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Travel + Culture

In Lima, Going Back to Basics

What happens when you stop dining and start eating?

It’s no longer a secret that Peru’s coastal capital is far more than the gritty springboard to Machu Picchu it was a decade ago. Thanks to a thriving fusion of Andean, Amazonian, African, and European ingredients and techniques, Lima’s celebrity chefs imaginatively spin the foods of the costa, sierra, y selva—coast, highlands, and jungle.


But miss comida casera—home-style cooking at no-frills restaurants—and you’ll miss Lima.

Café Tostado
The name comes from the café’s first years as the place to go for fresh highlands coffee ground and brewed on the premises. Proprietor and career livestock dealer Pepe Giuffra only serves one dish per day—plus his specialty, fried rabbit rubbed with orange—and at 3 P.M. on a Monday, the long wooden tables and benches are packed.

Guiffra serves up the day’s dish: sancochado, a beef stew with the broth served separately from the boiled meat, yuca, and giant-kerneled corn. Pickled onions, several ají sauces, and a blend of the minty Andean herb huacatay and fresh Andean cheeses are placed on the table in metal bowls. His staff of four cooks, all female, rush around the small, open-air kitchen, forking out steaming white potatoes and camotes, Peruvian sweet potatoes, from large pots. Calle Nicolás de Piérola 222; Barranco; 51-1-247-7133; cash only; lunch only; dinners by request.

El Rincon que no Conoces (“The Corner Spot You Don’t Know About”)
Teresa Izquierdo serves up ají de gallina (shredded chicken in a spicy chile-cheese sauce); olluquito (an Andean tuber that’s been spiced and julienned); carapulcra (a thick, warming pork stew); stuffed rocoto peppers and potatoes; and tacu-tacu, a mother lode of beans fried and fused together in a loaf of rice. Each dish, cooked in a clay pot called an olla de barro, is perfectly seasoned and loyal to the region where it originated. Show up on a Wednesday for Izquierdo’s famed buffet and try everything. Bernardo Alcedo 363, Lince (altura cuadra 20 Av. Petit Thouars); 51-1-471-2171; elrinconquenoconoces.com; cash only; lunch only.

Don Bosco
This is a favorite huarique, or hole in the wall, of many Limeños, and the line is out the door for comfort food, Peruvian style: cau cau (beef tripe stew), white beans, olluquito, and chanfainita (beef lung stew). Start with humitas, steamed corn patties—either sweet or savory—then share a main dish with two or three friends. Wash it all down with a cold pitcher of chicha morada, a sweet drink made from purple Peruvian corn. Republica Dominicana 367; 51-1-470-7145; cash only; lunch and dinner.

Leslie Josephs is a journalist based in Lima, Peru, where she has written about politics, travel, and food since 2005.