Despite the increasing instability throughout South America, landlocked Paraguay has seen unprecedented growth. Nowhere is that more evident than the capital of Asunción, where a dining scene is taking off. Chefs with experience in some of the world’s great restaurants are returning home to work with native flora, cook on clay ovens called tatakuas, and give new life to Paraguayan recipes like mbejú and chipas, flatbreads and rolls made of yuca and cheese, as well as vori vori, a soup with small balls of corn flour. Here are our recommendations for where to eat in Asunción:
Sofía Pfannl, who worked at Peru’s Central and Italy’s Ostería Francescana, and Peruvian sommelier José Miguel Burga (Central, New York’s Cosme) opened this modern Paraguayan restaurant designed from recycled shipping containers in 2017. Pfannl’s menu builds on traditional flavors and techniques, often using their specialized, egg-shaped tatakua, a Guaraní clay oven, which they have adapted to for the Villa Morra restaurant. Cocktails use foraged and medicinal herbs, while Burga’s wine list leans natural and organic. Eusebio Lillo 902; Facebook page.
Sergio Gonzalez, who worked in France and China before returning home to Paraguay, opened Cocina Clandestina in the Villa Aurelia neighborhood in late 2015. Gonzalez likes to smoke, ferment, and pickle indigenous Paraguayan ingredients, resulting in playful tasting menus that recreate traditional dishes like vori vori and the mbejú. Capitan Pedro Villamayor 581; Facebook page.
Bastardo – Cocina Sin Raíces
Two Paraguayan-born veterans of the New York restaurant scene returned home to open this funky pizzeria, with windows painted by local artist Cacho Falcon, that spills out into a cobblestone cul de sac in a quiet corner of Las Lomas. The wood-fired pizzas range from traditional to new wave, though other plates like sweetbread toast and a spicy cauliflower recipe from Brooklyn’s Okonomiyaki stand on their own. Tregnati 901; Facebook page.
El Café de Acá
This 10-year old, all day café on a leafy corner of Villa Mora serves a decent selection of traditional Paraguayan dishes, as well as eclectic brunch plates and sweets. It’s a good place to start for straightforward versions of several chipas, mbejú, and pastel mandi’ó, plus various maté drinks like cocido (mate milk tea) and tereré (iced maté). Teniente Héctor Vera 1390; elcafedeaca.com.
The only Paraguayan restaurant to appear on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Rodolfo Angenscheidt’s Tierra Colorada helped redefine Paraguayan cuisine when it opened in 2010. Angenscheidt, who has worked in the kitchens of prominent chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Martin Berasategui, and Mauro Colagreco, has helped shine a spotlight on local ingredients (Bradford cattle, manioc starch, surubí) and small producers around the country. Avenida Santísima Trinidad 784; tierracoloradagastro.com.
Angenscheidt’s second restaurant is a Paraguayan parrilla showcasing the best beef of the Chaco region while exploring the art of Paraguayan wood-fired cooking. The menu, written in Guarani and translated into Spanish, is vast, going far beyond dry-aged beef cooked over palo santo and quebracho woods, with house made chorizos, sweetbreads, and Queso Paraguay that arrives to the table in a smoke-filled glass case. Take note of the giant mural, made of beans, of indigenous woman making baskets. Alberto De Souza between Cruz del Chaco and Cruz del Defensor; Facebook page.
Opened in 1960, this 24-hour restaurant in the heart of downtown Asunción in a historic nineteenth century building is always bustling. Sit at the wraparound counter and order from the neverending menu that includes typical dishes (vori vori, sopa Paraguaya, milanesas), bocaditos (chipa guazú, cozinha, tarta pascualina), and a dozen preparations of surubí, no to mention general dinner and breakfast plates. Estrella 399; bolsi.com.py.
Like El Bolsi, Lido Bar is another emblematic downtown eatery, open since 1953. It has a more faded feel than El Bolsi, which is part of its charm, though the menu is just as extensive. Palma y Chile; lidobar.com.py.
Inside Asunción’s best hotel, the stunning Factoría, Ofelia is set within an elegant space with wood floors, a vaulted ceiling, and industrial accents. The eclectic menu serves a combination of updated Paraguayan classics and international favorites, from surubí tiradito to rack of lamb. Dr. Francisco Morra 813; factoriahotel.com.py.
There are dozens of Korean restaurants around Asunción and no-frills Kang Nam, across from Mercado #4, might be the best. Expect authentic versions of bibimbab, bulgogi, kimchi fried rice, and other standard plates. Avenida Peru 1091, across from Mercado #4.
This quirky gastrobar in the heart of Asunción’s growing Recoleta food hood doesn’t take itself too seriously. The menu features items like Cheeto-crusted fried chicken, triple fried yuca fries, and cheese covered grilled empanadas. There’s a nice craft beer list and original cocktails made with local herbs. Alberto de Souza 5215; Facebook page.
Mercado Municipal #4
Central Asunción’s primary market is a maze of produce stalls, hand woven cigars, ceramics, and indigenous handicrafts. There are dozens of food vendors, many of them working the market for decades, spread out in multiple covered areas in the center of the market, including an especially clean and organized upper level. Don’t miss Doña Maria at Comedor #37 for her vori vori and other typical Paraguyan plates. Silvio Pettirossi at Avenida Eusebio Ayala.