Most smaller restaurants offer a lunchtime men, a prix-fixe meal ($3-$5 USD) that consists of an appetizer, a main dish, dessert, and a beverage. Peru is also full of cafs, many with a selection of delicious pastries. Food at bars is usually limited to snacks and sandwiches.
Meals and Mealtimes
Food in Peru is hearty and wholesome. Thick soups made of vegetables and meat are excellent. Try chupes, soups made of shrimp and fish with potatoes, corn, peas, onions, garlic, tomato sauce, eggs, cream cheese, milk, and whatever else happens to be in the kitchen. Corvina, a sea bass caught in the Pacific Ocean, is superb, as is a fish with a very large mouth, called paiche, that is found in jungle lakes and caught with spears. Or try piranha—delicious, but full of bones. Anticuchos (marinated beef hearts grilled over charcoal) are a staple, as is pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken), which is so popular that the government includes it in its inflation figures. Peru's choclo (large-kernel corn) is very good, and it's claimed there are more than 100 varieties of potatoes, served in about as many ways. And there is always cebiche, raw fish marinated in lemon juice then mixed with onions and aji (chili peppers) and served with sweet potatoes and choclo.
Top-notch restaurants serve lunch and dinner, but most Peruvians think of lunch as the day's main meal, and many restaurants open only at midday. Served between 1 and 4 pm, lunch was once followed by a siesta, though the custom has largely died out. Dinner can be anything from a light snack to another full meal. Peruvians tend to dine late, between 8 and 11 pm.
Reservations and Dress
Peruvians dress informally when they dine out. At the most expensive restaurants, a jacket without a tie is sufficient for men. Shorts are frowned upon everywhere except at the beach, and T-shirts are appropriate only in very modest restaurants.
Wines, Beer, and Spirits
Peru's national drink is the pisco sour, made with a pale grape brandy—close to 100 proof—derived from grapes grown in vineyards around Ica, south of Lima. Added to the brandy are lemon juice, sugar, bitters, and egg white, before sometimes being topped with a dash of cinnamon. It's a refreshing drink and one that nearly every bar in Peru claims to make best. Tacama's Blanco de Blancos from Ica is considered the country's best wine. Ica's National Vintage Festival is in March.
Peruvian beer (cerveza) is also very good. In Lima try Cristal and the slightly more upscale Pilsen Callao, both produced by the same brewery. In the south it's Arequipea from Arequipa, Cusquea from Cusco, and big bottles of San Juan from Iquitos, where the warm climate makes it taste twice as good. In Iquitos locals make Chuchuhuasi from the reddish-brown bark of the canopy tree that grows to 100 feet high in the Amazon rain forest. The bark is soaked for days in aguardiente (a very strong homemade liquor) and is claimed to be a cure-all. However, in Iquitos, it has been bottled and turned into a tasty drink for tourists. Chicha, a low-alcohol corn beer, is still made by hand throughout the highlands. An acquired taste, chicha can be found by walking through any doorway where a red flag is flying.
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