after giving up teaching careers in Chicago, Quipile has stayed true to its mission of serving a quality cup and promoting a sustainable harvest to customers.
Editor’s note: This article was published in our March edition, No.141, days before the national quarantine was enacted. However, once life in Bogotá begins to return to some sense of normality, the theatres, cafés and specialty stores of the Palermo-Parkway corridor will be open for clients.