Paisas (people of Medellín and the Antioquia region) are fond of traditional, simple, country-style food, often served in huge quantities. This is exemplified by the bandeja paisa: a hearty platter with roast pork and sausage served with rice, avocado, a fried egg, plantain, and arepas (Colombian corn cake), plus salad. You’re never far from a restaurant serving such fare. Still, in Medellín you’ll find a wide variety of food, from Italian and haute cuisine to sushi and Thai. Good restaurants dot the city, with many concentrated in the upscale El Poblado neighborhood, south of the center; also in the trending Laureles neighborhood, west of downtown.
Dining as a family won’t break the bank, either, and many restaurants are used to catering to children. Plus there’s no shortage of fast-food outlets, as well as local diners selling cheap set-meal lunches. (However, if you’re tempted by food from street stalls, be cautious of hygienic practices.) Here, then, are seven restaurants that we recommend for satisfying family dining. And for advice on traveling with your family throughout this country, see this article.
Crepes and Waffles
This is more than a national restaurant chain—it's an institution. How Colombians got on the crepe train we may never know, but Crepes y Waffles does it in style. Here you can find a wide variety of waffles and sweet and savory crepes, from pesto and mozzarella to their famous banana and arequipe (a kind of dulce de leche) crepe. There are even inventive options like the "salmon roll" crepe. But that isn't the only thing on the menu—Crepes and Waffles offer healthier options like salads, and their ice cream is to die for. We recommend the location in the El Tesoro Mall, in El Poblado.
Mercado del Río
The upscale Mercado del Río—a kind of New York’s Chelsea Market in the tropics—is a must when you’re in El Poblado. Industrial in scale and ambiance, it houses almost 50 food stores and restaurants of every stripe, all with open kitchen and most with counter dining. Plus, the second floor has full sit-down restaurants. There’s hardly a cuisine type that’s not represented: Mexican, Italian, Japanese and, of course, many outlets serving Paisa staples. Kids will love the cool vibe as well as the waffles at Monsieur Waffle or the burgers at Mr. Pig. If it’s traditional arepas you’re seeking, try the tres carnes (three meats) arepa at La Olla Atómica. Plus there are yogurt stores, pastry shops, fresh fruit vendors, and all manner of yummy desserts to be found. It’s located immediately south of the Bancolombia building, next to the Industriales metro station.
Calle 24 48-28, El Poblado, Medellín
Parents will love the romantic views from the dining room atop the Hotel Dann Carlton’s elegant 19th-floor Tony Roma's. Kids, on the other hand, will be spellbound as the entire restaurant slowly revolves 360 degrees. Ribs and broiled steaks are the order of the day at this world-famous chain, but the menu also includes Tex-Mex, seafood dishes, salads, etc.—plus kids' portions. For dessert go straight for the chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream.
Carrera 43a #7-50, El Poblado, Medellín
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Many a local will tell you there’s no better place to try a bandeja paisa or other authentic traditional Paisa fare than Mondongo's. This immensely popular restaurant (don’t be surprised to find locals lining up outside) is named for the eponymous mondongo soup, made of slow-cooked veggies, tripe (cow stomach), and served with avocado, fried plantain, and arepas. Bring an appetite, as portions are huge (fortunately, prices are not). Come on Sunday to share the festive atmosphere, when Colombian families flock en masse, abuela (granny) and all. It's a great local experience for children and an education in appreciating another culture's culinary traditions.
Calle 10 #38–38, El Poblado, Medellín
Empanadas El Machetico
El Machetico is a popular Medellín chain that has been serving up savory snacks to hungry locals for over 30 years. Here they do favorites like empanadas, arepas de huevo (fried corn cakes with egg), papas rellenas (fried potato balls), panzerotti (fried pastry filled with mozzarella cheese), and more. If you're noticing a theme that everything is fried here, you'd be correct. This is the spot to come for an indulgent snack and never mind the calories. Most importantly, you'll feel like a local as you tuck into bite after bite of perfectly crispy empanada.
If the kids are getting tired of Paisa food like pork, chicken, and beans, head to Café Zorba for the best pizza in town. Behind its unassuming façade in leafy El Poblado, this artsy restaurant draws a young bohemian crowd hungry for its wood-fired, thin-crust pizzas. Plus it serves fresh fruit juices, delicious smoothies, and sinfully sweet chocolate brownies with ice cream. You can collapse on a leather couch or pull up a picnic bench, or perhaps dine alfresco in the rear garden patio. It’s open for dinner only and is a great place to connect with Medellín's coolest cats in an eclectic environment. Enjoy the fringe-theater and live jazz and salsa on offer. Most important: get there early, as lines often form out the door.
Calle 8A #42-33, El Poblado, Medellín
Paisas love a party atmosphere, which explains why Palogrande, located in Envigado, immediately south of El Poblado, draws families like bees to honey. A meat lover's Nirvana, it specializes in the formidable bandeja paisa, including a supersized Parrillada Maradona (a plate of wood-grilled chicken, sausages, kidneys and blood sausage). A separate fonda (bar) shows live football matches, music videos, and hosts quinceañera (15th-birthday) and other parties. Kids are spoiled here, as the restaurant offers electronic games, trampolines, inflatable castles, and more.
Carrera 43A #29 Sur-47 (Avenida El Poblado)
Hard Rock Café
One of the best places in town for a burger, the Hard Rock Café offers a welcoming taste of familiar faves, from classic nachos and barbecue chicken to grilled salmon and a hot fudge brownie. While there’s something undeniably adult about this party chain, it has a great children’s menu, spanning fish sticks and pizzas to root beer floats. Adolescents and the young-at-heart can enjoy music history in the form of memorabilia, including one of Bon Jovi’s guitars as well as stage outfits worn by Colombia’s two mega-stars, Juanes and Shakira. Time your visit right and you can chill to live music. Speaking of chill, it has fire pits for alfresco dining, plus a lounge with cozy couches.
Carrera 43A at Calle 3 Sur, El Poblado
Medellín’s Museo de Arte Moderno (Modern Art Museum) is a can't miss attraction. Best yet, it has Bonuar, one of the most convivial restaurants in town—especially if you like zingy Afro-Caribbean flavors. Styled like a classic French café/bistro, Bonuar (the word is from beau noir, or “beautiful black”) fuses contemporary chic décor with a Creole-inspired fusion menu. Think caramelized octopus, shrimp gumbo with rice, and BBQ steak and chips. Or you can opt for a salad or simple egg, cheese, and potato tarta (quiche). Leave room for the divine Chocolate cookies with strawberries and artisanal vanilla ice cream. It’s a great option for morning brunch, and it draws a bohemian crowd for live blues and jazz at night.
Carrera 44 #19A–100, Medellín