Food is important. It’s a basic life necessity, and it can be a highlight or a lowlight of places you visit as you travel. So often, the three of us are boiling pasta, eating crackers, or making PBJs so we can keep our costs down. Getting a meal out somewhere not only gives us a taste of the local culture, but it also helps us to shake up our usual eating routines.
Admittedly, one of the first things I google when we’re heading to a new place is “vegetarian restaurants in [insert city]”. I can’t even express how much I love being able to walk into a restaurant and know that I can order absolutely anything on the menu without having to double check if it has meat in it.
As we’ve traveled through South America, I’ve gotten used to Colin and Tyler’s meals being called “normal,” as opposed to my almuerzos vegetarianos. Meat is a staple of most of the places we’ve visited so far, but I’ve also found a surprising number of vegetarian and vegan-friendly places – the movement is growing!
In particular, Cusco has some gems. Here are my top 3:
1. Green Point: This restaurant is 100% vegan, and it was amazing. We went here for my birthday in October, and it was so, so good. I had a hard time deciding what to order, because so many options sounded great. They brought over homemade bread with dipping sauces to start us off, and then we ordered a huge “cheese” plate; all of the cheeses were made from different kinds of nuts. I got veggie tacos for my main meal, and I was so full I couldn’t finish everything. You can tell the ingredients there are fresh, healthy, and well-prepared. I would say this place is a must-visit for everyone who comes to Cusco – vegans and meat-eaters alike. Additionally, if you’re craving healthy vegan food but you want to cook it at your hostel, Green Point runs a small store next door called Green Stop that carries specialty vegan items.
2. Govinda Lila: Colin and Tyler actually came across this one for me by mistake. We were all regulars at the San Blas Market, a wonderful place filled with lunch counters that can make you feel like you’re sitting at your grandma’s kitchen table, as well as lots and lots of inexpensive fruits and vegetables. They went to Govinda Lila without me one time because they only saw “carne” listed on the daily menu – underneath, the sign clarified that it was carne vegetal. That was the first and last time they went to Govinda Lila, but they discovered my new favorite place in the San Blas Market. Lila herself is warm, welcoming, and excited to have so many tourists passing through that are looking for meat-free foods. For only 7 soles ($2.14 USD), I could eat a full lunch, soup for starters and a main plate. Her meals always varied, but the main plates typically consisted of some delicious combination of beans, rice, salads, soy meat, or vegetable empanadas. Occasionally, she would have vegan brownies, banana bread, or other vegan-friendly desserts available for a few soles more. (An extra trip for the market – If you somehow still have room in your stomach on your way out, stop and see the juice ladies for a delicious, freshly made drink. You won’t regret it).
3. Prasada: After our 4-day trip to Machu Picchu, we got back to Cusco late, tired, and hungry. Colin and Tyler both headed to the nearest fast food place in the Plaza de Armas, but I knew I would only be able to get fries or ice cream there. I was craving something filling and substantial, so I gave Prasada a try. It was a late-night lifesaver. Long after all of the markets in Cusco have closed, Prasada will still be open to answer your veggie burger prayers. There are so many topping and sauce options for all of their burgers; I only wish I had discovered this place sooner so I could have gone back more often. I ate my food too quickly that night and forgot to take a picture of it, but I can promise you won’t be disappointed if you give this spot a try.