Juan del Mar Restaurante

Food with X-Factor at this Fabulous Celebrity Hangout

Juan del Mar is famous in Cartagena with a capital F. While many restaurants that rely too heavily on the owner’s reputation buckle under the weight of such pressure—none of them have Juan to fall back on.

  • This Is What We Love

    • Authentic Caribbean flavours served straight from grandma’s recipe books onto your plate. Eat plantains, coconut and African spices until your heart’s content
    • The live music fills the place with atmosphere, especially when Juan del Mar’s in the house
    • Eating here is a right-of-passage for many Colombians. So getting a seat here makes you feel like part of the in-crowd
    • Book the upper terrace if you want to soak up the best view of the square (it’s where the president sits when he’s in town)
    • The open plan kitchen and quality-assured produce should satisfy delicate stomachs that have held back from eating unusual food on holiday
    • Tucking into a regal sharing plate that will set you up for the night ahead
  • What You Need To Know

    • Juan del Mar Restaurante is open all week, and is busy all-year round, so book ahead to avoid disappointment
    • The San Diego outdoor terrace belongs to the Juan del Mar pizzeria. However If you eat inside the menu belongs to Juan del Mar Restaurante
    • A band plays 7 nights a week in the evenings and there is even a DJ at lunchtime. Juan sometimes sings on stage, but we can’t promise anything!
  • The Details

    Type of Food: Seafood

    Hours and Days: Mon-Sun: 11:00-23:00 ?

    Price Range: $$

    Address: Plaza San Diego 8-12, Cartagena, Colombia

    Neighbourhood: San Diego

    Rating: TIC User Rating

    Rating: Trip Advisor

  • THE LOWDOWN

    Our Full Review

    A bullfighter / singer / actor, Juan del Mar was never going to live up to that stereotype. Famed for possessing the Midas touch, everything he pursues is considered number Juan for all the right reasons.

    Juan del Mar’s X-factor presence dominates Plaza San Diego with not one, but three restaurants bearing his name. Juan del Mar Mesa Peruana, Juan del Mar Pizzeria Gourmet and Juan del Mar Restaurante, which shares a delightful terrace with the pizzeria. It’s just as well he is a national treasure, because that’s a lot of Juan in one postcode.

    If you’re flipping a peso to decide on where to dine tonight, cut to the chase and go to his flagship restaurant, Juan del Mar Restaurante, the most Cartagenero of the bunch, renowned for its homegrown dishes, live music and the chance to be serenaded by the restaurant’s charismatic owner.

    It’s an inspired tactic: the summery scene and Caribbean character is just the ticket for withered and wintery city dwellers, desperate for some sun rays in their lives.

    The food options, dominated by coastal seafood specials and local produce, positively beam off the page and are gulped down enthusiastically by Juan’s star-studded friends from Bogota and Medellin. For less tried and tested visitors, Juan del Mar is a marvelous introduction to the world of Colombian cuisine.

    Be brave, order outside the box and ask for the Mofongo Caribeño. A fried pork skin ball traditionally served solo, that’s coupled with a bed of seafood and coconut sauce. It’s sweet, aromatic crispiness is softened by the coconut aftertaste and flaky fish. Savour the flavours, you’ll never find an equivalent at home, it’s a unique house special.

    The juicy prawns that crackle with plantain flakes are another reassuringly feel-good appetizer only matched by the refreshing slithers of its sea rival, Octopus Carpaccio, bathed in a lime dressing.

    If you’re hungry, order the Arroz Caldoso del Langosta (rice and lobster stew). It arrives on a shimmering, sizzling silver throne, like a king arriving to be crowned. Plumped with rice, adorned with plantain and crowned with a lobster tail, it’s the exotic cousin to Spain’s paella worth bowing down to.

    Juan del Mar’s social life is as vivacious as his menu, so dinner ‘at his place’ is always going to be an entertaining affair. Chatter and laughter whip through the airy colonial walls like waves as groups natter over a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and dig into their coconut desserts. Don’t dine here expecting hushed whispers. Colombians love to talk.

    Outside, the terrace is always in star-gazing mode, with locals dressed to the nines hoping to capture a glimpse of the mysterious owner they’ve read so much about in Hola! magazine. FYI: if you ever catch Juan del Mar serenading you through your appetizers, you’ve hit the jackpot. You should feel very lucky indeed.

    After all the headlines and fame however, it’s Juan del Mar’s noble food passions that shine through the strongest. Good looks aside, eating here—and eating well—is testimony to the fact that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Especially if that inside is a Mofongo Caribeño.

LOCATION & MAP

  • San Diego

    A healthy mix of sub-cultures makes San Diego one of the most interesting and varied districts in the city, something reflected in its diverse gastronomic offering.

    San Diego is formed by 16 blocks north of Calle de la Universidad de Cartagena and west of Calle San Agustin and Calle de la Moneda and stretches to the Baluarte de Santa Catalina and the walls that protect the city to the north. 

    Architecturally the houses are smaller and were built principally for the military, artisans and clergy. There are fewer of the two-or three-storey holiday homes for the ultra-rich that characterize the centre and you will still find traditional families living in some of the more modest houses in this part of town. 

    After Cartagena's moneyed classes swapped the claustrophobic centre for expansive mansions in Manga and later Bocagrande and Castillogrande in the mid-19th century it took the renovation of the former Santa Clara Monastery, converted for the hotel chain Sofitel into the city's pre-eminent hotel in 1995, to put this barrio back on the map. 

    Colombia's farandula, or celebrity set, has since colonized San Diego including John Leguizamo who bought a place here after filming Mike Nichols' Love in the Time of Cholera.


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