In the center of downtown Bogota, in La Candelaria, tucked away just a half of a block away from the main square, Plaza Bolivar, is a very old (slightly hidden) gem of a restaurant… La Puerta Falsa. La Puerta Falsa is one of my new favorite restaurants in Bogota. It is a total hole in the wall, and it serves up some of THE BEST classic Colombian dishes.
This restaurant is not your “typical touristic spot”, when you go you’ll be surrounded by equal parts locals and tourists. Apart from that the food is simple, classic and incredibly delicious. This restaurant is the oldest in Bogota, it opened it’s doors all the way back in 1816!
It’s a tiny restaurant, with a wooden bar on the right that seats about ten people and a small staircase which leads to an upper level that manages to squeeze in four tables and another bar along the wall. From what I guess, it seats maximum 35 people.
The story of La Puerta Falsa stretches back almost 200 years. Its name was adopted as the church across the street had fake doors built on the outside which were used as a defense mechanism to mislead attackers to the city. As the eatery didn’t have a name at the time, locals started referring to it as La Puerta Falsa (the fake door) which officially became its name in 1816 when the current owner’s great great grandparents registered the family business. Generations upon generations of Bogotanos from every day locals to well-known writers, actors and ex-presidents have passed through the doors of this gastronomic icon in order to fill their bellies with classic Bogotano favorites.
So about three weeks ago, before visiting the Museo de Botero, I finally had my first visit. Here they serve traditional dishes such as chocolate completo (a Colombian style hot chocolate), agua de panela completa (a hot drink made of panela – which is kind of like sugar cane) and Ajiaco (an incredible traditional Colombian soup). While I’m sure these options are all great, La Puerta Falsa is truly known for its Tamales. These things are so goddamn delicious that they top many locals’ “best tamale in Bogota” lists. I can totally see why. These are the most incredible tamales I’ve ever eaten (actually the only tamales I’ve ever eaten). These tamales are filled with giant chunks of chicken (mine had a whole chicken leg) and pork and corn kernels and so much other good stuff, but the best part of it is it warms you from the inside. This is true comfort food.
On your way out don’t forget to try a sweet. It’s hard to say which was better, my desert or my tamale. They have a wide variety of deserts, the one I chose was coconut shavings in arequipe. Arequipe is my favorite sweet I’ve discovered here in Colombia. The best way I could describe it is AMAZING (quite similar to caramel or dulce de leche).
In my opinion, La Puerta Falsa is a must if you happen to be in La Candelaria. The food is really good, plentiful, (very) inexpensive, and the location is an important part of Bogotá’s culinary heritage. Just don’t forget to keep your eyes open so you don’t miss it and make sure to bring a large appetite.