I have a love-hate relationship with gringo restaurants. By gringo restaurants, I mean restaurants specifically in the business of serving foreigners. The good: They’re usually safe places to eat, conveniently located and serve familiar food like pizza, pasta and salad. It’s also been nice to see that the majority of them promote the fact that they have a vegetarian menu, which makes me curious about how common it is for backpackers and travelers to be vegetarian or shun meat for health safety reasons. The bad: Their prices may seem reasonable when you convert local currency to US or Canadian but they’re still wildly overpriced and completely out of reach for locals. The other drawback is their lack of local influence. It’s not as much fun to travel internationally and wind up eating the same things you’d find at home.
We spent four days in Sucre, Bolivia, taking our time to enjoy the local markets and colonial architecture. We had a chance to eat at one of the city’s two restaurants specializing in vegetarian food, El Germen. It’s a small, dark and cozy restaurant with two pages of vegetarian dishes, one page of meat dishes and a German inspired baked good section. While we didn’t try any sweets from the bakery, they all had butter, we did have a chance to try a traditional Bolivian/Peruvian dish, as well as one of our favourite Indian foods.
The Salar de Uyuni, Uyuni salt flats, is one of the most popular places to visit in Bolivia. In Uyuni, there are more than 60 companies offering three day tours to see the salt flats, as well as all of the nearby natural wonders. In three days and two nights you can see colourful lagoons, volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. After interviewing several companies and doing some online research, we signed on for the three day trip with Tito Tours. They seemed to have a focus on safety and were very willing to accommodate two vegans and one vegetarian.
Oh the joys of street food. Food, on the street, hot, cheap and ready to eat. We’ve found a generous amount of vegan street food in Bolivia, never hesitating to try something new or weird. We’ll buy anything we find that’s made without meat, fish, cheese, milk, eggs and butter. No one in Bolivia is selling vegan street food on purpose. However, in Bolivia, circumstances seem to be working in our favour more often than they have in the other South American countries we’ve visited. The result, lots of amazing food, conveniently enjoyed on the go.
Tilcara was the last place we stopped in Argentina before crossing the Bolivian border. We arrived late at night and left early the next morning, leaving little time to enjoy the dramatic mountainous landscapes and rich aboriginal culture. Feeling too lazy to take advantage of the kitchen in our hostel, we headed out in search of local restaurant offerings. Lola Mora was our third stop, luring us in with their Sopa De Mani, peanut soup.
After visiting so many small towns in Northern Argentina, it was a real treat to arrive in Salta, a metropolitan city with European flair. We spent two days there and couldn’t help but splurge and eat at both of the city’s two vegetarian restaurants. For casual meals and quick lunches, there’s Bios Diet, a vegetarian and macrobiotic restaurant with a pay by weight salad bar and daily lunch specials. For fancier meals, there’s Entre Indyas, which has a daily menu and offers Indian and Peruvian inspired dishes made with fresh, local produce.
After leaving Rio de Janeiro, we flew to Iguazu Falls, one of South America’s best known natural attractions. Since leaving Brazil, we’ve been traveling through a series of small towns in Northern Argentina as we make our way up to Bolivia. So far, we’ve stopped in San Ignacio Mini, Posadas, Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, Tafi de Valle and Cafayate. Some of these towns are very, very small. Some are even too small to support a supermarket, which makes finding decent vegan food a challenge. However, there’s nothing like a string of boring food days to make you appreciate interesting culinary finds like Vegemite, artisan chocolate bars, and wine flavoured ice cream.
We’ve are currently traveling through a string of small towns in Northern Argentina. For the first time, we are having a bit of trouble finding decent food (more on this later). While the food might be disappointing, the scenery and animals are beautiful. John has been taking lots of great photos. Here are a few of my favourites. To see more, check out his flickr.
We arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with just enough time to catch the end of the carnival celebrations. We packed a lot of activities into our five-day visit. Time zoomed by and before we knew it, we were leaving Rio having only eaten at one vegetarian restaurant. Initially, we’d planned to eat at Universo Organico. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it there before closing. Instead, we headed over to the nearby Vegetariano Social Clube, an all vegan restaurant with a diverse menu.
It feels ironic to be writing this post today. We’re back in Argentina, visiting the small town of San Ignacio Mini. Forget the idea of finding vegan treats here, the fruit and vegetable selection is limited. On our first night, John and I split a package of flax seed crackers for dinner. The previous night, while visiting Iguazu Falls, we had Subway vegetarian subs. When pickins are slim, we make do. When good vegan food is within reach, we seek it out and enjoy every bite. This post is all about the high times, finding amazing vegan treats in the land of Brazil.