Rise & Shine to the Caribbean Charms of Malanga

Malanga fills the much needed gap in Cartagena’s food scene: non-fussy local food made with love and a touch of class.

  • This Is What We Love

    • Malanga is one of the only spots open for breakfast in San Diego
    • Eating simple, well and cheaply! You can fill your boots for around USD$10
    • The terrace is always buzzing, but the inside is great too. Especially if you’re fan of air con and don’t want to be bothered by street venders
    • Every ingredient is sourced from the coast. The head chef, Máxima Gómez is one of the true masters of Caribbean cuisine
    • Hitting the cocktail menu with as much enthusiasm as the food
  • What You Need To Know

    • Malanga is open from 09:00-23:00 Monday to Sunday
    • The outdoor terrace is headliner but there is also an upstairs perch overlooking the square that’s worth checking out
    • Malanga is the sister restaurant of the renowned El Santísimo, which is just up the road
  • The Details

    Type of Food: Traditional Colombian

    Hours and Days: Mon-Sun: 09:00-23:00 ?

    Price Range: $$

    Address: San Diego, Plaza de San Diego, 8-19 Cartagena, Colombia

    Neighbourhood: San Diego

    Rating: TIC User Rating

    Rating: Trip Advisor


    Our Full Review

    You can always depend on Malanga. Plaza San Diego is a shadow of it lively self before midday, but from 09:00 this place shines as bright as an egg yolk, offering tasty food with plenty of get-up-and-go. If you are going to tuck into Caramiñolas (fried yuca balls stuffed with meat) anywhere, make sure it’s here.

    Aside from the local specialities, there’s nothing too edgy on the food menu. Quesadillas, sandwiches, salads and hamburgers—so far, so bistro. But things are different here.

    These aren't your typical shrimp quesadillas, here they are pimped out with octopus and squid ink.

    Same goes for the burgers, as well as the typical meat and fish options, the Quinoa is the most avant-garde of the bunch. Forget dry egg & cress sandwiches too. Home made focaccia bread with fillings like Posta Negra (traditional Cartagena meat dish) just made lunchtimes a lot more interesting.

    Malanga's youthfulness gives the bar extra bite. When the sun goes down, the bar shows no signs of slowing down, as clientele swap their organic coffees and fruit juices for a punchier jug of fruity sangria or potent passion-fruit mojito.

    Whatever you're drinking, make sure you pair it up with some of the un-missable ceviche line up on offer.

    The Esquinero, homage to the street ceviche classic will really get your taste buds in a twist. Made with homemade red pepper sauce, lime, red onion and a splash of tabasco to give it some fire.

    In contrast, Doña Maxima is all soft around the edges with a duvet of citrus aioli and squishy plantain and avocado cubes to round things off. Coco y Mar deserves a round of applause for the sheer effort put into such a small and perfect dish.

    Fresh chunks of fish soaked in coconut milk infused with lemongrass, red onion, and the secret—slithers of mango biche (sour mango) to give it some crispy edge. It’s a mini bowl of heaven.

    Located in one of Cartagena's most scenic plazas, Malanga’s stunning terrace is an easy win for any time of day, but sitting inside has its charms too. Especially the techni-colour walls and vibrant furniture which make you feel like you're swimming in one of their fruity cocktails.

    Whether it's for a morning pick-me-up snack, lunchtime tide-me-over meal or an evening get-me-in-the-mood cocktail, Malanga's mighty efforts work their magic any time of day.

    Oh, and in case you were wondering what Malanga means, it's local root vegetable.


  • San Diego

    A healthy mix of sub-cultures makes San Diego one of the most interesting and varied districts in the city, something reflected in its diverse gastronomic offering.

    San Diego is formed by 16 blocks north of Calle de la Universidad de Cartagena and west of Calle San Agustin and Calle de la Moneda and stretches to the Baluarte de Santa Catalina and the walls that protect the city to the north. 

    Architecturally the houses are smaller and were built principally for the military, artisans and clergy. There are fewer of the two-or three-storey holiday homes for the ultra-rich that characterize the centre and you will still find traditional families living in some of the more modest houses in this part of town. 

    After Cartagena's moneyed classes swapped the claustrophobic centre for expansive mansions in Manga and later Bocagrande and Castillogrande in the mid-19th century it took the renovation of the former Santa Clara Monastery, converted for the hotel chain Sofitel into the city's pre-eminent hotel in 1995, to put this barrio back on the map. 

    Colombia's farandula, or celebrity set, has since colonized San Diego including John Leguizamo who bought a place here after filming Mike Nichols' Love in the Time of Cholera.

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