Needless to say, living here in Cusco means I don’t really spend much time eating in restaurants in the tourist areas. Great food for a fraction of the price and a true Peruvian atmosphere is available just a short distance from the historical center of the center, but there are still some good values to be found close by. And every once in awhile I like to try out some of the places in the tourist centers just to keep up with what’s available.
Keep in mind that reviews are highly subjective and represent only my own tastes. What you like might be completely different. However, I do like to emphasize things like service, cleanliness, etc. — areas in which most people have similar expectations.
Jack’s Cafe (website)
Choquechaka 509, 084-254-606
This is hands down my favorite place to eat in Cusco. It’s certainly not cheap, but the prices are very good compared to the rest of the tourist area and portions are very big — often too big for me — and consistently delicious.
The place is small and there is often a big crowd outside waiting to get in. Fortunately, employees are good at getting your order going even before you are seated so your wait might not be as long as it seems. Service is excellent — the best in Cusco. The lack of wi-fi discourages people from staying too long and taking up space long after they are finished. If you want that kind of experience, there are plenty of other places in town.
In fact, Jack’s has the best service of any restaurant in Cusco and perhaps in Peru. They are incredibly friendly and all seem to enjoy working them and interacting with the hordes of customers from all over the world.
I generally eat breakfast there a couple of days a week. I really like the pancakes with butter and maple syrup, but lately I’ve been getting the Desayuno Flaco, or “Skinny Breakfast”, which comes with two eggs to order with some four really big pieces of toast and sauco. (Sauco, a South American berry, seems to me to be identical to blueberries.) I get fried eggs which are nearly perfect and often ask for bacon which is better than anything I’ve had in the US.
For lunch, I frequently go for the ham, tomato, and cheese sandwich. It’s actually 3 (!) half sandwiches. If you get it with fries, then you might have more than you can handle unless you’re really hungry, though the fries are pretty darn good.
Another favorite is the cheeseburger. The only reason I don’t get it more often is because it is HUGE and full of more calories than I need. Still, it’s delicious and really, really messy, but worth every greasy finger you get!
Lately I’ve been a little weight conscious and I’ve tried the Caesar salad. Let me make it clear that I do not like salads, but this one is the best I’ve ever had. I wish they had a little more chicken and less lettuce, but it delicious!
I’ve had several folks tell me how good the milk shakes are. I’ve watched them made and they do look great. Maybe one day soon…
Papachos (website) ★ ★ ★ ★
Plaza de Armas (to the right of the Cathedral), 084-228-205
I’ve only been to Papachos a couple of times. It’s just a bit too touristy and expensive for my tastes, but they do have one of the best hamburgers I’ve had in Peru.
The Miraflorina is simply superb as a BBQ burger with bacon. The addition of the best fried onions in world makes it a complete masterpiece that’s well worth the price. (Keep in mind that the price is expensive for Cusco, but still pretty cheap compared to the rest of the world in a comparable restaurant.)
Casa Culinaria Marques ★ ★
255 Calle Marques (on the pedestrian street about halfway between the Plaza de Armas and the San Pedro Market)
The first time I went here, I absolutely loved the chaufa con pollo — seasoned rice with light vegetables and chicken pieces — the first time. Since then, each time has steadily been worse.
The last time I went, I tried the lomo saltado — beef loin with onions and tomatoes along with rice and french fries. While being rather expensive, the portion was sadly very, very small. It was made even worse by meat that was tough and hard to eat.
The service has been a bit hit-and-miss. Some servers are excellent, while others appear to not really care about providing service.
I gave them multiple chances and won’t be back.
Starbucks ★ ★ ★ ★
Plaza de Armas
Yes, Starbucks. It is one of my favorite places to go for several reason. The coffee/drinks are consistently good as they are all over the world. It’s large and I can sit and do whatever I want in a very relaxing atmosphere.
The staff is great. Of course, I’ve been so often that they greet me by name and, depending on how busy it is, we can chat for awhile. That personal kind of service is a big deal and draws me back several times a week.
And the views out over the Plaza de Armas are great — especially on sunny days. It’s a shame the balcony is closed off, but some of these old balconies aren’t as strong as they were centuries ago.