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The worst part of being a vegetarian in Bolivia isn’t not being able to find anything to eat (we always can) but not being able to try the local food. Every town on the tourist trail has gringo restaurants with vegetarian options, but not only is this more expensive than eating in local restaurants, but it leaves us feeling like we’ve cheated. After all, trying the cuisine is an important part of experiencing a culture.
In Sucre my Spanish teacher rose to the challenge and racked her brain for local eateries with vegetarian offerings and came up with a list of places to try. The stage was set for our off the beaten track tour of veggie-friendly restaurants in Sucre. Some of these places are more hidden than others, a few are even in the Lonely Planet, but in all of them you’ll find low prices and locals far outnumbering foreigners. If you aren’t vegetarian, don’t let that put you off trying some of these restaurants as most have meat dishes too.
Snack Luis Comida Real
Colon 251. Open 10am-12pm and 4-8pm.
We discovered papas rellenas during our cooking class organised by my Spanish school. We were very excited to find a local dish that is cheap, tasty and meat-free. Mashed potatoes are formed into balls, stuffed with cheese (or egg or meat), fried in batter and served with a spicy onion sauce. They may not be healthy but they are delicious and filling.
Nothing could beat our home-made versions but the next best place to try papas rellenas is Snack Luis Comida Real, a tiny place that focuses entirely on these potatoey treats. We were stuffed after sharing three normal sized papas and it only cost us a bargain 9B – that’s 90p for a meal for two!
Best for: Budget travellers
Padilla 70. Open from 6.30pm Tuesday-Saturday.
It’s easy to miss this cosy Italian restaurant as there’s only a tiny sign, and you have to ring the bell to be let in. It’s worth it though for the best home-made pasta in Sucre – my pesto spaghetti was far superior to the one I’d had in the gringo mecca Joy Ride Cafe, and was a third cheaper. This isn’t the cheapest place on the list but if you are craving Italian it’s great value at 27B for a main.
Best for: Italian lovers
Salón de Té Las Delicias
Estudiantes 50. Open 4 -7pm.
Las Delicias is immensely popular with Sucre locals (get here early on weekdays) for its cakes and range of traditional snacks from the Santa Cruz region. There’s a fantastic vegetarian selection, all involving cheese. We shared an empanada (pastry and cheese), huminta (mashed corn and cheese steamed in a corn husk), sonso (yucca and cheese baked on a stick over coals), and masaco (mashed banana and cheese). Most snacks cost around 4-5B.
Best for: adventurous cheese fans
Pizzeria El Maná
Loa 406 (corner of Av. Hernando Siles). Open from 6pm.
We heard this was the best pizza in Sucre, with thin bases cooked in a wood burning stove. Although the sauce was a little sweet for us, it was decent pizza, better than the pizzerias on the main plaza and incredible value at only 25B for a large.
Best for: hungry backpackers low on funds.
Aniceto Arce 262, Open Monday to Friday 6-10pm.
This student cafe is a bustling place with board games to play and a simple, reasonably priced menu with a few vegetarian options. We went for the cheese and tomato tacos (18B for 2), which are unexciting but tasty enough and papas rusticas (garlicky fried potatoes) with cheese (10B), plus a jug of lemonade (6B).
Best for: those looking for cheap food in a fun environment
Loa 751. Open Monday to Saturday 12-2pm.
We could write an entire article on why we can’t stand this kind of vegetarian restaurant. On the positive side it’s very cheap (only 10B for four courses and a juice) and purely vegetarian (possibly vegan). But, the food ranged from insipid (a watery greens and grain soup) to weird (a congealed bowl of corn – was this supposed to be dessert?) to downright gross (soya juice, really?!). It always makes us mad when vegetarian food is thought to have to be puritanically healthy and tasteless. The hippy fairy paintings on the walls should have warned us that this was one of those places. Anyway, we followed it up with a trip to the chocolate shop (see below) to cheer ourselves up!
Best for: masochists
San Alberto 237.
A better option for a cheap, set vegetarian lunch is El Germen. The food isn’t mind-blowing but 17B is good value for a vegetable soup, main (we had cheese and potato gratin on one visit and spaghetti on another), dessert (fruit salad or chocolate yoghurt) and a juice.
Best for: hungry vegetarians.
Aniceto Arce. Open Monday to Saturday 7am to 7pm.
Sucre’s market is a highlight. There’s a huge range of fresh vegetables (including dozens of varieties of potatoes), tropical fruits, spices, goats cheese and best of all a row of fruit juice stalls. For just 2.5 or 3B you can enjoy a large glass of fresh juice – there are many options to choose from including the unusual tumbo (a variety of passionfruit).
Upstairs in the market stalls sell soup and hot meals at low prices (from 7B) but I asked at a number of them if they had any meat-free options, and was looked at like I was crazy, so I don’t think this is the best place for vegetarians!
Best for: fruit lovers
Chocolate Para Ti
Calle Grau (one block from main Plaza).
Mmm, after experiencing Argentina’s dismal attempt at Cadbury’s we were ready for some good chocolate and this is where to find it. Choose from a range of individual chocolates, or indulge in a slice of cake or hot chocolate.
Best for: a chocolatey treat.