Bar del Sur
Bar del Sur slips off the edge of the Plaza de La Trinidad. It’s the authentic speakeasy-type bar you wished you found yesterday when you wasted your time on one of those nondescript terraces that prowl around the plaza.
This small and mighty bar that nudged its way into local consciousness with the humble power of the arepa, Venezuela’s most famous food export.
If you’re a newcomer that thinks you know what an arepa tastes, like let us tell you right now, you don't.
Those stringy oil puffs sold on the street for a USD$1 are one thing, but comparing them to these crispy corn bread slabs of heaven is the culinary equivalent of comparing Dan Brown to Shakespeare.
Fortunately, Bar del Sur is here to put the world to rights. They know more than a thing or two about the art of the perfect arepa and came here in 2015 seeking kudos in Cartagena for their exemplary homegrown concoctions.
They’ve earned our vote. These guys are the maestros of comfort food done exceptionally well, with a sincere attention to detail that makes you feel gooey and warm on the inside.
The menu, small, solid and soulful, is wonderful. Their arepas are without a doubt the headliners, we could gorge on their stupendous corn pockets grilled to perfection until the cows came home, but that would be dishonourable to their other impressive supporting acts. The Canastas (plantain baskets), crammed with yummy ceviches are full blown party in your mouth and The El Sur hamburger, served with chargrilled costeño cheese, is true gourmet indulgence. On paper it seems the menu doesn’t go too far out there, but that’s only because the kitchen saves the complexities for the dish themselves.
The sweet and tangy panela sauce for instance brings out the shy flavours of their cheese fingers (dedos de queso) and mini empanadas like a champion. Same goes for their arepa ingredients, everything is so fresh, your palette is simultaneously comforted, cleansed and surprised.
In true gastro-pub fashion, beer is paramount in the theme (check out the ‘upcycled' beer crate chairs). When it comes to drinks, you’ve got your usual suspects (Aguila, Club Colombia) amongst some extra-special artisanal finds such as Bogota Beer Company and Apostle.
The ambitious owners launched their own in-house brewery in November 2016, which has officially pushed these guys to the top of Cartagena's drink game. Go up to the second floor, try out a fresh batch and ask Mario, the owner, about the beer backstory for a truly authentic drinking experience. Downstairs, you can take advantage of their special offer, ‘Biernes’, which gives you three for two on all draft beers from 18:00-21:00.
Determined to not be a one trick pony, Bar del Sur’s cocktail game is also seriously on point. The signature cocktail, KilLila (named after a Venezuelan starlet) is a deliciously devilish mix of Zacapa rum, fresh orange and pineapple juice and the clincher; chocolate shavings (yes, really). It’s like a naughty liquid dessert. You’ll want seconds.
Good thing then this joint is open till 01:00 (Latin time, ahem) pretty much every night. Around 23:00 the kitchen closes, lights dim and the music cranks up a notch. So you’ve got plenty of time to knock back a few more KillLilas, sample some premium rums and enjoy the intimate bar vibe where you can listen to music and hear what your friends are saying.
Just one bite of their Pabellon arepa, a delightful tribute to the Venezuelan national dish of shredded beef, black beans, plantain, traditionally served on a bed of rice, but here stuffed in an arepa, gives you all the assurance you’ll ever need: this place will never head south.
THIS IS WHAT WE LOVE
* The Tuesdays Mojito all night Happy Hour is the only way to survive a working week here
* On Fridays from, 6PM to 9PM, all draft beers are 3 for 2. Quids in!
* Arepas so good, good, good, we just don’t know how else to describe the yummy noises our tummy makes when we eat them. On Wednesday, all arepas are USD$3.
* The Latino hall of fame on the walls is very educational. Did you know the first football world cup was held in Uruguay? Until we went here, we didn’t either
* This is the perfect night out when you don’t want to go 'out out'
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
* Bar del Sur is closed on Sundays
* The restaurant is pretty small. You gotta be quick to get one of the five tables inside, and even quicker to nab one outside
* It can get hot inside, even with the fans. So grab an outside table if you can, order an iced-cold lemonade or draft beer if you don’t!