I’m a carb and sugar lover, so I’m a big fan of bakeries in general and especially of the ones in Colombia. They’re really dangerous actually because they’re everywhere, have everything from drinks and snacks to complete meals, and they’re always cheap. Consider yourself warned.
Pan, or bread, is a staple in the Colombian diet and the reason that there are so many bakeries around. Panaderías are hard to miss with their big display case of breads, pastries, and other desserts that sometimes stick out onto the sidewalk from the storefront. Some of them have clever names with big, fancy lettering over the doorway (my favorite so far is Peter Pan) and some are little hole-in-the-wall places with only that display case to indicate it’s a bakery. Depending on the time of the day, it might be packed and those peak hours come throughout the day due to the assortment of culinary delights they offer.
Many panaderías have a typical Colombian breakfast on their menu consisting of huevos al gusto (eggs however you like them) and arepa con queso (arepa with cheese) and the queso may come in a block or a slice, like what you might find on a sandwich. I always opt for huevos pericos, which are scrambled eggs with chopped scallions and tomatoes. Some fancier bakeries may offer changua, a traditional Colombian soup, or tamales too. Whatever you choose, they’re all scrumptious breakfasts that are a filling way to start your day.
Price: Approximately $5,000 – $8,000 COP ($1.66 – $2.66 USD)
Lunch is often the biggest meal of the day for Colombians and you’ll get just that if you find a panadería that includes a menú del día (menu of the day). It represents all the food groups nicely: you get a soup that could really have anything in it (vegetable, cream, lentil, etc.), you have your protein, which is meat or fish of some sort (replace it with eggs if you’re vegetarian), your carbs that are always rice, some extra protein in a generous serving of beans or legumes, your veggies in a small salad, and a helping of fruit in the form of a fried plátano (plantain). This is a very common meal around the country and you won’t find it in every bakery; usually just the biggest ones or ones that are open 24 hours, hence why you can order it for dinner as well. Calentao, which is reheated leftovers of rice and beans or lentils, sometimes with a fried egg or meat thrown in the mix (a lot more satisfying than it sounds, I swear), may also be available and you might find people eating it as breakfast instead because it’s a versatile little meal.
Price: Approximately $6,000 – $9,000 COP ($2 – $3 USD)
If you’re on the go and need something quick or you simply don’t feel like eating a full meal, just head straight to the beautiful array of carbohydrates tucked behind the glass and pick out something that looks good. You’re going to have all sorts of breads to choose from, like pan de coco (coconut bread), pan de yuca (yucca bread), croissants, and pasteles (pastries with a filling of meat, pineapple, or potato usually). Or you can take a look at their desserts, like tiramisu, tres leches, various types of cookies, and brownies (that I’ve discovered are really more like chocolate cake, which are still delicious). Some panaderías go all out and even bake whole cakes that could be ready to go or can be ordered for pick-up later. Don’t expect extravagant decorating, although you can request it.
Price: starts around approximately $400 COP ($0.10 USD)
Your main course will come with a drink too! For breakfast, your choices are typically café con leche (coffee with milk) or chocolate (hot chocolate, to be more specific) and lunch comes with some kind of fresh jugo (juice). Of course, you can also get these drinks by themselves or something else off the menu, like coffee black (tinto), with sugar (azúcar), or with milk (pintadito), or aguapanela (water with unrefined whole cane sugar).
Price: Approximately $700 – $3,000 COP ($0.15 – $1 USD)
As a general rule, the bigger the panadería, the more food options they will have and there’s no shortage of these ones in Bogotá. I would say that most blocks have a bakery (of any size), meaning you’ll never have to walk very far for your carb fix. Aside from convenience, another great thing about them is their availability. I’m from California, so I’m used to a plethora of 24-hour or late-night food joints to choose from and unfortunately, these are hard to come by in Colombia. However, some of the few you will find are panaderías. They play a crucial role in the country’s cuisine, so if you’re hungry and looking for a little cultural experience, I recommend checking one out and seeing for yourself.
What sounds more enticing to you at a bakery: breakfast, lunch or dessert? If you stumble upon one with a creative name, let me know!
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