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 the El Poblado district and connect with their roots.
The growth in Medellin's culinary (cafe and microbrewery) scene has been remarkable.
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 is 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 also a massive fan of Colombia!)
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.
Chef Barrientos uses modern cooking techniques and locally sourced ingredients to deliver world-class meals.
He's since opened El Cielo restaurants in Miami and Washington, DC, and a half-dozen casual spots in Medellin, including Kaime, 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.
Cl. 7D #43c36, El Poblado, Medellin, Colombia, elcielorestaurant.com
A few blocks east of El Cielo and Parque Lleras is Carmen, another of Medellin's best restaurants and one of my favorites.
Opened in 2008 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 much 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 seven-course Chef's Tasting Menu with wine pairing for 499,000 pesos ($125) and an a la carte menu. Either way, you'll find a lot of flavorful food in front of you.
My favorite main dish is the signature Pork 2 Ways (Cerdo 2 Veces), with tamarind-glazed pork belly and tenderloin in several sauces. If this were my last meal, I'd depart Earth in ecstasy.
Carmen Cartagena serves a similar menu on the Caribbean coast, albeit with a greater emphasis on seafood. I've had the pleasure of dining there, too.
Cra. 36 #10a-27, El Poblado, Medellin, Colombia, carmenmedellin.com
Now that I've introduced you to Carmen, I'd like to turn your attention to the restauranteurs' latest concept, a fine dining spot named X.O.
Inspired by Colombia's biodiversity, X.O. is the culmination of many years of exploring the country, from the Pacific and Caribbean coasts to the Amazon.
Chef Pevitts and the first two chefs he hired for Carmen restaurant (chef Mateo Rios and pastry chef Sebastian Marin) have created a 13-course tasting menu showcasing Colombian cuisine.
Three versions of the menu are available: standard, pescetarian, and vegetarian. The price is 429,000 pesos ($108) without a wine pairing or 589,000 pesos ($148) with wine.
The trio's hard work is paying off, with X.O. landing at #27 on Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants list for 2023. It's the first time a Medellin restaurant has been voted into the top 50.
I have yet to visit X.O. as it opened since my last trip. When I return, it's #1 on my list of places to go as I continue to explore the Medellin restaurant scene.
Cra. 36 #10a-45, El Poblado, Medellin, Colombia, xomedellin.co
They raved 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. It's a great choice for celebrating special occasions.
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 at L'Astrance in Paris, which had three Michelin stars.
Seeing the change occurring in Medellin, she returned to open what's now a popular restaurant.
Cra 33 #7-21, El Poblado, Medellin, Colombia, ocimde.com
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 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 lunch or dinner at In Situ. It's the perfect place for a date, too.
Calle 73 N #51D-14, Medellin, Colombia, botanicomedellin.org
6. La Provincia
Since 1993, 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 in ice creams, desserts, and pastries.
Cra. 42 #3 Sur 81 Local 303, El Poblado, Medellin, Colombia, laprovinciarestaurante.com
Related: How to Eat Out Alone
7. Moshi Sushi Bar
Moshi Sushi Bar is an Asian-inspired restaurant concept by the same team as Carmen and X.O.
Located adjacent to Carmen in Medellin, Moshi uses high-quality, locally sourced, 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: Carmen's team opened two restaurants in the same space. Don Diablo is a steakhouse above Moshi, specializing in 100% Colombian grass-fed dry-aged beef.
Cra. 36 #10A-45, El Poblado, Medellin, Colombia, moshimedellin.co
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.
Cra 43D #1030, El Poblado, Medellin, Colombia, elherbario.com
To wrap up my list of the best restaurants in Medellin, I'm highlighting Hatoviejo, which has served traditional Colombian food 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, fried egg, avocado, arepa, and beans.
Other dishes typical of Antioquia include mondongo (tripe soup), sancocho (more soup!), and chicharron with beans. Hatjo Viejo also offers a terrific ajiaco Bogotano (a filling soup with potato and chicken).
Hato Viejo is the most casual restaurant on this list, but take that with a grain of salt, as Medellin is a relaxed city for dining out.
Various locations, hatoviejo.com
10. Andre Carne de Res
Andre Carne de Res is a cultural and culinary institution in Colombia.
Originating in Chia, just north of Bogota, this dining destination has offered a menu of traditional Colombian flavors for over 40 years. They're primarily known for their steaks and meats, and the menu is as thick as a book.
Andre Carne de Res has built its reputation on more than great food. The restaurants feature whimsical decor and a festive vibe, transforming dining into an immersive experience.
It's a place where traditional dishes meet art, live music, and Latin dance, creating an unforgettable outing for locals and tourists alike. It's the ideal place to combine drinks, dinner, and dancing on a Friday or Saturday night.
Whether you're there for a big meal or to enjoy the nightlife, Andre Carne de Res promises an experience as flavorful and spirited as Colombia.
Centro Comercial Rio Sur, Cra. 43A #6 Sur 26, Medellin, Colombia, andrescarnederes.com
Closed, But Not Forgotten
The following restaurants have permanently closed in recent years.
After training at the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastian, Spain, chef Warren returned to Medellin and delved into Colombia's biodiversity.
He's traveled nationwide to source indigenous ingredients for 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.
Brulee 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.
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 Medellin reflect this growth.