Few places compare to the famed New York steak houses when craving a juicy charbroiled rib-eye. But what to do when the closest is several thousand miles north? While arguably some of the best steak can be found at the asaderos in the Llanos, there are plenty of choices on Bogotá streets. Whether served as part of the budget conscious corrientazo (executive lunch), or as a white tablecloth affair, carne asada is as common as fried plantain and chicharrón on a Colombian plate. Here are some of the nicest steak and grill houses I have visited in the city, but by all means it’s not an exhaustive list.
Ribs at Roma’s
The venerable Tony Roma’s has been serving barbecued baby back ribs and steaks in more than 200 locations for over 30 years. This Bogotá establishment in the Zona G is sleek, inviting and serves the best onion rings that I have had in a while: crispy, sweet and with just the right amount of grease, no doubt two napkins are needed for these! We easily shared a small portion amongst friends.
The meaty ribs were lathered in a characteristically sweet Texas-style barby sauce. The strip steak or the “bife de chorizo” had a crisp exterior and was cooked to a glossy medium-rare on the inside. A good bottle of Chilean red rounded off the meal. Tony Roma’s, while comfortably formulaic, is worth a revisit for a reliable and memorable meal.
Carrera 6 No. 69A-20
The smoky, earthy smells of the open grill are released through the slender stack of this old house in Usaquén, hinting with anticipation at a pleasant meal to come. Patagonia, the mini Argentinian parrilla chain, is the go-to answer when the question “where can I go for a high quality asado?” arises. River Plate memorabilia energizes the otherwise dimly-lit dining space. Small cramped wooden tables and gaucho leather chairs make for intimate dining. A cut through the center of the seared crust of the grilled provolone cheese liberates a luscious creamy interior. With a carafe of the house Merlot, this made for a delectable first course; by far the tastiest provoletta this side of the Andes. Here, steaks have a special place on the menu. Don’t miss the ultra tender “punta de anca” or sirloin, imported from Buenos Aires, prepared to yield a succulent, juicy piece of grass-fed beef. Accompany it with a tablespoon of the garlic-infused chimichurri and you’ll be chanting Viva Argentina!
Calle 117 No. 7-54
Bonga del Sinú
The words of Raúl Goméz Jattin, the afflicted poet born in Cartagena, are divinely penned onto wooden shallow bowls hung across the dining room wall, paying tribute to the bounty of the Sinú river in Colombia’s northern plains. Known for its abundant ranches and agricultural diversity, Montería, the principal city in Córdoba, is the cattle capital of this country.
The aromas are so inviting at Bonga, as are the long plantain chips, the suero costeño – akin to sour cream – and ají that greets guests at the tables. Food is served à la carte so be prepared to select complementary side dishes for the main courses. I am tempted by the butifarras, a sausage that was introduced by the Spaniards and is typically found only in this region. Similar in texture to a morcilla, this ground beef version contains no rice, has a gamey taste and is served with a bland white corn cake. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I was glad to have tried it.
The steaks on the other hand, are a different story. I sampled the bife de chorizo and the ‘Punta especial.’ While my favorite U.S. cut of beef may be the rib-eye steak, it is a cut that I have not had success finding in Bogotá. The bife de chorizo, with its distinctive marbling and in this case, thick cut, makes this a very close second. The ‘Punta especial,’ an exceedingly hefty piece of tenderloin was just that, tender. Its flavor not enhanced by any inherent fat, yet this piece was uncharacteristically rich. A heap of crispy, salty yucca fries and rustic potatoes provided a satisfying, albeit, gluttonous accompaniment.
Calle 69A No. 6-41
Another classic on the list of best beef curators and grill masters in the city. Located near the Parque 93, this well-frequented “estancia” is pure Argentina, with an imposing mixed grill where chorizos rub shoulders with churrasco, punta de anca and bife. The portions are generous and the side orders don’t overwhelm this mecca of meat. Expect boiled vegetables, french fries or the delicious potato purée. It’s an establishment and among the Argentines in this country, authentic. You can browse the photo gallery at the entrance where the owners Juan Carlos Sarnari and José Antonio Téllez, former soccer players with Independiente Santa Fe, seem to be embracing everyone from soap stars, to famous musicians and politicians.
With more than thirty tables it’s a happening place, so you can expect to sometimes wait in line. The waiters are pros, many serving there since the restaurant opened its doors two decades years ago. The meats are sumptuous and grilled to perfection. Prices are also very reasonable.
Calle 93A No. 13B-50
Tel: 623 7082