Medellin, Colombia

As you know if you’ve been following this blog, I do my research thoroughly before I travel anywhere, to see whether eating is going to be a struggle and to prepare myself. So I was extremely pleasantly surprised when I discovered the numerous listings that came up on Happy Cow for Medellin – and was anxious to try them all!

If you’re planning a trip to Colombia (and you should be!) I would definitely recommend adding Medellin to your list of places to go, at least for a day or two, even if it’s just to sample some of the amazing vegan meals on offer (how does vegan icecream and pizza sound?!)! I will do a separate post on what to do in Medellin besides eating (!) but for now, here’s my lowdown on what’s hot (and what’s not) on the vegan scene in the city.

Laureles

 

Saludpan

Stars: 2/5

Totally vegetarian, not all vegan

Open 08:00-20:00 everyday except Sundays

For: Breakfast, lunch and (early) dinner

Toilets? Yes, and more seating through the back (it’s quite large actually)

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Raw breakfast bowl from Saludpan

This cafe/bakery was just around the corner from my Airbnb and also not far from the yoga studio where I was studying, so it was top of my list of places I wanted to try. My first impressions however were a bit disappointing. The raw breakfast bowl was pretty boring (it was basically just overnight oats, but wasn’t at all sweet), and their  (soy) cappuccino was bizarre – it came with bits of cinnamon bark floating in it, that I had to keep picking out, and it was even too weak for me! The apple and celery juice was good, as were the smoothies that I tried on different days (the fortifying smoothie was good but I couldn’t taste the peanut butter so it was really just like a chocolate milkshake; and the super energy smoothie without bee pollen was good but not amazing, and probably a bit overpriced). But in general I found the food a bit overpriced – in general the vegan food in Medellin is more expensive than non-vegan, traditional food, but Saludpan is still one of the pricier options. The health food ‘shop’ part of the store is pretty disappointing too, not a lot of choice, and a little chaotic as it’s spread all over, some behind diners so you can’t really it. Same with the fridge stuff by the counter – you can’t really see what they’ve got, although I think for vegans it was pretty limited. And not all their bread is vegan either.

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Sugar-free (?) vegan berry cake from Saludpan

That being said they always have 3 types of gluten-free, vegan and sugar-free cake (I tried the berry cake which was not bad, but not an amazing texture). They also have an English menu, which is helpful as they use some unusual, superfoods ingredients. The Daily Menu option (a starter, main and dessert) was pretty good overall – the soup starter was yummy, the main (raw burrito) not amazing, and the dessert (brownie) amazing. But it was also a bit hit-or-miss with the staff – some were friendly, most not so much – hence the low overall score.

 

Lenteja Express

Stars: 3/5

Totally veggie (possibly all vegan I can’t remember!)

For: Lunch and dinner

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Burger and ‘fries’ from Lenteja Express

This place was also in my neighbourhood, and high on my list to visit, but, like Saludpan, turned out to be a little disappointing. The menu is super extensive, and loads of choice for vegans (burgers, burritos, arepas, nachos, empanadas, etc.), and the staff are super friendly, but overall the quality of the food wasn’t amazing. The burger was ok (not amazing), as were the ‘fries’ (which were actually small whole roasted potatoes) though not what I was expecting. Their juice is super healthy (so not sweet at all!), but the horchata wasn’t great; overall the nicest drink was the hibiscus lemonade.

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Strange ‘nachos’ from Lenteja Express

The nachos were pretty good but could have done with more guacamole; the vegan empanada wasn’t bad but very dry and quite small for the price. And the lasagna had a strange taste – not at all like normal lasagna (even vegan versions!). Overall, I’d say it’s pretty overpriced (mains are 20,000 which is expensive for Medellin) for the quality.

 

Naturalia Cafe

Stars: 3.5/5

Not totally vegetarian

For: breakfast and lunch

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Yummy vegan muffin and almond latte from Naturalia

Although this place doesn’t have a much choice for vegans, I gave it higher stars because what they have is really good. For breakfast they only have a vegan muffin (which was blueberry and poppy seed, and absolutely delicious!), a vegan cookie (ok but had too much clove for me) and a smoothie. They only serve almond milk, not soy, but their almond latte was really good. For lunch their only vegan options were pizza and a vegan sandwich, but for main meals it’s also not cheap (around 16,000). It does have lovely seating out front though, so it’s a nice place to go for a coffee and some reading/journalling 🙂

 

Vita Integral

Stars: 2.5/5

Health food shop with freshly baked goods

I scored this one a bit lower mostly because I was specifically looking for yoghurts to have for breakfast and for almond butter (which I can’t live without!) and the choice for both was poor – the only ‘yoghurt’ they had was a strange soya yoghurt drink (like Activa), and only one type of almond butter which was really expensive. In general everything was really expensive/overpriced and a bit chaotic, but, if you did some digging (and can read Spanish) there were quite a lot of vegan products, especially bakery things – prepackaged pastries, cookies, breads, some fresh burgers and empanadas, lots of vegan chocolate and some kombucha. The eggplant empanada was delicious, as was their ‘tortas integrales sorbetto chip de chocolate’ which was like a chocolate chip sponge cake, and one of the cheapest things on offer! Everything else I tried – vegan sweet rolls, Levito vegan croissant, Levito vegan cheese stick and a ‘Barra con proteina’ – was pretty disappointing. Worth a visit if you’re cooking for yourself though, and don’t mind paying a fortune for vegan speciality foods.

 

Animalista

Stars: 3/5

Vegan shoe and handbag shop

This one would have gotten higher marks, but there wasn’t much choice inside (it’s a pretty small store) – the shoes were mostly trainers/sneakers. However, they were really reasonably priced and the quality looked really good. I actually saw the same brand on offer in Sydney a few months later for double the price, so it’s definitely way cheaper to buy them locally!

 

Cafe Revolucion

Stars: 1/5

Not all veggie

For: coffee

Apparently this place comes highly recommended as one of the best local coffee spots… but for vegans it’s pretty bad – they have no vegan food (except for some chocolate by the counter) and they only have almond milk for coffee. But the coffee itself was pretty awful too – way too strong, and, more importantly, the girl working there was super rude; she made a point of telling me that almond milk in coffee was ‘disgusting’ (although that\s all they had), and was totally unapologetic about the fact that there was nothing for vegans. I went back with a friend a few days after and she was just as rude, so I can’t even say she was just having a bad day!

 

Revolucion 2

Stars: 2/5

Same owners as Cafe revolucion (above), and much the same experience really… Again, the only milk they had was almond milk, although the coffee was better than the other Cafe Revolucion. They still didn’t have any vegan food, but they did have a couple of smoothies – I tried the green one, which was ok but pretty boring really. Definitely give it a miss.

 

Cafe Rituales

Stars: 4/5

Not totally veggie

For: breakfast and coffee (maybe lunch?)

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Bowl de avena y frutas (vegan) from Rituales

Not far from Animalista and Vita Integral is Cafe Rituales – a small little coffeeshop with nice outdoor seating. Although the options for vegans were limited (only 2 breakfast options: avo toast or overnight oats), what I had was really good. The overnight oats (bowl de avena y frutas) was so simple but really tasty (I’ve actually started making it at home myself!), but make sure you specify the vegan option with almond milk – I asked for the vegan version but when he brought it, it had (non-vegan) yoghurt in it, so I had to send it back and double-check they knew that vegan means no dairy (I think they did, they just got confused)! Although they only have almond milk on offer for drinks, their coffee (almond latte) was really good too, although a tad expensive. It’s a nice place to sit and work though, as they also have wifi and a toilet (not everywhere does!).

 

Paraiso Resto Cafe

Stars: 1.5/5

Not all veggie

For: coffee and lunch only

As part of my quest for the best coffee in Medellin, I made a point of trying almost all the coffee shops near my airbnb. Close to Saludpan and Naturalia, Paraiso had come up on Happy Cow as having vegan options, so naturally I had to check it out. For eating, their vegan lunch options were hummus, babaganoush, and probably the pitta (gyro) if you ask without cheese. There were no vegan bakery products though, so it was very limited. Like many places, the only non-dairy milk they have is almond milk, but the coffee wasn’t great – way too bitter/strong for me. The staff are friendly though, and they do have an English menu, but all-in-all not worth a visit.

 

El Poblado

 

Cafe Zorba

Stars: 4/5

All vegetarian

For: lunch (possibly?) and dinner. They also have live music on Wednesday nights but it gets PACKED so arrive early to get a table and be prepared to hang around all night.

This place wasn’t close to where I was staying, but in the more touristy area of mm where a lot of vegan restaurants are. As soon as I heard they do vegan pizza, I knew I HAD to visit there though, and managed to get 2 dinners in before I left! They do at least 3 types of vegan pizza and several vegan sides including patatas bravas and 3 vegan desserts. All the pizzas were amazing, but the best was the Kale – authentic pizza crust and amazing macadamia cheese sauce. The place is huge inside and also has outdoor seating, but even so, it was still packed every time I went there (and there were always people queuing outside to get a table). The longest we had to wait for a table was 15 minutes but we were there pretty early (you can’t reserve if I remember correctly). A large pizza was quite expensive at around 25,000 but it really was huge, so you could definitely share between 2.

 

Tabun

Stars: 2/5

Not totally veggie

For: Lunch and dinner

In Poblado, but off the beaten track, Tabun is a Middle-Eastern upmarket restaurant. It was a bit of a walk to find, but, once you’re there, the area is actually quite nice – some nice bars/pubs near by, and a very different feel to the rest of Medellin. The restaurant itself was also quite smart – though the prices reflect that. The choice for vegans was hummus and falafel, babaganoush, falafel wrap, and 2 kinds of curries. The hummus and dips were very good, but you don’t get very much considering the price (super expensive!). The bread that came with it was huge though, and nice when it was still warm (but too crispy when cold). The waitress wasn’t super friendly however, and then, weirdly, tried to bribe us with a free dessert so that we’d give a good review on Tripadvisor! Very sketchy, and put me off going there again (besides the prices).

 

Maitre Heladeria

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So true!

Stars: 4/5

Totally vegan icecream parlour!

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Yummy vegan icecream from Maitre Heladeria

I was soooo excited to try this vegan icecream shop in Poblado, and it didn’t disappoint. They have 6 flavours of icecream (3 cream-based and 3 fruit flavours), 3 toppings, cone or cup and the choice of waffles. They also do coffee and 3 kinds of cake. The icecream was good – not the best ever, but the granola topping was delicious and totally made up for it! The girl who works there was also super lovely and sweet, and also spoke really good English. The only downside was that it was a bit expensive (8000 for 2 scoops and toppings). But it’s definitely worth a visit! They have a toilet and a few small tables, so you can also sit in with it.

 

Espiral Bajo Cero

Stars: 1/5

Ice cream, not all vegan

On the main drag in El Poblado, Espiral Bajo Cero is a small icecream place (it’s not a shop, more like a stall, but it’s built-in (permanent) to the wall) that reportedly has vegan icecream (according to Happy Cow) so I had to check it out. Unfortunately, they only have one flavour of vegan icecream – matcha and lychee – which sounded gross to me so I gave it a miss! Nearby there are better options (see Sharbets, below), plus the girl working there was really unhelpful and not very friendly in pointing out the vegan options and explaining what they were.

 

Sharbets

Stars: 2/5

Icecream shop, not all vegan

Not far from Espiral Bajo Cero is Sharbets, an icecream shop with more vegan options (it is a proper shop, they also have some seating inside). While the guy working there was friendly, the menu is really confusing, and his attempts at explaining what was vegan were unsuccessful (I think he wasn’t 100% sure). Basically, there are 3 flavours of vegan icecream (mostly fruit so not appealing to me!), but I think you can also get a vegan waffle with a filling (we couldn’t understand from him what exactly the filling was… !), apparently they also do one vegan cake usually (though it wasn’t there when we went) and possibly you can also get a vegan parfait (again, it was unclear what exactly was inside – we both speak Spanish, so it wasn’t a language barrier, but some food names are unfamiliar as they’re local). If you can work out what’s on offer then it’s probably worth a visit! There are also some nice boutique shops in the area, so it’s nice for a wander around.

 

Bombona

 

Gingko

Stars: 2/5

Totally vegan

For: lunch only

Gingko is near the centre of Medellin (the old town), which is not a super safe area (you wouldn’t want to go alone) and it’s also a bit of a walk from… anywhere, kind of in the middle of nowhere, in a not-so-salubrious neighbourhood. Not a good start! Although it’s totally vegan, there’s only one meal – a traditional Colombian plate comprising: soup to start, then salad, rice, chickpeas and mashed potatoes, and a drink. The soup was really tasty, but the rest was disappointing (just a bit boring) and the juice was even too healthy for me (no sweetness at all!). However it is cheap (11,000 – the price of a standard non-vegan arepas), there’s a toilet, and the chef (who was also the waiter, as it’s just him!) was very sweet and speaks perfect English.

 

Summary

 

Not to be missed =

Cafe Zorba

Maitre Heladeria

 

Best for coffee/quick breakfast =

Cafe Rituales or Naturalia

Thoughts?

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