Sahara Café Arabe

Nestled inconspicuously between convenience stores and typical restaurants on the edge of the touristy La Candelaria neighborhood, Sahara Café Arabe stands out as one of the better-kept secrets of affordable and delicious international dining in Bogotá’s city center.

Barely more than a hole in the wall from the outside and usually bustling with a small crowd of travelers and students from nearby universities during lunch hours, the cozy restaurant, bakery and coffee shop serves what would probably best be described as Arab fusion, blending flavors from around the Middle East with an inevitable Colombian touch.

The Shawarma Mixta, arguably the best bang for your buck, offers a sampling of beef, chicken and lamb, soaked with a zesty but not overwhelming sauce and wrapped in warm flatbread. Refreshing, lightly herbal tabouleh, marinated eggplant salad and perfectly seasoned falafel accompany the main dish.

For hungrier patrons– or for those wanting to sample a little bit of everything– the Mixta Arabe Especial includes all of the same items as a shawarma plate plus the soup of the day, seasoned rice, crispy fried kibbe and stuffed grape leaves.

A hearty and filling meal, including desert from the bakery and coffee, can cost as little as 12,000 pesos (about $6.50 US), making Sahara a truly fantastic option for authentic, high quality Middle Eastern food that won’t break the bank.

Cra 4 No. 17-23

Zatar

Located in a quaint venue along the Carrera 5 and in the heart of the fashionable gastro zone of the city is Zatar: a small middle eastern diner which specializes in Lebanese cooking. With a dozen tables and window to the kitchen, the owners have created a menu that respects region and taste. With the average price for a main dish at $22,000 pesos, its an ideal lunch option and a welcome one too. The menu consists of cilantro-inspired dishes and you´ll find all the regulars of the traditional Lebanese table such as a zesty and garnished tabbouleh and the house special falafel. The hummus is far from being ho-hum. A touch of spice with accompanying flatbread sets the tone of everything mixed fresh on the premises. In the Middle East food is an intimate and family-oriented deal. It’s meant to be a celebration of culture, like language and religion. The yogurt-garlic combination of Zatar’s sauces which accompany the main beef and lamb dishes are outstanding and bring Beirut that much closer to Bogotá.

Cra 5 No.69-15

Gyros y Kebab

A classic of Arabian and Middle Eastern dining in the city is Gyros and Kebab. Located close to the Andino and Retiro malls in the Zona Rosa, this establishment is relaxed and a slightly more expensive option for very traditional shawarmas and kebabs. Worth a night out in a group as the interiors are very elaborate. The wait staff are  well-versed in their menu offerings, but still a pricey option for Middle Eastern.

Cra 13 No.82-28