With its gentle yet palatable bohemian tilt, ornate buildings that blend early republicanism with a mish mash of art deco with modern constructions and location up above the bustling and impersonal Carrera Septima beyond the Plaza de Toros Santamaria, La Macarena is where all of Bogota’s foodie hipsters would live if they eventually could raise the money and move out of from their parent’s homes and strike it out alone.
Since being written up in the New York Times in 2009, rents have soared in La Macarena putting paid to its existence as an emerging arty district with its mildly political graffiti ( read: urban art in Macarena speak) daubed about the walls and this in turn has led to the inevitable comparisons being made with early Williamsburg, NY.
You are just as likely to rub shoulders and dine alongside a Che Guevara lookalike or the goofiest cheese-ball soap opera star making the headlines in Colombia here in La Macarena which perhaps adds to the attraction of the neighborhood. La Macarena has yet to fully establish which route the barrio is going down, that of a gimmick boho hipster haunt, an escape from the colonial Candelaria or a village of tranquility within an often suffocating and oppressive city.
And while the hipster students are being pushed more towards the barrio of La Perseverancia, alongside La Macarena, an area known for retaining a dangerous edge due to its history of being a zona de tolerancia, literally, red light district, La Macarena retains its originality having evolved into the most avant garde epicenter for experimental cooking and restaurants.
Restaurants here on any given night of the week will be spoilt for patrons but look beyond the bigger names and hunt for lesser known startups and you will be pleasantly surprised. As so often is the case, young chefs and restauranteurs need to make a go of it in an area open to discovery, rather than trying to manage the exorbitant rates of the Zona Rosa or the Zona Gourmet and then once accepted can move uptown.
Restaurants to try in La Macarena
The real success story of all of the recent restaurants in La Macarena, this fish establishment burst onto the scene redefining Colombian platters. So popular they have opened a further branch in the upscale Zona T.
Perhaps the quality has dipped a little in recent years but this hasn’t taken away from the decidedly unnerving ambience of that of an ancient toy store mixed with steakhouse. Wherever you look you’ll find yourself being eyeballed by spooky antique dolls.
Yes, where else but in Bogota’s Macarena would you find an authentic Serbian restaurant? Tasty and hearty meals are provided here by Katarina.
Brusque service gives way to huge portions of “experimental” Mexican food designed to be shared between friends. This is truly a hole in the wall and possibly can seat no more than ten hungry souls.
A stalwart for the area, don’t be surprised to see your place set with cutlery that doesn’t match, plates that differ all in the setting that feels not dissimilar to an antiques store.
Technically this restaurant, amongst the best in Bogota, is just within the confines of the Centro Internacional, but as it sits so close to La Macarena we included it. Fresh fish from the Pacific, fat bottomed ants encrusting pork chops, not to be missed!