We arrived in Cusco, Peru, ready to settle down and enjoy the last few weeks of our time in South America. Rather than stay in a hostel, we decided to find an apartment for our two week visit. While searching for yoga classes online, I came across a website with an ad for space in a yoga guest house. The stars aligned and we found a nice family with a room for rent. One of the best things about staying with a local vegetarian family was that they were able to give us some great advice on where to find cheap and delicious vegan food in Cusco. The first place they brought us was the Comedor Vegetariano in San Blas market.
In Spanish, the word comedor means dining hall or canteen. We came across a lot of comedores in Argentina and Bolivia but didn’t have a chance to eat at any because the options were always very meat centric. Comedores are typically large, open spaces where women have small kitchens setup along the bordering walls and people gather with huge plates of food around community tables. The portions are always very generous and the food is priced for local budgets. In the picture above, you can see the comedor at the popular Tarabuco Market in Bolivia, near Sucre (see video at the end!).
The Comedor Vegetariano at the San Blas Market in Cusco is much smaller than the one in Tarabuco, Bolivia. It has about five kitchens, with the vegetarian one being tucked away in a small corner. Its size and location don’t stop it from being a popular lunch stop for locals, attracting lots of artist and hippies. The price is right. For $3.50 Peruvian Nuevo Soles ($1.23 USD), you get a salad, massive bowl of soup and a large plate of warm food. The portions are so big, a few times John and I had to split one “menu” (term for three course lunch meal).
The menu was different everyday. The salad options often included a mix of greens, pasta, baked yams, tomatoes, carrots, beets, cucumbers, and roasted corn kernels. The soup was always a light, vegetable blend of seasonal items like corn, greens, carrots and grains.
For those who like it hot, there’s always a bowl of spicy peppers and onions, finely diced and ready to be added to soups, salads or main dishes.
For the main course, you can choose to have a mix of both options of the day, or one of the two with rice. The mains usually consist of beans, rice, vegetables and seasoned gluten. We went there so many times I stopped taking my camera. On these two visits, we had rice with vegetables, gluten and papas fritas (french fries) mixed in. Once paired with peas, and once with white kidney beans. The soup and mains were free of dairy and egg every time we ate there. Only once did I see some small cubes of cheese in one of the salad options. The comedor is very vegan friendly.
The vegetarian comedor quickly became one of our two favourite lunch spots. For the first time since visiting Buenos Aires, there were more than a handful of vegetarian restaurants for us to choose from. However, we really weren’t interested. The vegetarian comedor was so cheap, close to our apartment and tasty, we didn’t feel the need to venture much further.
One day, feeling guilty for not exploring other culinary options, we deiced to check out another vegetarian comedor, El Paraiso de la Salud. It didn’t look like a comdeor, more like a restaurant, but did stay true with a three course, super cheap daily menu for $3.50 Soles ($1.26 USD).
The first course was a salad, but the pickin’s were slim. Dark, hard and dry lima beans, squash, and plain pasta salad. The soup was also a huge let down, which is crazy because I usually love all soups. It was a chuño soup, made from dehydrated potatoes. I don’t know what else was in there but something made it into a dark brown, thick, jelly soup that was absolutely disgusting and not edible.
The main course was edible but still disappointing. We didn’t touch the cold rice or sad looking lettuce. We chowed down on the papa rellena, stuffed potatoes, which were full of onions, carrots, olives and green beans. They were okay but super greasy (not in a good way). They do get a few points for having a vegan and vegetarian (quinoa and cheese dish) option. Had we not been able to eat the main, I think we would’ve been very unhappy.
Disappointed with our meal, we vowed not to be greedy and, the next day, returned to the vegetarian comedor at the San Blas market where we knew the food would be good. I’m all for venturing out and exploring new things but sometimes you have to recognize when you have a good thing and stick with it.
I’ll leave you with a video I took of the comedor at Tarabuco Market in Bolivia.
Mercado San Blas, corner stall
El Paraiso de la Salud
Matara 364 A