Best menu del dia lunch in Medellin, Colombia

Happy Hour for the Hungry Human

Medellin’s true happy hour has nothing to do with early evening drinking. No, the real happy hour in Medellin is from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. That’s when restaurants across the city put out their menu del dia lunch specials—affordable combos that include soup, a drink, a main course, and sometimes a dessert.

Menu del dias are my second favorite part of living in Medellin, after the weather. (And one of the 19 things people should know about before coming here.)

But which is the happiest of the hungry human happy hours? I.e. which is the best menu del dia in Medellin? I’m eating my way through as many lunch specials as possible to find out.

Below are the ratings, descriptions, and photos of the best Medellin menu del dias I’ve tried so far. If your favorite isn’t listed, please let me know so I can try it and add it. 

Note: Most of these menus del dias are in El Poblado because that’s where I live. All you righteous, I’m-too-cultured-to-live-in-El-Poblado types can keep your snarky comments to yourselves. Please only comment if you have helpful suggestions.

Medellín Menu del Dia Map

Save this map to your phone so you can use it (even offline) on Google Maps when you’re wandering around Medellin and hungry for a delicious menu del dia. Here are simple instructions on how to do so.

Rating and Summary Table

Click the name of any of the restaurants in this table to jump down to more details and photos of its menu del dia.

RestaurantAreaVeg?PriceValueQualityOverall
Espiritu LibreBelenOnly13,0009109.5
MasalaPobladoYes15,0008109
Cafe ClicheLaurelesYes14,0008109
CopoazúBelénOnly10,5001089
FranchyesPobladoNo9,5001089
Cable a TierraParque ArvíOnly20,0008109
ToscanoPobladoYes16,0008109
OcreLaurelesYes12,5008109
Vegano AndanteBelenOnly10,000988.5
NaturaliaLaurelesYes13,000898.5
MatiPobladoOnly10,000988.5
EmperadorPobladoNo11,000988.5
PranaEnvigadoOnly13,500898.5
Casa Antonio'sEnvigadoOnly12,500898.5
El Pilon GuarceñoPobladoNo12,000988.5
La Casa de BetoPobladoNo10,5001078.5
Uno Mas UnoLaurelesYes13,000898.5
Platano MaduroDowntownNo9,500988.5
TazmaniaPobladoNo9,000978
El RoblePobladoYes10,000888
VerdeoPobladoOnly16,280798
HelechoPobladoOnly14,000798
MariettaPobladoOnly12,000888
Veg StationPobladoOnly12,000787.5
FiorellaPobladoNo14,850787.5
NuquiPobladoNo14,000787.5
GautamaPobladoYes18,150697.5
FlorPobladoNo11,000777
Don MagoloPobladoNo9,500867
Dharma Vegan RestoPobladoOnly13,000777
Sazón del MarPobladoNo11,000867
Santas MelonasPobladoYes9,000867
AztekaPobladoNo13,000676.5
Aguacate ArbolPobladoNo14,190576


Colombian Menu del Dias

Franchyes

Contact: Google
Neighborhood: El Poblado (off Calle 10)
Price: 9,500 COP
Drink: Fresh fruit juice, guarapo, or claro. Sugar-free on request.
Soup: Choice of ajiaco, frijoles, or guineo
Main: Choice of chicken milanesa, chicharron, pork, beef, of chicken. Served with white rice mixed with plantains, fried arepa, avocado, and your choice of one of two salads of the day.
Hot Sauce: Thick, tasty, spicy, and homemade.
Dessert: None

The only problem with Franchyes is its marketing. First, they say they’re a german restaurant, their name looks like it has “French” in it, and they serve Colombian food. Second, the restaurant doesn’t seem to exist online. Last of all, honestly, they charge too little.

Their 9,500 menu del dia is the best deal in El Poblado. 9,500 COP is what bare bones restaurants charge. Franchyes isn’t bare bones. Franchyes’ bones are slathered with delicious, tasty flavor and their meals are super filling. Everything from the soup, especially when ajiaco is available, the fried arepa, the salads, the hot sauce, and the chicharrón (I haven’t tried the other meats) hits the spot. I don’t care if Franchyes is German, French, or Colombian. It’s good.

Final Score: 9 (10 Value, 8 Quality)

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El Pilon Guarceño

Contact: Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: El Poblado (Parque Poblado) and El Retiro
Price: 12,000 COP
Drink: Fresh fruit juice. Sugar-free on request.
Soup: Choice of sopa de frijoles, de guineo, or crema de chocolo
Main: Choice of beef, ground beef, chicken, pork, chicharron, liver and onions alongside white rice, salad bar, and choice of fries, steamed potato, egg, or maduro.
Hot Sauce: Homemade sauce that’s actually spicy!
Dessert: None

El Pilon Guarceño has a choose-your-own-adventure type of menu del dia. You have your choice of main, of sides, and make your own salad. The only constant is rice. This is a typical Colombian restaurant after all; there’s always rice.

The food isn’t mind-blowing, but it definitely doesn’t blow, and it won’t blow your budget either. The soup and quality of the liver I ordered were above-average by Colombian standards and the serve-yourself salad bar is infinity times better than the typical lettuce leaf and tomato slice “salad”. I embraced the challenge of heaping as much uchuva, cauliflower, beans, baked pumpkin, and zucchini as I possibly could on the little black plate they gave me.

Final Score: 8.5 (9 Value, 8 Quality)

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El Emperador

Contact: Google
Neighborhood: Poblado (Calle 10)
Price: 11,000 COP
Drink: Fresh juice. Sugar-free available.
Soup: Lentils, soup, or consome
Main: Traditional bandeja-style with meat, rice, arepa, avocado, egg, and a choice of salad.
Hot Sauce: Not spicy
Dessert: None

You might have heard the saying, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” As a person who doesn’t eat breakfast I think the whole premise is crap, but we’ll set that aside for now. What’s relevant here is that if you can’t eat, “lunch like a prince” you can do one better and eat like an emperor instead at its namesake, El Emperador.

Even better, this indistinct bar/restaurant in the heart of El Poblado right on Calle 10 lets you do so for a pauper’s price.

The flavor of the food may not be Caligula-worthy, but the salad is much better than the typical traditional Colombian bandeja and the juice is fresh and sugar-free.

Final Score: 8.5 (9 Value, 8 Quality)

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La Casa de Beto

Contact: Google
Neighborhood: El Poblado (off Calle 10)
Price: 10,500 COP
Drink: Super sweet fruit juice, mazamorra, or claro.
Soup: Two different choices daily.
Main: A different meat dish (e.g. meatballs or three-meat rice) alongside tajada, arepa and rice, plus a little plate you can pile as high as you can with veggies, fruit, and crispy potato skins at the salad bar.
Hot Sauce: Light but reasonably spicy store-bought.
Dessert: None

More than any menu del dia restaurant listed here, La Casa de Beto feels Colombian. When I’m inside those red doors I feel like I could be in a pueblo like Venecia or Jericó and not in the heart of El Poblado. That’s a good thing.

Another good thing is their food. La Casa de Beto’s lunch menu goes beyond your basic grilled or fried meat and offers a different and unique daily dish like arroz trifásico (triple meat rice) or big juicy meatballs.

And, thanks to the trip to the salad bar that comes with each 10,500 COP lunch menu, it’s a big meal. The salad bar isn’t Whole Foods-like, but it’s surprisingly good. It’s got options like broccoli, steamed beats, a hearty coleslaw, diced fruit, and delicious, crispy potato skins.

Despite solid competition from the likes of Franchyes, Emperador, and El Pilon Guarceño, La Casa de Beto is Poblado’s best menu del dia option for when you’re really hungry.

Final Score: 8.5 (10 Value, 7 Quality)

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Tazmania

Contact: Facebook
Neighborhood: Poblado (Calle 10)
Price: 9,000 COP
Drink: Sugary processed juice.
Soup: Lentil soup with sausage, potato, carrots, chicken, and green onion
Main: Little piece of meat with a mound of rice, a fried plantain, and a serve-yourself salad bar (see photo).
Hot Sauce: Sweet but pleasantly spicy and generous quantity.
Dessert: None

On a good sports team, if the star doesn’t show up the role players pick up the slack. That was the case with my experience at Comedor Tazmania.

The star of Tazmania’s menu del dia, a meager mushroom chicken drumstick with a bone-to-meat ratio of 1-to-1, was a dud. The other starters on the main dish, plain rice and a single plantain with a bit of hogao, weren’t helping either. The salad from the salad bar did its best to fill (me) in, but the basic ingredients just didn’t have enough to lead the team to victory.

It was the soup that stepped up big time.

Big, full of sausage, chicken, carrots, potato, lentils, and green onions, it admirably filled the void left by the starters on the main dish.

Did the overall menu del dia come out victorious? Hard to say. But thanks to the soup’s valiant efforts it wasn’t a total loser. There wasn’t much to lose at a price of 9,000 COP anyways.

Final Score: 8 (9 Value, 7 Quality)

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El Roble

Contact:  Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: El Poblado (on Calle 10)
Price: 10,000 COP
Drink: Frut juice with pulp. Sugar-free optional.
Soup: Daily soup like oats and potato or chickpea.
Main: Choice between two daily meat options or vegetarian alternative. Side of white rice, tajada, and a fruity green salad.
Hot Sauce: Chili flakes
Dessert: A little sugary guava candy.

Roble is a tiny little place right on busy Calle 10. It calls its food international but it looks like a duck (its menu del dia is soup, fruit juice, and meat for a main) and quacks like a duck (the meat is served with rice, tajada, and a small green salad), so it’s a duck. And by “duck” I mean Colombian restaurant.

It’s a pretty duck though. Maybe a mandarin duck. Their meat isn’t just fried to oblivion; it’s nicely stewed or baked and comes with a creative sauce. And their salads have some tasty dressing and fruit on it. For 10,000 COP, you get a pretty duck for the price of an ugly one. Serving sizes are typically small, which is as expected based on the price and location.

Final Score: 8 (8 Value, 8 Quality)

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Nuqui

Contact:  Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: El Poblado (just off Calle 10)
Price: 14,000 COP
Drink: Sugary guarapo or sugar-optional lemonade
Soup: Fish consomme
Main: Fried fish with plantain, side salad, and coconut rice. Tartar sauce for the fish.
Hot Sauce: Store-bought and medium-low spicy.
Dessert: A mint-sized coconut candy.

Nuqui is the name of a town on Colombia’s Pacific Coast, from which the restaurant’s cuisine comes. And just like any coastal region in the world, that means fish.

Their fish consomme is the best I’ve had here in Medellín. It’s better than any I had when I went to the Colombian Pacific Coast, for that matter. The fish on the main course was meh though. Maybe it was good, but it was so small that by the time I remembered to take note of its flavor, it was gone. I could probably have swallowed it all in one bite if not for the bones.

Besides the fish, the patacones and rice were notably yummy. My friend Juan rightly raved to me about the patacones before I went, telling me of their unique method of grating the plantain before frying it, like you would a hashbrown. Call them “hashyellows.”

And as for the coconut rice, other restaurants around Medellin make it with heavy sugar and light coconut. Nuqui does the opposite, which is good for your taste buds and your belly.

All that said, a good soup and two tiny tasty sides aren’t quite enough to overcome the downsides of a higher price (14,000 COP) and subpar rest of the meal.

[Note: I returned to give Nuqui a second chance. This time the main course was a more stomach-sating seafood fried rice, see photo, but it was not enough for me to have to change my score or what I wrote previously.]

Final Score: 7.5 (7 Value, 8 Quality)

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Sazón del Mar

Contact: Google (Envigado location), no online info for El Poblado localtion
Neighborhood: Envigado and El Poblado
Price: 11,000 COP
Drink: Guarapo. Sugar-free not available.
Soup: Fish consomme
Main: Choice of fish (fried or grilled) with a big plantain, salad, and coconut rice
Hot Sauce: Sweet and somewhat spicy
Dessert: None

I’ve had Sazón del Mar’s menu del dia more than any other in Medellín. There are two reasons why:

  1. It’s just about the only menu del dia available on Sundays and holidays.
  2. It’s good and a good deal.

I’ll elaborate on the second point. The fish consomme is the best part. They serve it in a a heavy cast iron bowl and it’s fantastic, with chunks of plantain, yuca, and lots of fish. The main course is nothing amazing, but I always appreciate having fish (with tartar sauce) and coconut rice as a change from the meat and plain rice most everywhere else. Plus I like to think it’s a bit healthier and, at 11,000 COP, about the same price.

Final Score: 7 (8 Value, 6 Quality)

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El Aguacate Arbol

Contact: Facebook, Google
Neighborhood: El Poblado (Parque Presidenta)
Price: 14,190 COP
Drink: Fruit juice. Sugar-free on request.
Soup: Choice of sopa de frijoles, de guineo, or crema de chocolo
Main: Your choice of the typical Colombia meats with rice, plantain, and an avocado salad.
Hot Sauce: I forgot to note it. Sorry
Dessert: None

Since the restaurant’s name is “Avocado Tree” in Spanish I was hoping for a avocado-heavy meal.

Nope.

It’s just your basic Colombian menu del dia, but at foreigner prices.

There is, however, a redeeming feature of this restaurant. It’s something no other restaurant listed here can claim: its location.

Right on (relatively) peaceful Presidenta Park, El Aguacate Arbol is the only place you can truly eat outside on an umbrella-shaded table. If it’s a nice day this might just justify going there and spending a few thousand more than you should for their daily lunch special.

Final Score: 6 (5 Value, 7 Quality)

Looking down at basic meat, salad, rice, menu del dia from Aguacate Arbol
Here’s what fell off the “Avocado Tree’s” menu del dia.

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Santas Melonas

Contact: Google
Neighborhood: El Poblado (by Parque Lleras)
Price: 9,000 COP
Drink: Claro or guarapo
Soup: Vegetable cream soup
Main: Sancocho de bagre (catfish) or a typical Colombian meat alongside fries, rice, basic salad, and some seasoned potatoes.
Hot Sauce: Big condiment squirter of decently spicy sauce
Dessert: None

Santas Melonas was exactly what I would expect for a 9,000 COP menu del dia from a typical Colombian restaurant in the Parque Lleras vortex. The soup is standard, the rice is plain, the meat is fried, the salad is basic, and the drink is normal. There’s nothing surprising about it, good or bad. 

Not bad is bad when it comes this list, because this list is about the best menu del dias in Medellin. Just about every other Medellin restaurant here stands out in some way. This one blends in.

Meh. 

Final Score: 7 (8 Value, 6 Quality)

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Restaurante Asteka

Contact: Nothing online
Neighborhood: El Poblado (by the metro station)
Price: 13,000 COP
Drink: Mango or lulo. Sugar-free available.
Soup: Frijol (bean) or guineo (a type of plantain/banana)
Main: Choice of fish, pork, or chicken. Coconut or plain rice with avocado cabbage salad and potato.
Hot Sauce: Watery, not spicy store-bought sauce.
Dessert: Mint-sized packaged coconut treat.

If Asteka’s menu del dia were 11,000 COP instead of 13,000 COP, I’d go there more often. It’s close to my apartment and I appreciated getting a whole potato instead of patacones and that the salad had avocado in it. But 13,000 COP is just a bit too pricy to justify going regularly, especially given that the seating is outdoor strip-mall style.

Final Score: 6.5 (6 Value, 7 Quality)

Close-up of Asteka restaurant fish lunch with soup and juice.
A complete menu del dia from Asteka restaurant.

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Flor

Contact: Google
Neighborhood: El Poblado (Manila)
Price: 11,000 COP
Drink: Fresh blended blackberry juice. Sugar-free available
Soup: Noodle and potato soup with some carrots and parsley.
Main: Fried fish or chicken with mushroom sauce alongside rice, a slice of avocado, and basic side salad.
Hot Sauce: Decently spicy for a Colombian store-bought sauce
Dessert: None

Manila has a lot of menu del dia options, but very few appealing ones. After another period of hopeless wandering, I settled on Flor. It was only 11,000 COP, so I didn’t have too much to lose.

The final verdict was I didn’t lose 11,000 COP, but it wasn’t a win either.

The noodles in the soup were too soggy, but on the plus side it had lots of chunks of potato and veggies. The main dish was standard Colombian fare: a super chintzy salad of a couple slices of tomato on top of a few leafs of plain lettuce, white rice, a small slice of lorena avocado, and meat. The freshly fried and fluffy fish was good. It reminded me of what I’d get at a British fish and chips stand and was much better than the fried fish from Sazón del Mar, for example.

Overall, Flor didn’t “flor” me with its quality, but it wasn’t flor-ible either.

Final Score: 7 (7 Value, 7 Quality)

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Platano Maduro

Contact: Facebook
Neighborhood: Downtown
Price: 9,500 COP
Drink: Grapo or mango juice, sugar-free on request
Soup: Cream of pumpkin soup when we went
Main: Chicken salad accompanied with green salad, peanut-topped rice, and steamed veggies.
Hot Sauce: Nice and spicy
Dessert: Arroz con leche

Platano Maduro is one block from Parque Bolivar, the downtown square that is home to the San Alejo artisanal market on the first Saturday of every month. Our friend Saul has a monthly tradition of exploring the market with his mom, then going to the restaurant for lunch afterwards. This month, Kim and I had the privilege of tagging along.

As we walked up the stairs to the second-floor restaurant, we understood why Saul and his mom keep coming back. It’s a perfect mother-son lunch spot, a peaceful eddy in the raging river of chaos of Medellin’s downtown. Their food is healthy and hearty enough to suit both mom’s health-conscious diet and son’s appetite, and their original recipes can spark conversation if need be. And the price, 9,500 COP, is cheap enough for even the cheapest of sons to be able to treat his mom.

While most of us aren’t in Medellin with their sons/mom, if you do find yourself in the area around lunchtime, check it out.

Final Score: 8.5 (9 Value, 8 Quality)

Aerial view of platano maduro lunch menu
No sign of plantain, but plenty of solid food on Platano Maduro’s menu del dia.

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Don Magolo

Contact: Google
Neighborhood: El Poblado (Manila)
Price: 9,500 COP
Drink: Guarapo
Soup: Meatball soup the time I went
Main: The standard rice, stewed or fried meat, arepa, salad, avocado slice, and tajada
Hot Sauce: Not-spicy but tasty chunky sauce
Dessert: None

Don Magolo is probably the same as it was twenty years ago before gringos took over the Manila area of El Poblado. It’s a low-key, bare-bones restaurant / bar / convenience store with a street sign subsidized by a local brand (I forgot which one) that sponsors it.

The food certainly hasn’t changed either, and that’s not a good thing or a bad thing. It’s the type of traditional Colombian lunch at (close to) traditional Colombian prices that you’d find abundantly in less touristy parts of the city.

Final Score: 7 (8 Value, 6 Quality)

Table with my plate of food and drink
A hastily taken photo of a hastily plated lunch special at Don Magolo.

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Vegetarian Restaurants

Cable a Tierra

Contact: Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: Parque Arví
Price: 20,000 COP
Drink: Hot tea of varying fruits, herbs, and spices. Free refill.
Soup: Quinoa and three different potatoes.
Main: Casserole of homemade corn bread, brocolli, spices, cheese, and other veggies. Plantain cups stuffed with avocado. Fruit and lettuce bowl with yogurt and sunflower seeds.
Hot Sauce: Homemade. Medium-low spice level.
Dessert: None

Cable a Tierra opened by the top of the Metro Cable in Parque Arví as nothing more than a couple hippies in a shack serving vegetarian food on plates they brought from home. Six years later, its a well-decorated, hippy, homey spot that serves perhaps the best (or at least most unique) healthy menu del dia in Medellin.

The price is definitely not hippy-friendly, though.

My eyes bulged and wallet whimpered when Paula, who runs the restaurant, told us the menu del dia costed 20,000 COP. Her retort was that in Medellín the same dish would cost 70,000 COP because of all its organic ingredients. Yeah right. In her defense, she probably hasn’t been to the city in years.

Kim and I each got the menu in any case. It was worth the price. The servings were big (Kim couldn’t finish), the ingredients fresh (many are grown right there on the farm beside the restaurant), and the dishes were original (we’d never had a casserole quite like that one).

If Cable a Tierra were in Medellín and costed “only” 20,000 COP, I wouldn’t go regularly because of the price. But whenever I go back to Parque Arví I’ll be going back without a second of hesitation.

Cable a Tierra should be on the must-eat menu del dia list of every person who comes through Medellín, vegetarian or not.

Final Score: 9 (8 Value, 10 Quality)

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Casa Antonio’s

Contact: Facebook, Google
Neighborhood: Envigado
Price: 12,500 COP
Drink: Fresh juice of blended fruits
Soup: A vegetable-based soup, varying daily.
Main: Every day a different assortment of two salads, seasoned whole grain rice, and some sort of meat replacement.
Hot Sauce: Homemade. Medium-high spice level.
Dessert: A little homemade cupcake, cookie, or sweet.

Casa Antonio’s was Kim’s favorite menu del dia during the two months we lived in Envigado. I liked it too, but that’s immaterial because her opinion is at least five times more important than mine.

Antonio is a super friendly guy and his food is equally friendly for your taste buds, the environment, and animals. Every day we went, the lunch special was a different, pleasant surprise. We were particularly happy when it included his vegan patties (pictured in the second photo below).

An added bonus of Casa Antonio’s is its second floor location. You barely hear any noise from the street below, so you can enjoy your meal as if in the tranquility of your own home.

Final Score: 8.5 (8 Value, 9 Quality)

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Prâná

Contact: Facebook, InstagramGoogle
Neighborhood: Envigado
Price: 12,500 COP
Drink: Fresh juice of blended fruits
Soup: Varies daily, served with a couple little crackers or pieces of bread
Main: A creative main item (like personal-sized veggie lasagna from image below) served with a small side salad and some type of seasoned carb.
Hot Sauce: Chili flakes
Dessert: A little sweet served with a small cup of tea.

While Casa Antonio’s is Kim (and my) number one healthy food lunch special in Envigado, Prana is 1a. Antonio’s takes the edge for having slightly more food and friendlier service.

It’s worth mentioning that we prefer both to any similar vegan/vegetarian restaurant in El Poblado.

Prana is Envigado’s version of Saludpan (a Laureles favorite), but better. It has a the same earthy vibe and layout, with tables plunked in the middle of a natural food store. The difference is the food is not mass produced because it doesn’t have the same mass demand. It’s busy, but being in Envigado keeps it off the trendy tourist trail. That’s all the more reason to check it out.

Final Score: 8.5 (8 Value, 9 Quality)

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Copoazú

Contact: Website, Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: Belén
Price: 10,500 COP
Drink: Tropical mix juice. No sugar added. Free refill.
Soup: Cream of lettuce with sesame seeds.
Main: Falafel, grilled zucchini medallions, cabbage salad with herbal tomato sauce, and brown rice.
Hot Sauce: Homemade. Medium-low spicy level.
Dessert: Pieces of French toast in chocolate sauce with carob powder.

Copoazú opened in late 2017 and is named after exotic Amazonian fruit. The owner / chef / waiter / does-it-all, told us she picked it in part because she wanted her restaurant to be different from all the other vegan restaurants in the city.

The biggest difference for us was the service. Never before had someone asked me if I was right or left handed so as to set the cutlery on the most convenient side of the plate! The owner really went all out to make sure we enjoyed the meal.

And we did. The quantity and quality definitely was a good deal for the 10,500 COP price tag. The owner says she also works with a nutritionist, so it was probably healthy too. Maybe not so much the dessert, but it was especially delicious and definitely worth it.

For those who don’t live in Belén, Copoazú is out of the way, but definitely consider it when you’re going to get your visa renewed (it’s a ten minute walk from the migration offices) or to hike Cerro de las Tres Cruces.

Final Score: 9 (10 Value, 8 Quality)

Our lunch from Copoazu - soup, dessert, drink, and main dish
A healthy portion of healthy food from Copoazú.

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Espiritu Libre

Contact: None online
Neighborhood: Belen
Price: 13,000 COP
Drink: Sugar-free fresh fruit juice.
Soup: Varies daily
Main: A free-spirited, eclectic mix of various vegan foods.
Hot Sauce: Super spicy and delicious artisenal chili flakes
Dessert: Yes

Espiritu Libre (“Free Spirit”) lives up to its name by being impossible to find online. Google and TripAdvisor’s addresses are wrong, which is probably why if Google incorrectly reports it as permanently closed. And, being true hippies, they don’t have social media.

Just use our map (above) to find it. It’s definitely worth it.

Take a look at the pictures below and you’ll see why. Even non-vegan can’t help but appreciate the colorful and exotic plate-fulls of food that make up Espiritu Libre’s menu del dia. It’s healthy food in healthy portions at a healthy price.

Check it out before this “free spirit” somehow picks up and hides itself again.

Final Score: 9.5 (9 Value, 10 Quality)

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Naturalia Café

Contact: Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: Laureles
Price: 13,000 COP vegetarian, 15,000 COP chicken, 18,000 COP salmon
Drink: Passionfruit mint or hibiscus tomate de arbol. Low-sugar available.
Soup: Vegetable or cream of tomato with bread.
Main: Beens with leeks, potatoes with cheese, cabbage muffin, and fresh green salad balsamic dressing.
Hot Sauce: Chili flakes
Dessert: Chocolate cookie

My first thought after eating at Naturalia was that it’s Laureles’ version of Verdeo in Poblado. Just like Verdeo, the dishes are original, varied, and healthy and the interior is spacious and comfortable (though Verdeo is brighter). What places Naturalia higher in my personal ranking is that it’s a few thousand pesos cheaper.

All the food on the main plate pictured here was tastier than it looked. I mean that as a compliment. For example, the “muffin” looks kind of dry but in reality is was moist and almost juicy. Kim, who’s in Laureles a couple days a week to lead her group workouts, said she’ll be back for sure.

Final Score: 8.5 (8 Value, 9 Quality)

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Veg Station

Contact: Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: Poblado (Calle 10)
Price: 12,000 COP
Drink: Passionfruit mint or hibiscus tomate de arbol. Low-sugar available.
Soup: Vegetable or cream of tomato with bread.
Main: Beens with leeks, potatoes with cheese, cabbage muffin, and fresh green salad balsamic dressing.
Hot Sauce: Chili flakes
Dessert: Chocolate cookie

Veg Station’s motto is “Food made with love.” That may indeed be the case. To me, it’s not the greatest food, but who am I to say what “love” tastes like? 

What I can say is the food isn’t served with love. In the three times I haven’t got a single smile or buenas tardes. Service is strictly business, which is why I decide to take my business elsewhere.

If you’re all about the food and could care less about service, give it a try. The serving sizes are small, the salads aren’t as hearty or varied as at fellow vegan restaurants, but the taste is good enough for the restaurant to have earned a loyal clientele of regulars. 

Final Score: 7.5 (7 Value, 8 Quality)

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Dharma Vegan Resto

Contact: Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: Poblado (Astorga)
Price: 13,000 COP
Drink: Sugar free juice. Often watermelon.
Soup: Typically a cream of vegetable.
Main: A small feature item served with seasoned rice and dressed side salad.
Hot Sauce: None. Nothing. Nada.
Dessert: Not included

I must be missing something about Dharma. It’s always busy at lunch and gets great reviews online. It’s a hotspot for the vegan and healthy crowd, but I’m totally lukewarm about it.

The food is literally lukewarm. Every one of the four times the soup and the rice feel like they’ve been left to stay warm in the sun and not heated on a stove.

I’m lukewarm about the taste too. I can’t think of one particularly memorable dish I’ve had at Dharma. It’s never bad, but it’s never fantastic either.

Worst of all (to me), they don’t have hot sauce. I know Colombians generally are so sensitive about hot food they think black pepper is spicy, but come on. I can’t be the only one asking for hot sauce, so it’s inexplicable why they wouldn’t go ahead and get some chili flakes or store-bought sauce.

Final Score: 7 (7 Value, 7 Quality)

Dharma Vegan Restaurant's soup, menu del dia, and juice pictured from above
My hot take on Dharma is that its food is lukewarm in all sorts of ways.

Mati

Contact: Facebook, Web
Neighborhood: El Poblado (Monterrey Mall, near metro station)
Price: 10,000 COP
Drink: Sugar-free juices of multiple varities
Soup: Guineo
Main: Asian-style rice and or noodles with your choice of any of three of multiple items
Hot Sauce: Homemade Asian-style. Medium-high spice-level.
Dessert: None

If Mati were a sit-down restaurant in Florenza it’d be one of the most popular vegetarian menu del dia places in town. Especially at its unbeatable 10,000 COP price point.

But it’s not.

It’s on the second floor of a noisy foodcourt in Monterrey Mall. Instead of your food magically materializing from the back kitchen in the hands of a server, you see the lady slop it onto your plate from the buffet in front of you and have to carry it on a tray to your table yourself. This detracts from the magic, but it shouldn’t detract from the taste.

The food is tasty, varied, sizable, and a rare opportunity to taste some Asian flavours. I wouldn’t go there every day but I’ll definitely go back.

Final Score: 8.5 (9 Value, 8 Quality)

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Vegano Andante

Contact: Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: Belen
Price: 10,000 COP
Drink: Regular fresh fruit juice. Sugar-free if desired.
Soup: Hearty and chunky veggie soup.
Main: A vegan bandeja Paisa (!!!) or an ever-changing plate of various vegan foods. (See their Instagram for many examples.)
Dessert: A little bite or cup of something sweet.

El Vegano Andante stole the keys to my heart and stomach with an unconventional, unique menu del dia: an all-vegan bandeja Paisa! It wasn’t anywhere close to as gluttonous as a bandeja Paisa and I’d generally prefer the carnivorous version, but I admire their creativity and ambition. It made the meal an experience, which is at least as important as the food itself.

Kim had a more traditional and less memorable meal, but she wasn’t complaining, especially for the 10,000 COP price tag.

Final Score: 8.5 (9 Value, 8 Quality)

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Verdeo

Contact: Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: El Poblado (Manila)
Price: 16,280 COP
Drink: Your pick of one of two different fruit and herb mixes.
Soup: Varies daily.
Main: An aesthetically pleasing combo of vegetarian protein, side salad, and source of carbs.
Hot Sauce: Small, home made, and not spicy.
Dessert: Yep!

Verdeo wins the title for prettiest menu del dia in Medellin. Their lunch menu is always a visually appealing medley of colors and textures and that visual appreciation translates into the taste. The restaurant interior is also aesthetically appealing and, since it’s quiet and spacious, a good spot to stick around after eating to get some work done.

It’s just a tad too expensive.

As with most good-looking food, it’s not so good for filling a big empty stomach.

For light eaters with heavy wallets and those looking for a jealousy-inducing Instagram photos, Verdeo’s your spot. For those like who are the opposite of that, it’s not ideal.

Final Score: 8 (7 Value, 9 Quality)

Verdeo meal, juice, and rhino
Another beautiful dish from Verdeo.

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Helecho

Contact: Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: El Poblado (Manila)
Price: 14,000 COP
Drink: A rotating selection of fresh fruit juice. Sugar-free on request.
Soup: Varies daily. Examples: mushroom consomme, sopa azteca, cream of broccoli.
Main: Thu is burritos. Fri is vegetarian sushi. Check Facebook and Instagram for daily menus.
Hot Sauce: Small, home made, and not spicy.
Dessert: None

I go back and forth on my opinion on Helecho just as frequently as I keep going back there, so about five times in the past two months.

Sometimes, Helecho is a hit. I love their burrito menu del dias on Thursdays and the time they had the veggie burger for their menu del dia was one of the top 10 lunches of my time here in Medellin.

Other times, like when the main is just a little mound of some stir fried veggies and grains, Helecho is a dud. Even their Friday sushi, which some rave about, was a letdown. It’s just rice and vegetables in a fancy shape, after all. On these occasions, I’m left so hungry the first thing I do when I go home after is make as smoothie or snack.

My advice? Walk by and look at what others are eating. If it’s a “hit” day, sit down and enjoy. Otherwise move along and come back tomorrow.

Final Score: 8 (7 Value, 9 Quality – sometimes 10 sometimes as low as 7)

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Marietta

Contact: Facebook
Neighborhood: El Poblado
Price: 12,000 COP
Drink: A rotating selection of fresh fruit juice. Sugar-free on request.
Soup: Varies daily. Example: cream of pumpkin
Main: A different type of seasoned rice, two salads, and “protein” every day.
Hot Sauce: Small, homemade, and not spicy.
Dessert: Small, sweet, and tasty.

A guy I know who’s smaller than me goes to Marietta a few times a week and orders two menu del dias at once. That is both a good sign and a bad one for the restaurant.

Obviously he likes their food. But obviously the servings are too small too. He’d have no chance eating two menu del dias at Masala, Mati, or most other lunch places listed here.

The price, 12,000 COP, is not bad considering Marietta’s location in the epicenter of El Poblado and that it includes a small dessert. For light eaters it might be one of your favorite restaurants. For bigger eaters like me, it’s a good place for a snack or when you’re saving space for a big dinner in the evening.

Final Score: 8 (8 Value, 8 Quality)

Marietta's complete menu del dia
Marietta always has the same four items on its main lunch menu dish, but those items always change.

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International and Modern Menu del Dias

Ocre

Contact: Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: Laureles
Price: 11,000 COP
Drink: Fresh fruit juice. Sugar-free on request.
Vegetarian Option: Yes
Soup: Every day a different vegetable or legume-based soup.
Main: Widely varying plate of a protein, small side salad, and a slice of their own fresh bread or another carb-heavy side.
Hot Sauce:  Chili power
Dessert: A fresh bakery/pastry-made sweet.

Kim goes to Laureles twice a week to lead her group fitness classes. Since I want to get more Laureles restaurants on this list of best menu del dias in Medellin, I asked her if she could try out all the different restaurants there.

She said no.

She didn’t want to miss out on a Ocre lunch special by going elsewhere.

Ocre’s menu del dia is such a continous delight to Kim that every time she eats there she can’t help but message me photos of her food to show off.

All the food goes the extra mile for quality, all the way up to the basil-infused olive oil and expertly-made desserts (Ocre is first and foremost a bakery and pastry shop after all). When the time comes for us to move back to Canada for the summer, Kim already knows Ocre will be atop the list of things she’ll miss about Medellin. Don’t miss out on going there yourself.

Final Score: 10 (10 Value, 10 Quality)

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Cafe Cliche

Contact: Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: Laureles
Price: 14,000 COP
Drink: Fresh fruit juice. No sugar-free available.
Vegetarian Option: Yes
Soup: The choice of cream of spinach or a chickpea, pork fat, onion, soup when I went.
Main: Every month a different dish for each day of the month. See example in gallery below.
Hot Sauce:  Un-spicy store-bought
Dessert: Not included

Cafe Cliche is a hipster French cafe/restaurant in Laureles. It is simple yet elegant (1), with a funky, cozy interior (2).

The menus del dia Kim and I had there were to die for (3). Offering vegetarian and meat options both for 14,000 COP, there’s something for everyone (4).

We had both soups and they were delectable (5). The cream of spinach was silky smooth (7) and the chickpea, pork fat, white and green onion soup was pure nom! (8)

My beef was cooked to perfection (9) and the fried potatoes were carb-tastic (10). Kim had the vegetarian option, which was a cornucopia (11) of flavors and colors.

And we washed it all down (12) with a pineapple-berry mixed juice.

While it’s not part of the lunch special, you might want to save room for (13) one of their decadent desserts (14) like the the volcan au chocolat. It quite simply melts in your mouth (15).

[In case you didn’t catch on, that’s 15 cliches I managed to squeeze into this review. Please, hold the applause.]

Final Score: 9 (8 Value, 10 Quality)

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Toscano Trattoria

Contact: Facebook, Tripadvisor
Neighborhood: Poblado
Price: 16,000 COP
Drink: Iced tea (Nestea powder) or fruit juice
Vegetarian Option: Yes
Soup: Tomato, cream of mushroom, or meatball
Main: Various pastas, pizzas, meats, and more. See menu in image gallery.
Hot Sauce: Chili flakes in olive oil and dry chili flakes
Dessert: Dense banana bread

I found out about Toscano through a fellow blogger who wrote it’s her favorite Italian restaurant in Medellin (which means little), and added that the menu del dia is “INSANE” (which means a whole lot!).

It was indeed an excellent recommendation, but I don’t think “insane” is the right word to describe it. I’d say the word is “substantial.” 

The number of dishes you have to choose from as your main course—SEVENTEEN!—is substantial. The serving sizes themselves, especially considering they come with soup, a fresh bread roll, and dessert, is substantial too. (Let’s just say my stomach wasn’t ready to play basketball three hours later.)

Not helping my stomach’s case was that, as any good Italian restaurant does, but most restaurants in Colombia don’t, the dishes had a substantial amount of cheese. And finally, the flavor level was substantial too.

For the price of 16,000 COP including service, I’d say that’s a substantially good deal.

Who would’ve thunk it? It turns out bloggers can have good recommendations after all!

Final Score: 9 (8 Value, 10 Quality)

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Masala

Contact: Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: El Poblado (right on Calle 10)
Price: 15,000 COP
Drink: Fresh fruit juice. Sugar-free on request.
Vegetarian Option: Yes
Soup: None
Main: Meat or vegetable curry, dhal, naan, rice
Hot Sauce: If you ask for spicy, they’ll make it SPICY
Dessert: Indian / Nepalese style dessert

“You’re my friend.”

That’s the first thing Masala’s owner and chef Shakti said to me when he came by my table after I’d finished off his awesome menu del dia. I was his friend because I was the first person in the year-and-a-half that his Indian/Nepalese restaurant has been open to have asked for “really spicy” and actually eaten the whole hot pepper he gave me to go with the already spicy lunch platter.

Shakti told me he can’t find the spicy-enough peppers in Medellín so he grows them himself at his farm in Pereira. He also grows many other ingredients that he uses in his dishes, as well as coffee. Others, he imports from India.

Regardless of whether you like spicy or not—Shakti caters to spicy-aphobes too—his work to get the right ingredients makes the menu del dia at Masala a must try and well worth the 15,000 COP price tag.

I’m definitely going back, and not just because Shakti’s “my friend.”

Final Score: 9 (8 Value, 10 Quality)

Masala restaurant menu del dia
The food is deadly delicious and that red pepper is deadly hot.

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Uno Mas Uno

Contact: Facebook
Neighborhood: Laureles
Price: 12,000 COP
Drink: Unique concoctions that are the best of any menu del dia in Medellin
Vegetarian Option: Yes (1,000 COP extra)
Soup: Differs daily
Main: Standard rice, meat, and salad with special dressings, spices, and flavors.
Hot Sauce: Sriracha
Dessert: None

Our friend Rebecca recommended Uno Mas Uno to Kim and I. She went out for lunch every day in Laureles, tried most of the top spots, and said it was by far her favorite.

While I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s my favorite, I can see why she loved it.

At its core, the lunch menu at Uno Mas Uno is simple: soup, rice, meat, salad, juice. What makes it different is the extra touch they add to each item. (Maybe that’s the “mas uno” from the name?) For example the juice wasn’t just some plain combo of fruit, but a spiced coffee-and-tea infused concoction, and the rice was made pleasingly crispy by sprinkling chicharron (fried pig fat crackers) on top.

I’ve only had uno menu del dia from Uno Mas Uno, but I look forward to uno mas soon.

Final Score: 8.5 (8 Value, 9 Quality)

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Fiorella

Contact: Facebook
Neighborhood: El Poblado (Patio Bonito)
Price: 14,850 COP including service
Drink: Guava lemonade. No sugar-free option.
Vegetarian Option: No
Soup: Frijol with some veggies, potatoes, and herbs.
Main: Grilled beef or chicken or breaded tilapia accompanied by your choice of two of fries, salad, pasta, or potatoes.
Hot Sauce: Decently spicy store-bought sauce
Dessert: None

Fiorella is an Argentinian restaurant with a funky design. It’s two stories of converted shipping containers and has a cute little two person table on the second floor. Whenever I walked by it caught my eye, but it took me a few months to actually stop and give it a try.

I was glad I did.

Everything exceeded my expectations, though they weren’t super high. Compared to a typical menu del dia, the bean soup had plenty more stuff—veggies, herbs, and potatoes—and the main course was bigger and more complex, with a good salad with beets and big portion of avocado, perfectly cooked noodles, and breaded fish like I hadn’t had previously. Even the guava lemonade was surprisingly good, though sugary.

It was just a bit too expensive. Maybe that’s unfair to say given the location and ingredients, but the truth is I’m more likely to go to somewhere like El Emperador for 30% cheaper than return to Fiorella. If you’re in the area it’s worth trying though.

Final Score: 7 (7 Value, 8 Quality)

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Gautama

Contact: Facebook, Instagram
Neighborhood: El Poblado (Astorga)
Price: 18,150 COP including service
Drink: Fresh fruit juice. Sugar-free available
Vegetarian Option: Yes
Soup: Chickpea and vegetable.
Main: Choice of a couple different daily meat preparations, a carb (like macaroni and cheese pictured below), and side salad.
Hot Sauce: Sriracha
Dessert: None

If I had more money—i.e. if I didn’t waste inordinate amounts of my productive hours writing about food and other mindlessness—I’d probably eat at Gautama more often. And maybe it wouldn’t annoy me as much when I request hot sauce and they don’t tell me the bird-poop-sized amount of Sriracha they bring will cost an extra 1,500 COP.

But that’s not the case.

Gautama’s soup, salad, and fish were tasty, though not head and shoulders better than other menu del dias. The side of macaroni and cheese, though, was so good it has me looking at diners’ plates every time I walk by, hoping to get a whiff.

Still, unless they serve a macaroni and cheese-only lunch special and allow me to bring my own Sriracha from home, I’m not coming back.

Final Score: 7 (6 Value, 9 Quality)

Looking down on plate of food, soup, hot sauce, and juice from Gautama in El Poblado, Medellin
The full package from Gautama, including the 1,500 peso 5 mL of siracha.

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