In this post, I will share the easiest and cheapest way to eat like a local in Peru. You can use this tip anywhere you go in Peru. This will help you get away from the throngs of other tourists and can help you save a lot of money. You just need to know what to look for and be willing to go slightly out of your comfort zone.
As you’re walking through virtually any neighborhood in Peru, you may notice chalkboards outside of restaurants. Some of these may be even outside places that look more like a house than a restaurant. These signs advertise a type of restaurant specializing in menú, daily specials for a bargain price.
Where Locals Eat
How to Order
- Don’t come too late. One of the best things about Menú is that all of the food is fresh. However, quantities are limited. If you come after 1:30 pm, you can expect that some of the choices will be sold out. Lunch is the principle meal in Peru and most places will close by 5 or 6 pm. You don’t want to be eating the dregs of that day’s cooking.
- Stick to the daily specials. Many menú restaurants will also offer you a printed menu with a la carte options. These items will be a lot less fresh and quite a bit more expensive. They will also take longer to prepare (a lot of times they’ll have to wait to defrost something!). You should know what you want to order before sitting down in a Menú restaurant.
- Get started slowly. I wouldn’t advise heading to a Menú place straight off a plane or long bus ride. Ease your way out of your comfort zone little by little.
- Trust your instincts. Menú places generally have open doors and windows. Look inside. If it looks dodgy or something looks off, move on. There’s usually many places to pick from. A crowd is a good sign, but keep in mind locals might be used to a different type of food than you are.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Menú restaurants are generally small family restaurants. Don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t know what an item is. If you don’t know Spanish, the signs make it easy to point. Oftentimes, the waiter can show you what something looks like before you order it.
- From my experience, Menú Marino typically isn’t as good as a bargain as the typical menú. They often use second-tier seafood as well. If you’re looking for ceviche, I would recommend going to a place where you can order a ceviche combo instead.
Where to Start
We recommend Qori Sara (which we feature in the video above) in Cusco as a great place to start. It’s located right off of Plaza San Francisco and offers fresh food at large quantities. mid-range for a menú place (10 soles). You’ll be eating cheap, high-quality food among locals-the best of all worlds.
There’s also a row of menú restaurants with colorful signs along Calle Plateros in Cusco, but these are aimed more at tourists.