Colombia offers variety in every aspect – you can see it yourself in our cuisine, and here is why “El Corrientazo” is one of the most important and deeply loved meals in this country.
Having lived my whole life in Bogotá, I can tell you from experience that “el corrientazo” is one the best options for having lunch. This meal is, in my opinion, a very helpful choice if you want to have a cheap, big, and delicious lunch as a local would because lunch is the most important meal in Colombia. “El Corrientazo” is a menu for students, workers, and pretty much everyone. Regardless of if you are here long- or short-term, this piece of information will give you an understanding of our most traditional lunch – also called the “Menu of the Day” – and how to find it!
What is “El Corrientazo” and Why Does it Exist
Some background history on this famous menu: it goes back to Spain in the time of Francisco Franco, who dictated that all workers must have an affordable midday meal, thus giving rise to el corrientazo. The concept is rooted in ideas of commonness, simplicity and popularity. This option for a homemade lunch is very traditional and it varies depending on the day of the week, which gives people the chance of always finding something different. So I could say this is the type of food that is good for the belly and the wallet of those who don’t have the time to cook or prefer to have fresh food instead of packing a Tupperware.
The restaurants that offer this service are mostly run by families and are very easy to find – there is always one on every street. The combo has (depending on the region) pretty much the same makeup: soup or a side salad (mostly fruit), a main course, and a dessert. An easy way to recognize where to find one is to just look around for a chalkboard or white board hung outside or placed on the sidewalk listing up to three options. Often, there is also an employee standing trying to get people to come inside. The most popular restaurants are always full of locals between 12pm and 2 pm, and if you still feel too lazy to go out, you can order over the phone. If you are not sure where to call, ask a person nearby or a manager or someone local; they will provide you with information about the closest and most well-known restaurant. There is always at least one.
And of course, what makes this lunchtime option so special is the low price for good quality food, which ranges from 6.500 COP/ $1.75 USD to 12.000 COP/ $3 USD. This is, of course, the most important feature of this concept.
The Three Courses of a Corrientazo
Soup or Side Salad: This is the appetizer. In every corrientazo, there is always going to be either a bowl of fruit or a bowl of traditional soup, but it varies from day to day. (Fun fact: sometimes we have soups with banana).
Components of the Main Course
The main course usually consists of four components arranged neatly on the same plate, plus a drink. The components of the main course are as follows:
“El Principio’: Usually consists of some legumes such as beans, lentils, or chickpeas, hot vegetables, or pasta but it can change according to your choice and there is always a mixed option where you can have it all. But if none of those options convince you, then you can always ask the waiter to replace them with a fried egg, sweet plantain, or another option instead.
“El Seco”: without this component, el corrientazo would not be what it is. If you want to understand why, read our article about Colombian rice here. It’s very common in Colombia to have the main course include rice, potato, or yucca, or all three together. This part of the dish is called “el seco” meaning the dry one.
“The Main Meal” is usually chicken, beef, or pork and it is the way of cooking the meat that is the trademark of the corrientazo.
“The Salad” is a mixture of tomatoes, lettuce, and other cold vegetables.
“The Juice”: Colombia has such a variety of fruits that we are used to having natural juice, lemonade or agua panela lemonade with lunch. If you want to know more about them, read our article: Best and Typical Colombian Juices that You Have to Try in Bogotá.
The Dessert: The corrientazo would not be complete without something sweet, and the funny part about this is that people know that there always is one so if you are not given one, please ask for it. If you want to know more about traditional desserts, see: Best Foods to Try in Bogotá: My Top Twelve.
Each restaurant gets to offer a limited menu for the day, but as I said before, it’s also very easy to recognize – you’ll get used to seeing them and many will offer one or two soup options (tomato soup, vegetable soup, mini ajiaco, sancocho, or mondongo) and a huge diversity of meat preparations that are just amazing to witness and taste.
Where to try Corrientazo
Colombia’s cuisine is known for having variety in its preparation and that is what makes it unique and kind of extravagant in a good way: its different tastes and combinations will give you a real insight into our food culture. You have the opportunity to experience a true Colombian lunch in our traditional, cool, economic, and tasty corrientazo restaurants. Here are some places with vegetarian menus as well:
- Bitacora Restaurante : Family-run restaurant in Bogotá specializing in fish from La Alta Guajira on the Caribbean Coast – Calle 134 #9-22. (Veggie option). My fav!
- Pino Negro: Vegetarian restaurant located at Calle 32a #19-44.
- Bulevar Sesamo, Av. Jimenez #4-67 in La Candelaria. Very traditional. Vegan only.
So next time you are looking for somewhere to have lunch, take a quick look around – the most delightful corrientazo might be just around the corner!