The best restaurants in Medellin, Colombia, reflect the city's expanding culinary scene.
As the City of Eternal Spring has opened to more visitors and influences, its restaurant scene has diversified.
Colombian chefs like Juan Manuel Barrientos and Miguel Warren trained abroad in Europe and brought their talents home.
Others, like Carmen Angel, moved to Medellin to pursue new restaurants in El Poblado and connect with their roots.
The growth in Medellin's culinary (cafe and microbrewery) scene has been remarkable to watch.
I gave the city seven years of my life from 2009 to 2015, basing myself there for six to nine months each year.
In Medellin, I began writing about great places to eat for medellinliving.com, which I started within weeks of arriving.
I also learned Spanish and discovered a love of Latin music and a passion for salsa dancing.
Putting together this list of the best restaurants in Medellin brought back many memories.
Medellin's Top Restaurants
1. El Cielo
My top pick of fine dining restaurants in Medellin continues to be El Cielo ("The Sky") by Colombian chef Juan Manuel Barrientos.
In 2011, I first experienced molecular gastronomy and tasting menus here, both experiences I'd seen watching Anthony Bourdain on TV.
(Side note: Bourdain was a huge fan of Colombia, too!)
The menu consists of "moments," not all of which are edible. A signature moment I've experienced with every visit is washing my hands in melted chocolate. Yummy!
Chef Barrientos uses modern cooking techniques and locally sourced ingredients to deliver world-class meals.
In 2011, he opened his second location, El Cielo Bogota, which was recognized as one of the 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America from 2013 to 2015.
He's since opened El Cielo restaurants in Miami and Washington, DC, and a half-dozen casual spots in Medellin, including Kai, a vegan restaurant.
In April 2021, El Cielo DC received a Michelin star, the first Colombian restaurant to earn the accolade.
The Michelin Guide doesn't produce a book for Colombia, so Medellin has no Michelin star restaurants. El Cielo is as close an experience as you can get.
Not content with being a star in the kitchen, Barrientos is also dedicated to peace in Colombia through his foundation that trains ex-FARC and army soldiers to become chefs.
Related: Best Restaurants in Bogota
A few blocks east of El Cielo and Parque Lleras is Carmen, another of Medellin's best restaurants and one of my personal favorites.
Opened a little over ten years ago by chef Carmen Angel, her husband Rob Pevitts, and her father Diego Angel, Carmen offers a consistently excellent dining experience.
Bringing their culinary talent from California, where Carmen and Rob met at Le Cordon Bleu de San Francisco, they've done a lot to raise the bar in Medellin.
Early on, Carmen occupied the #1 spot on TripAdvisor for several years, attracting soccer stars and celebrities like Tom Cruise (who filmed scenes in Medellin for "American Made").
The menu features contemporary dishes using local ingredients. Choose between a five-course Chef's Tasting Menu for 229,000 pesos ($61) and an a la carte menu.
Either way, you'll find a lot of flavorful food placed in front of you.
My favorite is the signature Pork 2 Ways, with tamarind-glazed pork belly and tenderloin in several sauces. If this were my last meal, I'd depart Earth in ecstasy.
3. El Barcal
Editor's Note: El Barcal is temporarily closed.
Following his training at the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastian, Spain, chef Warren returned to Medellin and delved into Colombia's biodiversity.
He's traveled throughout the country to source indigenous ingredients for use in his tasting menu, which I tried in 2019.
Standout dishes included suckling pig with water cucumber, beef tongue with Santander ants (pictured above), a delicious seafood soup, and green guava and pine tree sorbet.
El Barcal features a modern interior design with a covered patio and open-air garden; a window offers an inside look at the kitchen.
See also: Latin America's Best Restaurants
They were raving about the 12-hour braised short ribs in lemon and chili caramel sauce.
At my birthday dinner, I understood why. My mouth waters just looking at the photo (above) from that night.
A year earlier, in August 2013, Oci.Mde opened its doors under chef Laura Londoño and her husband, architect Santiago Arango.
Working together, they've realized their vision for a casual, modern restaurant offering slow-cooked foods.
The menu changes every six months, and sharing dishes is encouraged.
Chef Londoño's story is a familiar one amongst Medellin's top chefs.
She spent eight years working abroad in Europe, Australia, and Asia, including time at L'Astrance in Paris when it had three Michelin stars.
Seeing the change occurring in Medellin, she returned to open what's now a popular restaurant.
5. In Situ
In Situ is located within Medellin's botanical gardens north of the city center.
The modern, open-air space blends beautifully with the surrounding 40-acre park, an oasis of calm amidst city traffic and noise.
One enters In Situ by crossing a small concrete footbridge over water. I recommend departing through the rear, as it faces an herb garden and the park's lush interior.
Inside, you'll find a menu with some of the best food in Medellin, featuring fresh local ingredients and a mix of modern dishes and Colombian favorites.
The quality of food, serene setting, and reasonable prices are all reasons to plan for a lunch or dinner at In Situ. It's the perfect place for a date, too.
6. La Provincia
For over 27 years, La Provincia has served Mediterranean cuisine with Asian influences in a contemporary setting.
La Provincia may be one of the oldest establishments on this list; however, there's something to be said for staying power.
I'd never encountered escargot-stuffed tortellini until I had it as an appetizer at La Provincia.
While no longer on the menu, sorrentinos with crab and saffron cream sound like a suitable substitute.
Carb-conscious diners take heart.
There are plenty of seafood, meat, and poultry dishes, including prawns stuffed with coastal cheese in an orange and sweet chili reduction and chateaubriand with a chipotle and cilantro béarnaise sauce.
Try an arequipe* or chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream or a Cartagena coconut pie with lemon and coconut ice cream for dessert.
*Arequipe is Colombia's version of dulce de leche, a caramel spread used in ice creams, desserts, and pastries.
Editor's Note: Brulée restaurant is permanently closed; however, the chefs can cater to events.
Brulée was my pick for Valentine's Day dinner one year, and while I only ate there once, it was one of my best meals in Medellin.
They continue to get high ratings on Google, averaging a 4.7 (out of 5) star rating with 272 reviews.
The interior is elegant, with white chairs and tablecloths. The menu is international.
My dinner began with tuna tataki on mango with sweet chili tartar. I devoured a main of lamb-stuffed ravioli with black truffle oil.
The meal ended with a sphere of chocolate mousse and fresh berries.
Related: How to Eat Out Alone
8. Moshi Medellin
Moshi Medellin is an Asian-inspired restaurant by the same team as Carmen restaurant (mentioned above).
Located adjacent to Carmen in Medellin, with a second location in Cartagena's historic center, Moshi uses high-quality, locally sourced, and sustainable ingredients.
Appetizers include shrimp salad, ceviche, Korean fire chicken thighs, steamed buns, and sushi. I can vouch for the pork confit buns.
Mains are diverse, including Malay-style grilled beef short rib with Andean pumpkin, aromatic rice, rendang sauce (pictured above), Thai-style crab rice, and grilled rabbit confit.
And because Carmen Angel is the Executive Pastry Chef, you can expect to finish lunch or dinner with a tasty dessert.
I chose Caribbean creme fraiche and toasted marshmallow ice cream with corozo palm fruit, coconut arequipe, cashew, and honeycomb crumbles.
Moshi Medellin also has an excellent bar program; I recommend ordering a cocktail for the complete experience.
Side note: The team from Carmen opened two restaurants in the same space. Don Diablo is a steakhouse located above Moshi, specializing in 100% Colombian grass-fed dry-aged beef.
Herbario also makes my list of the best places to eat in Medellin; it's a modern Colombian restaurant located in a former warehouse.
The spacious interior features a bar, seated balcony, and private dining space on the second floor.
Chef Rodrigo Isaza's menu reflects ingredients and influences from around the country.
I enjoyed a three-course lunch of salmon tartare with avocado foam, fresh white fish with yucca souffle, and a chocolate tart with fresh fruits and ice cream.
To wrap up my list of the best restaurants in Medellin, I'm highlighting Hatoviejo, which has served traditional Colombian dishes since 1982.
In January 2009, I ordered the Bandeja Paisa at Hato Viejo's downtown location on my second day in Medellin and continued to eat there over the years.
Bandeja Paisa is a regional dish from Antioquia, the Colombian department of which Medellin is the capital. Due to its size, it's typically eaten on the weekends.
It has a little of everything: meat, chorizo, chicharron (pork cracklings), fried plantains, rice, egg, avocado, arepa, and beans.
Other dishes typical of Antioquia include mondongo (tripe soup), ajiaco Bogotano (potato and chicken soup), sancocho (more soup!), and chicharron with beans.
Hato Viejo is the most casual restaurant on this list, but take that with a grain of salt as Medellín is a relaxed city for dining out.
Smart casual dress is acceptable for every restaurant I've listed, whether for lunch or dinner.
One of the few new restaurants I haven't been to yet but would like to try is Kaime, a vegan spot by Juan Manuel Barrientos.
The dining scene in Colombia has come a long way in the last ten years; the best restaurants in Medellín reflect this growth.