As much as I love eating, it can be a scary experience in South America. Water quality and sanitary standards just aren’t the same as we’re used to in North America. After traveling for a few months, I was starting to gain some confidence. I’d heard lots of stories about people getting food poisoning from vegetables and meat but hadn’t experienced any problems myself. And, thankfully, neither had any of my travel buddies. We’ve eaten street food, hostel food and restaurant food without getting sick and, for the most part, being impressed with the vegan offerings. Of course, not every eating experience can be perfect. When you get a bad vibe from a restaurant, you really have to trust your gut.
On our first night in La Paz, Bolivia, we decided to venture out for some vegan grub. We referenced HappyCow and agreed to seek out the one and only restaurant listed as being 100% vegan. We were exhausted and didn’t feel like worrying about explaining our food preferences. Alfa y Omega – Nueva Era seemed like the perfect spot.
The restaurant was too far from our hostel to walk so, we got a cab. We hopped out in front of a quaint, little restaurant, not deterred by its appearance. I’m cool with eating at hole in the wall places, it’s the quality of food that matters, right?
We walked in and were greeted with blank stares. We smiled and took a seat. No one came to serve us. I walked up to the counter and saw some trays with vegetables. I asked if there was a menu or just the buffet, the guy behind the counter told me just the buffet, for $6.00 Bolivian Bolivianos ($0.85 USD). The veggies were half gone and didn’t look very appealing. I thought maybe we’d come all this way for nothing. Then, I caught another woman’s eye and asked her if there was a menu. She said yes and dug out two tattered menus from a stack of papers. There may have been 15 options on the menu but they all seemed to consist of the same ingredients. It seemed like we couldn’t avoid tofu on a bun.
As soon as we placed our order, we got scared. I saw the lady come out of the kitchen, open a small fridge and pull out a tray of silken tofu. Oh no! We hate soft, squishy tofu. But it was too late. We eyed the dark, dingy kitchen at the back of the restaurant. We waited and waited. After 20 minutes, our buns with slabs of tofu were presented to us. John ate his fries, had one bit of his burger and left the rest behind. I somehow, foolishly, chocked down my burger. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t awful. But it was not pleasant. I felt ill afterward. I’m not sure if it was the food, the state of the restaurant, or both.
While we were there, we saw lots of new age UFO stuff that we didn’t really understand.
There was also a small natural supplements section with a variety of maca products.
The only good to come out of our visit to Alfa y Omega – Nueva Era was a bag of dried papaya and figs, an impulse by on our way out for $2.50 Bolivianos ($0.36 USD). Our meals were cheap, totaling $17.00 Bolivianos ($2.42 USD).
I really hate to write such a negative review but I feel some obligation to save people from having the same experience we did. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this place. I’ll have to update the HappyCow listing because this place is vegetarian but not vegan. Many of the menu items had dairy products in them.
Alfa y Omega – Nueva Era
Arturo Costa 1359 (at Colombia, Almirante Grau)
La Paz, Bolivia