Colombia in December (Cartagena) - Reccs?

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Todd F r e n c h
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Colombia in December (Cartagena) - Reccs?

#1 Post by Todd F r e n c h » July 26th, 2018, 1:51 pm

We're strongly considering traveling to Colombia (just the two of us - no way we'd take the kids there), focusing mostly on Cartegena. Looking for any recommendations - restaurants, hotels, excursions, cities to visit, etc.
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Colombia in December (Cartagena) - Reccs?

#2 Post by Ian H » July 26th, 2018, 7:07 pm

Todd,
We love Cartagena and have been three times. We've stayed at the Sofitel Santa Clara and can recommend it. It's not too large of a hotel, but there are some other cool and smaller boutique hotels that looked good as well. We weren't that active as days were spent by the pool and wondering the cool old colonial walled city. Really pretty. Some decent restaurants, although was never really blown away with the food and can't recall too many specific names. La Vitrola was pretty good. Maybe others will have ideas there.
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Re: Colombia in December (Cartagena) - Reccs?

#3 Post by Peter Metzger » March 4th, 2019, 8:32 pm

Bump. We’re heading to Cartagena in a couple of weeks for a conference. Dining or sightseeing suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
Peter

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Re: Colombia in December (Cartagena) - Reccs?

#4 Post by Todd F r e n c h » March 5th, 2019, 7:00 am

Peter Metzger wrote:
March 4th, 2019, 8:32 pm
Bump. We’re heading to Cartagena in a couple of weeks for a conference. Dining or sightseeing suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
Nice! Happy to help, as we loved our trip to Colombia (particularly Medellin and Cartagena)

I highly recommend Erre for a nice meal - it was worth the arduous trip 'outside the walls' that we had to take to get there. Great meal, service, and massive wine list full of wines i had never seen before. I also recommend a day trip to Blue Apple Beach Club - pay the fee, enjoy the day there. You have to boat to any of the good beaches, as the beaches by the shore at Cartagena aren't really attractive, with the brown water from constant shore break. Gente Del Mar is another day trip beach club that is more casual, further out to sea. Loved both, for different reasons.

We loved cocktails at Alquimico and El Baron, so be sure to go to both. If you can only get one, do El Baron less for the ambiance, more for the cocktails. If you have time for a more casual dinner, stop at Eat Drink Love (El Balcon) and say hello to Abdul (the proprietor) or Adriana (one of the servers) - that's where we spent New Years Eve, and their ceviche is incredible :)

Skip Cafe Del Mar - tourist trap, garbage drinks.
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Re: Colombia in December (Cartagena) - Reccs?

#5 Post by Sh@n A » March 10th, 2019, 7:18 pm

Copied/pasted from another site I had posted these on. Re Blue Apple Beach Club, would definitely recommend getting a private boat for the day if you can afford it (?$400-600 USD?) and swimming in the various ocean spots in the Rosario islands, getting flashed lobsters from the local fisherman, and doing Blue Apple Beach Club etc. for lunch (we went elsewhere, as Blue Apple was closed that day).

Alma 2 stars
Over hyped form over substance
This was supposed to be our high end restaurant on this trip, and boy did it disappoint (and boy were we glad we ended up going to Carmen). The drinks are very good. The food is not. The "crispy" octopus was indeed fried but limp/soggy. Their pork in tamarind sauce fell so flat... the pork was high quality and well cooked.. but woefully underseasoned.. the tamarind sauce was underseasoned... and they forgot to bring another accompanying sauce. As much as I love underseasoned meat, I did not want to finish this dish. My wife ordered the modern take of the fish soup, and that was shockingly confusing. It was a great presentation, but the substance was not there. The fried fish was overly breaded (versus the flash crispy ones you get elsewhere, even in a rural stand) and the fish itself was cooked and doughy (you couldn't even tell you were eating fish!). They took it off the bill without question or telling us. So the service here is good. The food less so. I couldn't tell if the crowd really cared frankly.

Lobo Del Mar 4 Stars
Would include as part of itinerary
We enjoyed our meal here. This was our first night and we wanted something more casual. We went with Lobo Del Mar based on reviews and impression it was "off the beaten path". It wasn't off the beaten path at all, but it did come off as a more honest crowd and restaurant. The tacos we ordered were very good. My wife LOVED the tiradito (although I found it a bit too sour) - said it was the best she ever had. The drinks were very good and they have a big gin menu. Great option for lunch or dinner. Wouldn't be on our Top 3 of the trip, but definitely no regrets coming.

Quebracho 1 star
Only restaurant on our trip we truly despised
Tourist trap. Should have realized this with the neon lighting and a guy in argentina jersey outside the restaurant soliciting customers. Should have realized this when I saw a $110 retail US bottle of Argentine wine (bought in the US mind you) on their wine list for $300 (more than it would show in a Manhattan restaurant). Should have realized this when their wine list often lacked vintages or the better lines of the big Argentina brands. Should have realized this when I realized they served California beef alongside Colombian beef -- no Argentine beef at an Argentine steakhouse! With the New Yorker bachelor party crowds etc. Food/drink was OK and overpriced. My steak was undercooked to my liking - and was difficult to even see in the neon lighting - but it was a high quality cut. Overall, something is off with the Tripadvisor reviews here and I got suckered. You should not. This is NOT the real Argentina parilla or a great wine list living up to a great billing or expectation.


Carmen 5 star
Surprisingly not overhyped. Eat at the bar for a change of pace.
We ate at the bar and highly recommend it. We didn't plan on going to Carmen, assuming it to be overhyped. Indeed we had plans for Moshi and decided against seafood at the last moment, walked into Carmen and sat at the bar. This place is a beautiful machine. We ordered 2 appetizers and a dessert and re-ordered a mandarin orange sorbet that was delightful. The drinks and staff were delightful. Some of the best restaurant staff we dealt with ever, so definitely a cut above in Cartagena. The bar ambience was delightful.


El Boliche Cebicheria 5 star
Excellent option for lunch or dinner
Very great hole-in-wall spot with ambient house music, friendly local staff, and very flavorful ceviche. We were very glad we came here. Mojito took a while to make but it was clearly super fresh and well thought out (with green apples). The ceviche we tried were Green Mango (our favorite), Tamarind (sweeter side and very good) and Coconut (also very good). Small spot with only ~8 tables (including a large communal one). We are a fan and would definitely go back.

La Mulata 5 star
Great casual option
Locals dominated restaurant with a limited, but very good menu. Their pork with tamarind sauce was by far the best one of the trip; not complicated or fussy and with better flavor than the higher end restaurants we dined at. This is a casual restaurant and we sweated it out on the patio. But we ate here twice on our trip (for lunch) - we came back because we didn't want to have another miss on our trip! and we all ordered the same things! and we all enjoyed it! Highly recommend for a locals lunch option in the area. Fish soup was also the best we had on our trip. Highly recommend their hot sauce as well (we brought some home).
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Re: Colombia in December (Cartagena) - Reccs?

#6 Post by Peter Metzger » March 11th, 2019, 10:39 am

Todd F r e n c h wrote:
March 5th, 2019, 7:00 am
Peter Metzger wrote:
March 4th, 2019, 8:32 pm
Bump. We’re heading to Cartagena in a couple of weeks for a conference. Dining or sightseeing suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
Nice! Happy to help, as we loved our trip to Colombia (particularly Medellin and Cartagena)

I highly recommend Erre for a nice meal - it was worth the arduous trip 'outside the walls' that we had to take to get there. Great meal, service, and massive wine list full of wines i had never seen before. I also recommend a day trip to Blue Apple Beach Club - pay the fee, enjoy the day there. You have to boat to any of the good beaches, as the beaches by the shore at Cartagena aren't really attractive, with the brown water from constant shore break. Gente Del Mar is another day trip beach club that is more casual, further out to sea. Loved both, for different reasons.

We loved cocktails at Alquimico and El Baron, so be sure to go to both. If you can only get one, do El Baron less for the ambiance, more for the cocktails. If you have time for a more casual dinner, stop at Eat Drink Love (El Balcon) and say hello to Abdul (the proprietor) or Adriana (one of the servers) - that's where we spent New Years Eve, and their ceviche is incredible :)

Skip Cafe Del Mar - tourist trap, garbage drinks.
Thanks Todd. Venturing outside the walls won't be an issue -- for better or worse, as part of the conference we're staying at the Hilton on the peninsula at the southern tip of the city. Erre sounds interesting. Is it the same as Erre de Ramón Freixa in the Hotel Las Américas?

Will check out the other places you mentioned as well - casual is fine and cocktails are a must.
Peter

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Re: Colombia in December (Cartagena) - Reccs?

#7 Post by Peter Metzger » March 11th, 2019, 10:43 am

Sh@n A wrote:
March 10th, 2019, 7:18 pm
Copied/pasted from another site I had posted these on. Re Blue Apple Beach Club, would definitely recommend getting a private boat for the day if you can afford it (?$400-600 USD?) and swimming in the various ocean spots in the Rosario islands, getting flashed lobsters from the local fisherman, and doing Blue Apple Beach Club etc. for lunch (we went elsewhere, as Blue Apple was closed that day).

Alma 2 stars
Over hyped form over substance
This was supposed to be our high end restaurant on this trip, and boy did it disappoint (and boy were we glad we ended up going to Carmen). The drinks are very good. The food is not. The "crispy" octopus was indeed fried but limp/soggy. Their pork in tamarind sauce fell so flat... the pork was high quality and well cooked.. but woefully underseasoned.. the tamarind sauce was underseasoned... and they forgot to bring another accompanying sauce. As much as I love underseasoned meat, I did not want to finish this dish. My wife ordered the modern take of the fish soup, and that was shockingly confusing. It was a great presentation, but the substance was not there. The fried fish was overly breaded (versus the flash crispy ones you get elsewhere, even in a rural stand) and the fish itself was cooked and doughy (you couldn't even tell you were eating fish!). They took it off the bill without question or telling us. So the service here is good. The food less so. I couldn't tell if the crowd really cared frankly.

Lobo Del Mar 4 Stars
Would include as part of itinerary
We enjoyed our meal here. This was our first night and we wanted something more casual. We went with Lobo Del Mar based on reviews and impression it was "off the beaten path". It wasn't off the beaten path at all, but it did come off as a more honest crowd and restaurant. The tacos we ordered were very good. My wife LOVED the tiradito (although I found it a bit too sour) - said it was the best she ever had. The drinks were very good and they have a big gin menu. Great option for lunch or dinner. Wouldn't be on our Top 3 of the trip, but definitely no regrets coming.

Quebracho 1 star
Only restaurant on our trip we truly despised
Tourist trap. Should have realized this with the neon lighting and a guy in argentina jersey outside the restaurant soliciting customers. Should have realized this when I saw a $110 retail US bottle of Argentine wine (bought in the US mind you) on their wine list for $300 (more than it would show in a Manhattan restaurant). Should have realized this when their wine list often lacked vintages or the better lines of the big Argentina brands. Should have realized this when I realized they served California beef alongside Colombian beef -- no Argentine beef at an Argentine steakhouse! With the New Yorker bachelor party crowds etc. Food/drink was OK and overpriced. My steak was undercooked to my liking - and was difficult to even see in the neon lighting - but it was a high quality cut. Overall, something is off with the Tripadvisor reviews here and I got suckered. You should not. This is NOT the real Argentina parilla or a great wine list living up to a great billing or expectation.


Carmen 5 star
Surprisingly not overhyped. Eat at the bar for a change of pace.
We ate at the bar and highly recommend it. We didn't plan on going to Carmen, assuming it to be overhyped. Indeed we had plans for Moshi and decided against seafood at the last moment, walked into Carmen and sat at the bar. This place is a beautiful machine. We ordered 2 appetizers and a dessert and re-ordered a mandarin orange sorbet that was delightful. The drinks and staff were delightful. Some of the best restaurant staff we dealt with ever, so definitely a cut above in Cartagena. The bar ambience was delightful.


El Boliche Cebicheria 5 star
Excellent option for lunch or dinner
Very great hole-in-wall spot with ambient house music, friendly local staff, and very flavorful ceviche. We were very glad we came here. Mojito took a while to make but it was clearly super fresh and well thought out (with green apples). The ceviche we tried were Green Mango (our favorite), Tamarind (sweeter side and very good) and Coconut (also very good). Small spot with only ~8 tables (including a large communal one). We are a fan and would definitely go back.

La Mulata 5 star
Great casual option
Locals dominated restaurant with a limited, but very good menu. Their pork with tamarind sauce was by far the best one of the trip; not complicated or fussy and with better flavor than the higher end restaurants we dined at. This is a casual restaurant and we sweated it out on the patio. But we ate here twice on our trip (for lunch) - we came back because we didn't want to have another miss on our trip! and we all ordered the same things! and we all enjoyed it! Highly recommend for a locals lunch option in the area. Fish soup was also the best we had on our trip. Highly recommend their hot sauce as well (we brought some home).
Sh@n A - great list. Had already made a reservation at Alma so will have to reconsider given your less than stellar review. We also made a reservation at Moshi, which looked interesting. Know anything about it? Will check out the other places you recommended. Thanks very much!
Peter

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Re: Colombia in December (Cartagena) - Reccs?

#8 Post by Todd F r e n c h » March 11th, 2019, 10:53 am

Peter Metzger wrote:
March 11th, 2019, 10:39 am
Todd F r e n c h wrote:
March 5th, 2019, 7:00 am
Peter Metzger wrote:
March 4th, 2019, 8:32 pm
Bump. We’re heading to Cartagena in a couple of weeks for a conference. Dining or sightseeing suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
Nice! Happy to help, as we loved our trip to Colombia (particularly Medellin and Cartagena)

I highly recommend Erre for a nice meal - it was worth the arduous trip 'outside the walls' that we had to take to get there. Great meal, service, and massive wine list full of wines i had never seen before. I also recommend a day trip to Blue Apple Beach Club - pay the fee, enjoy the day there. You have to boat to any of the good beaches, as the beaches by the shore at Cartagena aren't really attractive, with the brown water from constant shore break. Gente Del Mar is another day trip beach club that is more casual, further out to sea. Loved both, for different reasons.

We loved cocktails at Alquimico and El Baron, so be sure to go to both. If you can only get one, do El Baron less for the ambiance, more for the cocktails. If you have time for a more casual dinner, stop at Eat Drink Love (El Balcon) and say hello to Abdul (the proprietor) or Adriana (one of the servers) - that's where we spent New Years Eve, and their ceviche is incredible :)

Skip Cafe Del Mar - tourist trap, garbage drinks.
Thanks Todd. Venturing outside the walls won't be an issue -- for better or worse, as part of the conference we're staying at the Hilton on the peninsula at the southern tip of the city. Erre sounds interesting. Is it the same as Erre de Ramón Freixa in the Hotel Las Américas?
The very same.
Apparently I'm lazy, have a narrow agenda, and offer little in the way of content and substance (RMP) (and have a "penchant for gossip" -KBI)

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Re: Colombia in December (Cartagena) - Reccs?

#9 Post by Sh@n A » March 11th, 2019, 11:13 am

We almost ate at Moshi. It’s right next to Carmen I recall. We had a reservation at Moshi and then saw menu upon arrival and didn’t feel Asian and instead went with Carmen. If we went back to the city I’m not sure Moshi automatically would at top of list either, but we would definitely consider it.
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Re: Colombia in December (Cartagena) - Reccs?

#10 Post by Sh@n A » March 11th, 2019, 11:14 am

I think we stayed at the Hilton. A no brainer. New hotel. Central Air conditioned. 5 minute taxi to the city. All the taxis know it as well. Doesn’t have the romantic vibe of an older hotel in the city, but at 1/4 the price its such a no brainer. Highly confident the rates will be higher after a few years of settling in. City itself can be so touristy and money you save could be spend on boats for a day or two!
Last edited by Sh@n A on March 11th, 2019, 7:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Colombia in December (Cartagena) - Reccs?

#11 Post by Peter Metzger » March 11th, 2019, 6:55 pm

Made a reservation at Erre for one evening. Carmen is booked each night we’re in town; maybe we’ll have better luck when we get there. Still checking other places.
Peter

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Re: Colombia in December (Cartagena) - Reccs?

#12 Post by Sh@n A » March 11th, 2019, 7:09 pm

There is a concierge service I used , ticartagena.com. Reasonable prices. But useful for making reservations, boats asking questions. We used them for a nanny service as well.
/ @ g r @ \

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Re: Colombia in December (Cartagena) - Reccs?

#13 Post by Peter Metzger » March 12th, 2019, 11:55 am

Sh@n A wrote:
March 11th, 2019, 7:09 pm
There is a concierge service I used, ticartagena.com. Reasonable prices. But useful for making reservations, boats asking questions. We used them for a nanny service as well.
Thanks Sh@n A. I'll check it out.
Peter

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