There are plenty of places to get fresh fish in Cartagena, Colombia. But, even with access to some of the world’s best seafood, not all of the restaurants specializing in fish are created equal. One stands out above all the rest in the crowd, and that is La Cevicheria. This small and packed casual restaurant is overflowing with patrons, at any given time of the day, with lines out the door scrambling to get a taste of the seafood soups, ceviche, sandwiches, paellas and more.
The restaurant’s proprietor, Jorge Escandon, is warm and welcoming, casually dressed in a t-shirt and jeans as he welcomes diners to his establishment. He is often seen at the bar helping bartenders to deliver freshly made and deliciously dangerous mojitos to guests. Mr. Escandon was once a fisherman but traded-in the rough sea after it nearly claimed his life on two separate occasions. He set-up shop just around the corner from Sofitel Santa Clara and instantly become an international hit. One of his repeat customers is TV host and foodie Anthony Bourdain.
On the day of my visit, Cartagena was on a mandatory water shut-off which lasted for 24 hours. The restaurant pushed though. When you have people lining-up outside the door, how can you refuse business? Concessions were made and the show went on. I dined on Peruvian and Colombian style ceviche, all done with house-made “leche de tigre”. I also tried the incredible lobster ceviche which was remarkable. Dishes like king prawns in coconut milk, Vietnamese rice with fish of the day smothered in coconut curry and seafood paella with lobster are also available.
Dining at La Cevicheria is simple. You come for incredible food, great drinks and a lively atmosphere with servers who encourage you to relax and have fun. There is nothing fancy, but it’s all done to perfection. If you are in Cartagena or, even if you’re not, stop-in. If you’re not, it might just be worth the four-and-a-half hour flight down from New York for an afternoon of seafood you’ll dream about for years after.