Jericó’s New Religion: Food
Three hours southwest of Medellín, the small town of Jericó, Antioquia is a religious tourism destination because it's the birthplace of Colombia's only saint, Saint Laura. This didn't interest Chris and me much, seeing as our only religious activity is celebrating Christmas. We visited for different reasons… but ended up discovering religion in Jericó nevertheless.
A different religion: Food.
Jericó's almighty artisanal foods and nice restaurants made us true believers.
It's very likely that this guide to the many artisanal treats and the best restaurants in Jericó will convince you to make a pilgrimage there too.
You may come back a couple pounds heavier ("Jeri-gordo", as Chris joked), but at least you'll have a bag full of tasty souvenirs to spread the "religion" with others!
Jericó's Artisanal Treats
Pandequesos, by Don Jaime
If you've traveled to Colombia, you've most likely seen pandequesos (cheese bread). Whether at corner stores, bakeries or on the street, you can see the donut-shaped pastries everywhere.
We too had seen them everywhere, but neither Chris nor I had bothered to try one. They looked so plain. It was only after the locals in Jericó raved to us about Colombia's best pandequesos were made in town by a man named Don Jaime that we finally gave them a try.
Good thing we did. They are way tastier than they look. Dare I say it, they're better than donuts.
To try Don Jaime's pandequesos and decide for yourself, head to his dollhouse-like pink house a couple blocks uphill from the main plaza. He doesn't have a sign outside, nor does he have an official bakery but if you go around 8 a.m. and knock on the door he should have some freshly baked pandequesos ready for you to try for 1,000 COP a piece.
Rosquetes de Mi Pueblo, by Beatriz Sanchez
Everything tastes better with butter. At least that's what I think. And that’s definitely what Beatriz Sanchez thinks too.
Beatriz is a local Jericoana who's been waking up at 5 a.m. every morning for over fifteen years to feed her town with her delicious all-butter treats.
When we stopped by and rang her doorbell, she happily invited us in and gave us samples of her freshly baked crackers and cookies made with butter, flour, and egg. We left with a bag, smiles on our faces, and, very likely, a trail of crumbs behind us.
Beatriz proudly sells her artisanal snacks at ten different stores in town, but we recommend you go right to the source.
Cookies & Wine, by Las Hermanas Clarisas
Speaking of butter and cookies, the nuns at Jericó's convent also prefer butter.
If you're not sure where to eat in Jericó, the Clarisa sisters can help you out with a snack. They sell two varieties of butter cookies in boxes of about 100 for 8,000 COP.
And when the sisters aren’t making their delicious butter cookies, they’re making wine.
Sister Helena, who attended us from behind the grate, told us the sister who makes the wine couldn't talk to us, and we certainly weren't allowed in the cloisters, so we just had to pick from a couple of varieties of wine a random. At 20,000 COP for 750 mL, cheaper than most wines here in Colombia, we couldn't go wrong.
To get some of your own, head over to the convent, ring the doorbell inside (the front door should be open), and ask. You’ll be glad you did. It's open daily from 9 -11:45 a.m. and 3-5 p.m.
Cardamom Chocolate, by Dulcearte
It was only when we set foot in Jericó that we learned that Colombia has been producing cardamom for over thirty years. We could smell it!
Jericó used to be a big producer, but now most farmers have switched to other, more profitable crops and let other countries like Guatemala and India pick up the slack. Lucky for you, there are still places in town where you can try local cardamom. And what better way than with chocolate?
Lina makes delicious cardamom chocolate (among other varieties) with her company Dulcearte Chocolate. She’s just starting up and currently exclusively sells bars and little bags (as seen in the photo below) on order from Riverside hostel.
To get a taste of your own, contact her on Whatsapp: +57 323 506 7827 (she only speaks Spanish), talk to Jorge, the super helpful and friendly owner of the hostel, or order at arideto.com.
Luisas, by La Panaderia del Valle
Nobody in Jericó is sure where the name "Luisa" came from, but everyone's sure that "Luisa cakes" are a delicious treat you can't find anywhere else.
Luisas are brownie-shaped squares made from flour and panela honey with a layer of guava jam in the middle. They're perfect for dipping into local coffee or tea.
Thanks to some haggling by our friend John Wilmar from La Nohelia Farm and Eco-Center (read about him in our Jericó guide), Chris and I got an inside look into how the famous Luisas are made at the oldest bakery in Jericó, La Panaderia del Valle.
In the open warehouse behind the storefront were piles of sticks, racks of pans, and a massive wood-burning stove, which gives all of their pastries a subtle smoky taste. La Panaderia del Valle has stuck with tradition, making Luisas and other baked goods the same way for over 81 years.
The Best Restaurants in Jericó
While you could easily stuff yourself on Jericó's artisanal treats, for your health's sake you should probably get a real meal or two in as well.
Luckily, Jericó has a few solid restaurants that will do the trick.
Menu Del Día at La Gruta
After a warm welcome upon our arrival to Jericó, the owners of our hotel, the now-closed Las Cabañas del Rincon, recommended we make La Gruta Restaurant our first stop.
Located on the second floor of a building behind the cathedral in the main square, our first pleasant surprise was the restaurant's interior. La Gruta translates to "the cave" in English, but the restaurant is nothing like its name. It's bright, big, and eclectically decorated.
Our second pleasant surprise was the food. The 10,900 COP menu del días Chris and I had were excellent. They included a tasty vegetable soup, juice (or "claro," a corn milk), and our main dishes. I had fried fish and Chris had a beef and pork stew. Both were accompanied by avocado, rice, fried plantains topped with fresh salsa, and slaw. Portions are big and prices are right.
Chris said that if La Gruta were in Medellín, he'd go there for lunch just about every day of the week.
Dinner at Isabel Parilla
Based on our experience and feedback from the many locals we asked, Isabel Parilla is the best restaurant in Jericó to go to for dinner. It's one of the "fancier" spots in town. The vintage decor makes each room feel more like someone's living room than a restaurant and the 80s jazz sets the mood.
Prices are very reasonable. The entrecôte was the most expensive item on the menu at 45,000 COP and we got a bottle of wine for 40,000 COP.
Our highlights were the cheese, beef, and spinach entree, the gaucho burger, and, perhaps most of all, the friendly and quirky service from our waiter Rigo.
Dessert at La Pizzeria de José
El Postre Jericoano is the quintessential dessert here in Jericó. It’s a dessert that Jericó native, Roberto Ojalvo’s family, has been making for over a century. You might compare it to a creamy, tropical, Christmas fruitcake. Only better.
The dessert is made up of seven layers and moistened with wine and rum. There’s green papaya, pineapple, coconut, sponge cake, local figs, arequipe (a Colombian milk caramel sauce), panela, and grapefruit rind that gets sweeter over time. There are no preservatives and it takes about 20 days to make, according to the staff at La Pizzeria de José, where you can have a taste yourself. One slice will set you back 7,000 COP.
Innovation at Riverside Restaurant
Riverside’s café and bar is a new addition to the co-living hostel. It has a lot to offer, from Colombian classics such as chicharrón and ceviche avocado toast to vegan pad Thai.
And if you are looking for a fancier dinner out, Riverside offers an immersive chef’s tasting menu. It includes coffee fresh pressed from "the coffee farm at the end of the world" (see post on activities in Jericó), an appetizer, an entree, dessert, and cocktails.
Food is sourced from the community and Riverside itself, with produce coming straight from the permaculture garden on the property. Their regenerative farming practices help heal the land AND fill your stomach with delicious food!
Best Burgers at Golem Burger
Deemed by some as the best burger in Colombia, Golem also offers great prices and ambiance. There is also a veggie burger for all you vegetarians!
This restaurant is run by a Venezuelan family that has won awards for its quality of food as well as delicious bakery items, including breads like ciabatta or baguette, which can be difficult to find in Colombia. On top of that, Golem offers a large variety of beers, including craft ales.
Prices are very reasonable, with burgers ranging from 17,000 COP – 23,000 COP. Right on the main square, Golem burger is worth the stop.
Other Jericó Restaurants
Since we couldn't try every restaurant in Jericó ourselves, we asked the staff of every restaurant we dined at and every longstanding resident we met what was on their lists of best restaurants in Jericó. Here are the most common responses:
Terra Santa – If we had had the chance to have one more lunch in Jericó, this is where we would have gone. Every local recommended it. We just didn't have the time to even check it out.
Tomatitos (a.k.a. Rio Piedras) – We ate here based on the recommendations of a couple friends in town and we weren't impressed. The only thing we particularly liked was Chris' limonada de coco, but it'd be hard to make a limonada de coco not taste good. Nevertheless, since a couple people swore by this place, we'll give it the benefit of the doubt and include it here.
Ay! Chabela – Ay! Chabela is a hip Mexican restaurant just one block from the town plaza. Owned by a Mexican-Jerican couple, Ay! Chabela offers refreshing cocktails and delicious, authentic Mexican food. The homemade salsas, tasty tacos, spicy hot sauces, hot soups, and amazing quesadillas will have you coming back wanting more.
Hungry for More?
If you're hungry for more travel tips and recommendations, we've got a lot more on the menu.
First of all, check out our extensive Jericó guide to discover some awesome activities to do around town besides eat.
Then, when you've had enough of Jericó, read about what's good to do and eat in neighboring Jardín. Or, if you're looking for a more off-the-beaten-path destination and/or want to hike the famous pyramid mountain Cerro Tusa, read all about the town of Venecia here.
Last but definitely not least, if you're heading back to Medellín, don't miss our super Medellin travel guide, which shares all the tips from the six months we explored the city: unconventional and conventional highlights, underrated and overrated attractions, where to eat, and a whole lot more.