Welcome to a foodie’s paradise
One of the things that excites me most about traveling to a foreign country is trying the various local foods (especially when it is both tasty and inexpensive) Peru is a country unique in many aspects, especially for its food. For those of you who are yet to try Peruvian cuisine, you will soon learn that it is both delicious and different.
As a rule, there are a lot of bars and restaurants in Cusco. Certain streets have several of them. In the cheapest, small local restaurants, you can find what’s known as a Menú (which includes a soup + main course + salad + drink). This is typically served at lunchtime and usually costs between 4-8 Soles. Such restaurants will have a rotation of very similar dishes with rice, vegetables and meat. For example, rice, french fries and chicken is a common combination. Solely because of the number of times I have purchased a Menú, I cannot look at the rice and chicken for a while. Eating it every day is too much for me. However, for Peruvians, rice, french fries and chicken are all well-loved; almost being a daily necessity.
Of course, some of these small restaurants leave a lot to be desired in terms of cleanliness, hygiene and freshness of ingredients. Therefore, many tourists decide to skip these local dines. For me personally, I love eating in these places as they are inexpensive and bring me closer to the local society. Yet, not all of the dishes I try, satisfy me.
In contrast to these cheap local spots, restaurants near the plaza have are naturally more expensive, with menús typically costing a minimum of 17 – 20 Soles. The differences are clear: they are cleaner, there are more dishes to choose from, but there are also more tourists and fewer locals. The real question is: is the quality of food actually better? It depends, the higher price does not always guarantee that the dish will taste better. Some of these restaurants make really good food, and some do not, but the prices are high regardless.
During my stay in Cusco, I tried quite a lot of restaurants; some cheap, some more expensive, some in the center, and others outside the center. Thankfully, after a few months of looking for the best place to eat lunch, I finally found my favorite. A restaurant called Govinda, situated in San Blas Market (Mercado San Blas). This restaurant meets all my expectations and desires, 100%. The map below illustrates how to walk to San Blas Market from Plaza de Armas.
Govinda Lila’s Restaurant in Cusco, San Blas Market
Imagine you are walking in the artistic neighborhood of San Blas in Cusco and finally visit the San Blas Market (Mercado San Blas).
It looks like an inconspicuous place, some stalls with fruits and vegetables, some with fresh juices, and some small sandwich stands.
And among all these stalls there is one which differs a lot from the others – Govinda Lila restaurant, which has existed at the market for over 7 years.
What makes this restaurant different from those around it?
Firstly, the owner: a lovely, warm Peruvian woman, Mrs Lila – who is a perfect example of a true businesswoman. She was the only one in the area who noticed an increasing demand among tourists for pure vegetarian restaurants, which were as not popular in Cusco some years ago. She pioneered at meeting this need. By creating something that a lot of tourists were looking for, she is still going strong after so many years. Mrs Lila also takes the time to talk to her hungry clients, who all enjoy visiting her restaurant.
Her restaurant is small and simple, but clean and cosy. She takes good care of everything: from the dishes to the table, ensuring a high level of hygiene.
As briefly mentioned the second factor that distinguishes Govinda restaurant from others of this kind in Cusco, is that visitors have the opportunity to have interesting conversations with her or other clients. So it is not just a place where you can eat well but also a great place to make acquaintances, to acquire new knowledge, to learn about Peruvian culture, and to just chat. To sum up, Mrs Lila cares not only about the taste of her meals but also about atmosphere.
What kind of meals you will find in Govinda restaurant?
- Completely vegetarian
- Vegan options as well (without any animal products)
- Healthy and fresh food, cooked with new ingredients every day
- Different dishes every day
How much does the menú cost at Govinda restaurant?
The price for a menú (soup and main course) only costs 6 Soles. The soup alone costs 2.5 Soles and the main course alone costs 5 Soles. Once you taste the menú of Govinda, you will definitely want to return. There is no tastier deal in Cusco than at this restaurant.
The restaurant is open from 12 – 4 PM.
If you want to eat cheap and healthy plus, and experience a typical Peruvian environment, visit Govinda Lila’s restaurant in San Blas Mercado. Here are some more photos of my visit to the restaurant.
Now you will know how to find the best restaurant in Cusco on a budget!