Budget-friendly restaurant recommendations in Cusco

enclosed balcony at La Mila on Plazoleta EspinarIf there aren’t too many splurge nights figured into your travel budget, it’s always good to know where in a town you can get a tasty meal that will fill you up for a day of exploring without costing much. Since you may not want to gamble on eating from the street carts after only a few days in Peru, here are some suggestions of places that serve up a mean plate that will fill you for hours without burning up too much of the fun money.

Due to an influx of tourists from the Middle East, Cusco’s kebab, giro, and falafel scene is bumping. If you eat in any of these places, several of which are grouped together on Plateros off the Main Plaza, you are destined to leave full and happy. However, Mr. Giros on Choquechaka wins the gold star for unparalleled delicious with their wraps. I mean, they put crisp-fried , thin-cut hash brown potatoes on top of their slow-cooked meat, veggies, hummus, and tzaziki sauce. When I ate here with two friends visiting from Jackson Hole we were all silent as we mowed our two-hand wraps in amazement. For 10 soles you really can’t beat this belly-happiness maker.

If you’re willing to go up another 10 soles or so, Mila and Sumaq are also great options.

Mila is on the second floor of a colonial-style building off Plazoleta Espinar, the smaller manicured plaza a block or so behind the Plaza de Armas. Look for the sign on the balcony above because the entrance is tricky to find among the souvenir shops on the first floor. The menu is centered around very tasty versions of classic Peruvian dishes such as Lomo Saltado and Aji de Gallina. The menu is in Spanish but the picture-book size photos of the dishes do a great job of illustrating how delicious the food here is. For 18 soles I had trout smothered with sautéed peppers, onions, and potatoes in a roasted pepper sauce that was lick the plate delicious. The simple but elegant dining room, or the small balcony overlooking the plazoleta are nice settings to enjoy a leisurely meal in the heart of town.

Back up in the San Blas neighborhood on Siete Angelitos is a recent find, Sumaq. While Sumaq also has traditional Peruvian dishes on their menu, I would definitely say their wood-fired pizza is the best I’ve had since arriving in Cusco. The massive pie we ordered was smothered with mouth-watering cheese, chicken, chorizo, and mushrooms – but it was the crisp thinness of the crust that really impressed me. I can’t imagine it’s easy to get a pizza crust just right at 11,000 ft above sea level, but some of the soggy, doughy versions of this classic standby I’ve experienced here had almost turned me off the menu choice altogether. So, of course, it was nice to see pizza redeemed from the ‘don’t bother’ list. Granted, the pizza we chose was 38 soles – but was also definitely enough to feed four adults, including this very happy one.

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