Five years ago, the Torres Cuervo brothers were looking for a place to sell their home-brewed beer. Some parts of the city were too ostentatious with high-end restaurants and customers donning designer jackets and bags. Others were too bustling and busy.
It wasn’t until they landed on the neighborhood of Chapinero that they felt at home. “There were places where you could come with pajamas or a leather jacket,” Misaac Torres Cuervo laughs, recalling the Chapinero scene as it looked, when he and his brothers Alejandro and Kiro first decided to move in. “You feel free here,” he adds.
Five years ago, Chapinero was largely unexplored by business-owners. There were some well-known and popular staples – Mini+Mal restaurant and Salvo Patria to name a few – but for the most part, restaurateurs and shop owners had not moved in. A feeling of relaxation and lack of social stigmas drew the three brothers to the spot on Calle 54, where, within a year, they would construct a beer bar and restaurant called Statua Rota.
With dark wooden tables for clients and wood-lined walls, a speaker system throughout the restaurant plays punk – a favorite of Alejandro, who is also a member in a local band. On evenings they cook barbecue on a large outdoor grill and the smell drifts down to the Carrera Séptima, tempting the passers-by.
The bar itself has a Brooklyn vibe but remains distinctly Colombian; much of their homemade beer uses Colombian fruits and a popular salsa on their food menu is a spicy maracuya.
Statua Rota is only one of many restaurants, shops and art galleries that have begun cropping up in Chapinero recently, changing the façade of the neighborhood and drawing in visitors from around the city. There’s Mistral, a French bakery on Calle 57, which serves up buttery croissants reminiscent of those found in little shops in Paris.
In another of Chapinero’s red brick homes is the quaint bakery, Doméstica (Cra 6 No.56-35), catering to your sweet or savory appetite. With its freshly baked baguettes, cinnamon rolls, this venue also offers a daily Lunch Special. Brainchild of owner Dominique Lemoine, the freshest Colombian ingredients make their way into vegetarian dishes, delicious curries and French stews. Doméstica’s breakfast selection includes baked eggs and an assortment of cookies and pastries. While enjoying that mug of Colombian coffee, ask Adriana Rojas for the latest English language bestseller or a classic from her carefully curated Bookworm.
Traditional pastelerías share street vibe with a start-up food scene that includes pizzerias Tomy Tomato (Calle 59A Bis No.3A-19) and Indio (Calle 58 No.3A -44). Indio’s tropical cocktails and lounge music are best accompanied with the house’s stone oven pie in either the main dining room of this Bauhaus edifice or a half-moon terrace and prefect for stargazing.
On Carrera 4, just around the corner from the much-praised Salvo Patria of chef Alejandro Gutiérrez, a new little bar called El Mono Bandido brings a uniqueness to the neighborhood with its indoor garden. Complete with dim lighting and a cozy ambiance, the garden draws young people in with its indoor swing and tables ensconced in low hanging ferns.
Further north, on Calle 65, is La Fama. It sits in a neighborhood overflowing with little antique and thrift shops and boasts a distinctly American-barbecue menu. The waiters wear red “trucker hats” and each table is equipped with ketchup and barbecue sauce.
Joyce Lamassonne is another member of the growing cultural scene in Chapinero. She opened her art gallery, LamaZone (Cra 3 No.63-58) three years ago, and as a longtime artist and Bogotá resident, she saw a chance to buy a house in the area, which after a complete overhaul, has become a must on the well-heeled gallery circuit. “Chapinero was very calm. It was very secure,” recalls Lamassonne.
Her nephew designed the gallery, which has an artistic, industrial feel with giant iron doors that greet you at the entrance, and a sculpture that sits prominently in front.
Lamassonne said she was one of the first to open an art gallery in Chapinero Alto, but since then, several others have followed her example. In fact, some of the gallery’s friends are currently remodeling homes nearby to boost the cultural vibe of the neighborhood. Art magazine Arteria hosts monthly tours in which families can visit museums and galleries for free, making art more inclusive to the community and the city as a whole.
Looking forward to the future of Chapinero, Lamassonne and Torres Cuervo want greater accessibility. For Joyce, this means an injection of money from the government, as she believes state funding could help galleries educate citizens about their artistic heritage. “People aren’t familiar with our art history background,” she says.
For Torres Cuervo, it means making the good beer and food scene available to people across the economic strata. He hopes that rising rents don’t begin to exclude those who might usually not be able to afford a great meal or artisan beer. “I’m not keen to stay here if it becomes that,” he adds. “I want Chapinero to be trendy for everyone.”