Lima is a Gritty, Underrated City with Delicious Food & Pockets of Beauty

After arriving in Lima late, we get some sleep and wake up early for a full day in Peru’s capital city. We fly into Peru for $800-round trip. We get our tickets super cheap by buying ahead and shopping around. Getting a feel for how prices are moving is always the way to get the best deal. Use Reviews.com to see what all the top sites are offering.

Since its time for bed, we have a driver waiting for us, but if it’s earlier and you’re going to Miraflores–the safest and most touristy part of the city–you should take the shuttle, which is actually a comfortable bus that doesn’t take all that much longer than a taxi.

Lima is a bit gritty, a bit dirty,; it’s a huge, endearing city that is as underrated as it is quirky. Locals line the streets with food stalls, cabbies honk at tourists looking for customers, and people panhandle in the most hilarious ways.

When researching Lima for travel, you find mostly negatives. For me, there isn’t much to do here, but that frees my up for the incredible food, people, plus many Cusqueñas and pisco sours.

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Chicharrones sandwich from El Chinito.

On our first day in Lima we’re eating all day , and it is great.

First we head to the historic square in the city, Plaza Mayor, to see the city’s main site, but the real reason we’re here is for chicharrones. We’re having sandwiches at El Chinito. Like much of the culinary history in Peru, this sandwich shop, or sangucheria, was founded by an Asian immigrant dubbed “el chinito.”

Even though the chain of shops was started by a Chinese guy and is in the main square, there are only local Limeños here. We order the asado sandwich in addition to the chicharrones and share both. We almost got a third to try because they’re delicious but were glad we didn’t, these sandwiches are huge and we have much, much more to eat today.

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Spanish architecture in Lima’s Plaza Mayor.

Topped with slightly pickled onions, sweet potatoes, and spicy mayo, they are slightly reminiscent of Asian flavors but are wholly Peruvian. We drink Inca Cola and freshly squeezed limeade, and walk into the sunlight feeling great.

After walking around and admiring the Spanish architecture  conquistadors built after conquering the Incan Empire, we go to Museo Larco to admire some pre-Columbian artifacts.

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Cold brews from Origen de Tostadores.

But first, we’re getting some coffee. We choose a specialty coffee shop nearby, Origen Tostadores de Cafe, for a cup before the museum. A detailed diagram of the process of growing, roasting, and brewing coffee adorns the wall. Locals here take their time, enjoying every moment of their artesinal coffee. I order the nitro cold brew, which I surmise is probably on cO2, not nitrogen, because it tastes a bit like soda. Thyme has a cold brew with probably too much milk. The coffee is good. Strange, but good.

The museum has an enormous collection of indigenous–much of it pre-Incan even–pottery, sculptures and everyday tools, including those of ritual. The torture tools and blood cups are particularly awesome, but there are too many good things here to admire and learn about. Take your time on the spiritual writings and erotic gallery, this is the largest  indigenous collection  in the country. Not to be missed.

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Gold accessories of the elite at Museo Larco.

Just like that, it is time for more food. This time, ceviche, or cebiche depending on where you are in Latin America, and how it’s pronounced.

We take a cab, which are totally and utterly unregulated in Lima. Just like the buses. People on the internet are weird and paranoid about it. Just be ready to haggle if you think they are taking advantage of you, as you are a traveler, and establish a price beforehand since they don’t use a meter. Other than that, taking a cab you’re essentially always getting into a car with a stranger. It is no different in Lima.

Our driver this time is a friendly guy, and wants our business. He tells us about a park nearby and tries to get us to go after, but I plan on being drunk after this lunch and who knows what we’ll want to do after that.

La Mar is the ultra-fresh cebicheria Peruana that has spread across the world. We begin with a pisco sour, a mojito and peruse the menu. The limitless possibilities of extremely fresh seafood all sound delicious. Elite Limeños share a drink and a laugh. This cevicheria is clearly for the affluent, but with seafood this delicious, the price seems appropriate.

First were brought three different hot sauces, all delicious. First we order one traditional ceviche, aji amarillo–yellow Peruvian pepperwith octopus and thinly chopped peppers, and an interesting pink-sauced ceviche with sweet potatoes, onions corn, and mixed seafood, including scallops, shrimp, and more octopus. All are exceedingly fresh.

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Ceviches and cocktails at La Mar.

We want one hot item, but our travel budget won’t allow for the whole fried fish, so we decide on the seafood empanadas, which are awesome. But please, if you have the cash, get that whole fried fish and let me know how it is. You can also go to La Mar in San Francisco where you can try it.

We finish up with Cusqueñas and pisco straight and are giddy with warm intoxication. Blissed out, we head back to the hotel to freshen up before enjoying the sunset overlooking the beach. It is magical. We relax and dive into the silence only crashing and receding waves can induce.

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Sunset over the beach in Lima.

Two more beers at our hotel at Casa Azul, which hosts tiny boutique rooms that include kitchens that make you feel at home, we are ready for even more fine dining.

We’ve eaten from the sea, now it’s time to eat from the rain forest. This time it’s Amaz, chef Pedro Miguel’s celebration of ingredients from the Amazon, where we will be in about a week. The environment is chic and youthful, reminds me slightly of a restaurant in Los Angeles.

The food is amazing here, but so are the cocktails. We get two different drinks, both with ginger beer because we love it, one with pisco and the other with gin. Then we have two more cocktails made with Amazonian gin and grapefruit. The drinks are strong and intersting.

Then we get hungry. We order the plate of charcuterie that includes chorizo and other awesome meats. Served with a salad of pickled vegetables and fried plantains, the vegetables are truly the star of the show.

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Our spread at Amaz.

We also order a hen soup with a creamy, savory broth, potatoes, and crispy meat, which is totally awesome. Might of been my favorite thing here. We also order fried rice with beans and more chorizo, all of which come from the Amazon. Everything is served with three different types of chilies, one tiny orange chili that is served fresh, one pickled mixed peppers, and one container of red pickled chili on the table. There are also homemade hot sauces and a potato puree. The accompaniments make the meal that much better.

We leave and have a bit of trouble with Uber, which is a little shoddy about location and which the car the driver is using, but works well overall, and drink more beers at the hotel. We got to bed early, satisfied and waking up early to go into the Peruvian desert. For today, we ate like Incan kings.

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