Peru is one of the world’s most ecologically diverse countries and this diversity reflects back in Peruvian cuisine. A few friends and a little research told us to get excited about what we would eat in Peru which surprised us. We didn’t know much about Peru beforehand and it was unexpected but so true.
After traveling to nearly 50 different countries, and all over the US, Steve now claims the food in Peru as the best food he’s ever had. I’m an unfortunately hopeless picky eater. This is not a good traveler attribute, I know. Nevertheless, I’m still extremely interested and intrigued by food all over the world, and thankfully I have Steve and can semi-experience it through him.
We didn’t go chasing the top-rated restaurants, as usually convenience and timing win out when traveling with kids. Some restaurants we planned to visit in advance and others were last-minute decisions. Read below for what we tasted in Peru.
Lima is known as the foodie capital of South America and is gaining recognition worldwide. Lima boasts three restaurants on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list (2 of 3 are in the top ten). We didn’t make it to any of these restaurants, but we did have an amazing fine dining lunch at Amaz.
- Restaurant Name: Amaz Restaurante
- Location: Leuro neighborhood in Miraflores district
- Highlights: fine dining, fusion, creative, Amazon, modern Peruvian, upscale
Steve showed me photos of Amaz on his phone and I was hesitant to try because of the little ones, but we got lucky! Only a few minutes before we reached the restaurant, Elden fell asleep in the stroller. He stayed asleep throughout the entire meal, and Orlo slept halfway through. Kids are welcome in the restaurant, they helped carry the stroller up a couple of stairs and accommodated the stroller right at the table. They had high chairs and a changing table in the bathroom, but it was an upscale establishment and babies/toddlers don’t always mix well with such places. It was a rare treat being able to enjoy a creative fine dining experience as a couple while both babies slept. The restaurant was mostly full of business people, some dining their clients and some tourists.
The chef takes influences from Peru’s Amazon to create delectable fusion dishes. They serve Peruvian food with a modern, creative flare. The service was superb and the presentation was simple but artfully appropriate to the style. We ordered a couple of different ceviche dishes, vegetable and meat empanadas, regular rice and coconut rice, a chicken and a fish dish. There were Brazil nuts in my vegetable empanadas, the fish was cooked in a banana leaf, and mango added a punch in multiple places. We don’t know everything that went into all the dishes, but were blown away and extremely satisfied with all of them.
For more about our time in Lima, click here.
Ollantaytambo is a small town nestled in the Sacred Valley. Here we enjoyed more traditional and homey Peruvian/Incan cuisine.
- Restaurant Name: Inka’s Tower Cafe
- Location: On Patacalle, one street over from main square, up the stairs
- Highlights: great view, casual, touristy
You have to know what you’re looking for if you go to Inka’s Tower. There’s a sign outside, but you might miss it. You have to first go down a narrow hallway then up a narrow red staircase; there is some seating on this second floor, but it’s better if you snake around the staircase once more to the top floor. Here is the real treat where you’re rewarded with gorgeous views of the mountains. The restaurant staff was excited to greet Elden and Orlo, the waitress wanted to hold Orlo and kept checking on us several times. This restaurant boasts, rightly so, its views and serves a combination of Peruvian and international dishes. We tried the warm quinoa salad, guacamole with puff crisps, alpaca saltador, chicken and rice.
- Restaurant Name: Apu Veronica Restaurant
- Location: Off of the mains street (Calle Principal) just across the little bridge over the river, 2nd floor
- Highlights: casual, homey, Peruvian
After our full day at Machu Picchu, we needed a little extra warmth and sustenance before bed. We followed the sign for this restaurant after coming up the road from the train station, up to the second floor. This restaurant is a decent size but still feels very cozy and homey. You can see the kitchen and hear them working. We had quinoa soup, stuffed Avocado, pollo saltador, and chicharrón. Everything was delicious, and the waitress was super sweet and helpful.
For more about our time in Ollantaytambo, click here.
Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, is the town that sits right below Machu Picchu. The only transportation option in and out of this village is the train, there are no roads for other vehicles to pass. Like a remote island, getting food out here is a little more challenging than most places.
- Restaurant Name: Ylla Fusion
- Location: right on the main square
- Highlights: casual, people watching, touristy
Plaza Manco Capac, the main square in Aguas Calientes, was bustling with tired tourists when we first arrived. We wandered around the town and when we returned it was quieter. We sat outside at Ylla Fusion restaurant for an early lunch. Elden slept through half the meal. The waitress brought Orlo a stuffed toy, wanted to hold him and play with him throughout. This restaurant is right on the main square, which we appreciated for taking in the beautiful mountains, an eclectic array of businesses stacked on top of one another, and people watching – both locals and tourists. We ate a leisurely meal of chicken empanadas, crispy chicken and Steve tried the Peruvian delicacy, guinea pig. Everything was good, but we mostly enjoyed the restaurant’s location since it allowed us to relax a bit before the Machu Picchu hike and still take in the Aguas Calientes sights.
- Restaurant Name: Unknown Pizzeria
- Location: across from bus stop, going up steps to market before train station
- Highlights: quick eats, pizza, cheap eats
After we got off the bus from Machu Picchu we had less than an hour before our train so we stopped in a pizzeria for a quick bite. The restaurant wasn’t fully enclosed and the kitchen seemed lacking, but they cooked the pizzas quickly in a wood fire near the front. The pizzas were super thin and not filling enough for a meal, but were a good snack to hold us over. I forgot a photo of the pizzas but took some while we waited.
For more about our time in Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu, click here.
Cusco was the Inca capital for a period and today is the largest city in the Sacred Valley region. You can find an array of food from quick and casual to slow and sophisticated and everything in between. You can find traditional Incan, modern Peruvian, and international cuisine – something for everyone.
- Restaurant Name: Los Toldos Chicken
- Location: Centro Histórico, couple streets southwest from Plaza Mayor
- Highlights: very casual, family-friendly, cheap eats, big portions, locals spot
Anyone who knows me knows chicken is my go-to. Chicken used to be the only meat I would eat, and still, I barely stray far from it. So I know chicken. Los Toldos is a great casual comfort meal. It was mostly only locals when we were there, but they were very welcoming and accommodating, providing highchairs for the babies.
Right, when you walk in you can see the chickens turning over the wood fire, a good sign. We got there late for lunch and were extra hungry. The portions were larger than expected and we ordered too much, but we brought it back to our hotel for another day. The chicken is the specialty, but the menu is expansive. We ordered half pollo a la brasa (Peruvian rotisserie chicken), fries, chicken tenders, rice and grilled vegetables. The rotisserie chicken and grilled vegetables were the best, the wood oven provides such a nice flavor. We dug in a little too quickly here and forgot photos.
- Restaurant Name: Inka grill
- Location: right on Plaza Mayor
- Highlights: moderately casual, family-friendly, touristy, modern Peruvian
I was a bit hesitant to come here because it was decorated so nicely, but I’m glad we did. We came for lunch and I imagine dinner might be a little fancier. The staff was very friendly toward Elden and Orlo. They had highchairs and offered Elden things to color, and they wanted to hold Orlo and talk to both of them the whole time. Still, they were restless so thankfully this restaurant sits right on Plaza Mayor and Steve could take them outside to run a bit.
The food was delicious, very fresh and nicely presented. They start you with some rolls and a nontraditional chimichurri dipping sauce. Steve had a ceviche dish and coca street tacos. I had pollo Milanese with homemade potato gnocchi in pesto. Elden loved the gnocchi here. We tried their house lemonade and are still dreaming up how to recreate it. There was some dill, and we tasted lemongrass but the rest is a delicious mystery.
- Restaurant Name: Qespi
- Location: A couple streets east of Plaza Mayor, part of JW Marriott Cusco
- Highlights: fine dining, great service, beautiful restaurant
Our 5-year wedding anniversary fell while we were in Cusco and we’re big into celebrating our anniversaries so I knew we had to do something. We had the babies with us, of course, but if we plan ahead managing a nicer meal is possible. I made reservations at Qespi (through OpenTable) for right when they opened. Usually the earlier the better is a good bet with babies and toddlers so it doesn’t get too close to bedtime, and there’s likely fewer people dining so early.
The restaurant is a smaller space, but grandly decorated with big chandeliers and the floor to ceiling windows look out over the courtyard. The service was impeccable. They started us with bread and a couple of special kinds of butter. Next Steve had ceviche and I had an ancient grains salad. I’m not much of a salad person, but this was such a unique and delicious colorful combination. For our entree, we all shared a traditional Peruvian/Inca dish, Pachamanca. They use hot stones to cook a big pot of food to share. It included chicken, beef, pork, corn, cheese, potatoes, and carrots. It looked amazing, and some of it tasted good but unfortunately, a lot of it seemed overcooked and dry. We loved the idea, but it sadly didn’t deliver on taste. We still enjoyed our visit to Qespi, but would try different entrees.
For more about our time in Cusco, click here.
Baby/Toddler Traveler Notes:
- Almost all the restaurants we went to had high chairs
- Restaurant staff were excited to see the babies and eagerly interacted with them, many offered to hold them either just when we needed an extra hand to pay, or for a while as we finished eating
- I was able to comfortably breastfeed the baby uncovered in all establishments
- From casual to chic, we were welcomed at all restaurants as Peru is a very family-friendly society
- Quick Itinerary Guide: Lima, Peru
- Quick Itinerary Guide: Cusco, Peru
- Quick Itinerary Guide: Ollantaytambo, Peru
- Bringing a baby and toddler to Machu Picchu
- A glimpse of the Sacred Valley
- One day in Lima