One of the most exciting things that my wife and I do, anywhere, is to find the highlights of a location. We do that here in NYC to the extent that we are able. We have a list of the best places to go for a burger (it’s a short list, and Paleo friendly!), the best places to go for a drink (sorted by what kind of drink, what kind of environment, etc.). We keep tabs on where to go, when to go, and what to do. And we just do it for fun.
Similarly, we keep track of the little holes in the wall that we find in every city we travel to. We will never forget the tiny little place in San Juan, Puerto Rico that we stumbled across completely by accident which served some of the best restaurant food we have ever had! It was definitely a local place, with amazing food, great prices, amazing service, and a decent ambiance. Though, again, it was a local joint, so it didn’t have the kind of polishing a tourist might be looking for.
Well, today’s post is about another one of those places. The kind of place you would miss unless you were specifically looking for it. It’s called Demente.
If you wander around Getsamani in Cartagena, you may wonder if you’re in the wrong place. And depending on the street you’re on, you may well be in the wrong place. It’s a dirty, unpolished, unkempt section of Cartagena. It’s been called an “up and coming neighborhood”. We all know what that means, right? It means that it’s not there yet. And that’s true – for the most part. But it’s areas like this where you’re most likely to find authentic local gems. Places where the food is still made to serve to locals. And this is just the kind of place that my wife and I love to find. We like to find the best of the local foods – and where better to look than in an “up and coming neighborhood”?
Demente is a tapas restaurant and bar. The daily tapas are written up on a large chalk board, hung above the bar area. There are quite a number of them, and they have a large variety of foods, flavors, and styles that they bring to the table. My wife and I stopped in at Demente twice. The first time we marveled at the setup, the ambiance, and the styling of the restaurant. We would have gone in to have a drink, but the tables were all full, and we had already eaten that night. The most notable feature of the restaurant was the retractable glass roof, leaving it completely open-air on good weather nights. We filed it away in our heads for the next time and returned 2 nights later, hungry and excited to eat some of the tapas they had available. The most exciting part of most Tapas restaurants, for me at least, is reviewing what is often an impressive list of options. I love options. And the options at Demente were excellent. Unlike most Tapas places however, the most exciting part of Demente was eating the Tapas! They were top-notch. They were cooked in an open kitchen, fully visible from the dining room and bar. The cooks were local experts, clearly at the top of their craft, and the food they produced was just amazing!
We went to Demente with a friend, so that we could order some Paleo Tapas, and the friend would have a chance to sample some of the non-Paleo Tapas and give us her thoughts on those. My wife and I ordered a few different Tapas dishes, and our friend ordered another non-Paleo Tapa of her own. Of our order, two were really exceptional. One was completely Paleo in the picture above: It was a baked pork loin, cooked to juicy perfection, and served with diced broccoli and pickled red peppers. The second was definitely not Paleo, but our friend said that it was so good that I couldn’t resist a bite (I did stop at one bite though)! It was a Colombia empanada made of corn (no wheat, we asked), with spiced sweet ground beef and mozzarella as a filler. The sauce was some sort of spicy mayonnaise, which I did not try, but was apparently almost as good as the empanada on it’s own.
I definitely recommend going to Demente if you ever find yourself in Cartagena. A short walk around Getsemani, in the early evening, would be well worth your time as well. There are some excellent places with dancing, music, and some other restaurants with what appeared to be great food. We didn’t discover Getsemani until near the end of our trip, so we didn’t have the time we needed to really get a good feel for the neighborhood. But what we saw, we were very impressed with!
- Which local restaurants do you think are “hidden gems” in your home town?
- Would you tell people about them, or hide them and keep them for yourself?
- Do you keep notes on those amazing places you discover on your trips?