Daniel Castaño's Bogotá, Colombia

Courtesy of Cafe Devoción

As the chef-owner behind the Colombian capital city’s hottest Italian restaurants—he worked for eight years in Mario Batali’s kitchens, after all—Castaño knows a thing or two about Bogotá's hottest locales, including where to find the most delicious tamales, the coolest boutique shops, and the greatest cup of coffee in town.

What neighborhood do you live in and how long have you lived there? I live in a neighborhood called El Lago, which is very close to the Zona Rosa—a hip restaurant and shopping area of Bogotá. I have been here for three years now.

Where do you put up friends visiting town? I usually have them stay with me. Otherwise, I strongly suggest the JW Marriott (Calle 73 # 8-60; 57-1/481-6000; marriott.com)—I love that hotel. But there is a small bed and breakfast right in front of one of my restaurants, called Zona G. It has inexpensive rooms and it's very convenient—it's close to all the action in a safe, walkable neighborhood (Call 69 # 5-37; 57-1/347-5200; hotelzonag.com).

Where is the best place to find your hometown’s signature dish? My hometown signature dish is called bandeja paisa from the state of Antioquia. It's composed of rice, beans, and ground beef with a ton of accompaniments like chicharrones, chorizo, plantains (sweet and salty), avocado, hogao (criollo sauce), blood sausage, and arepa (maize flatbread), all topped with a fried egg! The best is the one made by my aunt in Medellín. But in Bogota, I like to go to a restaurant called Casa Vieja, where they specialize in regional food of Colombia (Av. Jimenez # 3-57; 57-1/334-8908; casavieja.com).

What is your favorite restaurant to take visitors? I think a must for any person visiting Bogotá is Andrés Carne de Res on the outskirts of the city for a magical experience of great food, theatre, and all the whimsical glory it entails (Calle 82 interior centro comercial el retiro #12-21; 57-1/863-7880; andrescarnederes.com).

Where can you find the best cocktails? I strongly believe that best cocktails are found at Gordo Bar. We take the time to make our own ice (big and small), and our own infusions, reductions, syrups, and mixes.  We also focus on the technique and process of making a cocktail properly (Carrera 4A # 66-84; 57-1/740-0524; gordobar.com).

Beer list? There is a very popular brewery in Bogotá called Bogotá Beer Company, and they have opened several pubs around the city, which are very popular (Various locations; bogotabeercompany.com). They serve their own brews and I feel like they are packed all the time. I also want to give a shout out to a place close to my restaurant called La Estatua Rota. It’s a micro-brewery that has taken over a mall house nearby and turned into a fun pub where there is foosball, barbecues, and a fun atmosphere all around (Calle 54 # 6-23; 57-1/466-0842).

Wine list? I feel the best is at a restaurant called Harry Sasson. Not only do they have a huge selection of South American, North American, and European wines. They also offer any selection by the half bottle and by the glass, which I think is remarkable (T Zone; 57-1/347-7155; harrysasson.com).

Where would you choose to splurge on a night out? I am good friends with Harry Sasson, and even though his restaurant is not the most economical, I always have a good time and a good meal there.  

What is your go-to after-hours bar? If I am ever out after hours, I'm at El Coq. It’s a really trendy bar/club where you find the hottest DJs and the coolest crowd any given night of the week. Plus, they’re open until 6 A.M., which is excessive, but practical (Calle 84 # 14-02; 57-1/611-2496).

What’s the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon in town? I personally like to spend my Saturdays at the bar with cocktails before a late lunch, followed by more cocktails. But a lot of people like to get out of the city where they can spend the afternoon outside with the family and get lunch at roadside eateries that have open space. I like to go to Andres Carne de Res with my family and make an afternoon of it. It’s a truly magical place full of fun stuff to do for kids and adults.

What is your Sunday morning routine in your neighborhood? I usually go straight to the restaurant and have my coffee and breakfast there with my family. But I also really like Masa, a New York–inspired bakery that does great bread. Both of their locations are close to my house and restaurant—they're great friends (Calle 70 # 4-83; 57-1/211-0899; somosmasa.com).

Where is the best brunch? Unfortunately brunch is not a big thing in Bogotá—yet. One brunch that I enjoy a lot, especially when I have visitors in from out of town, is at a restaurant called Club Colombia. It has an open buffet of all things Colombian, like tamales, arepas, calentados, empanadas, and juices! (Carrera 9 # Av. 82 No. 9-11; 57-1/249-5681; clubcolombia.co).

Where do you go for the perfect cup of coffeeI really like what the guys at Azahar are doing (Carrera 14 # 93A-48; 57-6/737-1815; azaharcoffee.com). Devoción cafe at the Hilton is an other hidden gem, where you can find coffees from different regions and experience different preparation methods for each one, all in a very cozy, professional environment (Calle 20 # 69b-12; 57-1/411-1523; cafedevotion.com). 

What’s your favorite view in town (that tourists might not know about)? On the way out of Bogotá, towards the town of La Calera, there are several lookout spots you can stop at as you make your way up the mountains that surrounds the city. There are always street vendors there with great food and beer to accompany the fabulous views of the city.  

What’s your favorite path or trail to follow on a walk? In the neighborhood of Rosales there is a creek called La Vieja, and there is a path that goes all the way up to the top of the mountain. The path is open from 5 A.M. to noon. It is a great way to start the day.

What are your favorite offbeat cultural attractions? Every Sunday the city closes down eight of its main highways to car and bus traffic to create a Ciclovia, where people can ride on bicycles and roller blades, skate boards, scooters—anything without a motor.

What’s your favorite shop or boutique? There is a store called Granel that I like a lot. They sell spices and products like oils, grains, and nuts. They sell everything by the gram and have a million different items. I like that you can just go in and get a spoon full of this or a spoon full of that, and not have to get a whole pound of anything—say, if you are just making a recipe you want to try out. I think it's brilliant (Cr 4a # 66-14; 57-1/347-2972; granelgourmet.com).

What’s the best-kept local secret? Tamales at a place called Los Troncos (Carrera 9 # 73-11; 57-1/211-6514; empanaditasdepipian.com).

Image Credits: © Santiago Chacon, Bogota Beer Company

In our Hometown Guides series, we're seeking the best restaurants, bars, vistas, and things to do in a given place from the people who know best—the artists, designers, chefs, and store-owners who live there. See more Hometown Guides »