Tarapoto has grown as a culinary destination in the last few years, with far more restaurants to choose from and a general increase in standards. There are still plenty of abominations, of course, but no city is perfect.

To help you avoid the abominations and find the city’s best eating experiences, here’s a list of my favorite restaurants in Tarapoto. Very few, if any, of these restaurants have websites, but most have Facebook pages.

I’ll update this post as and when I discover more restaurants, ideally with your help. Go ahead and leave your own recommendations in the comments section below, as well as your opinions — positive or negative — regarding my choices here.

Restaurants in Tarapoto

Caja Criolla

Juicy pork with pork crackling. Thank you, Caja Criolla (photo © Tony Dunnell)

  • El Rincón Sureño — For me, this elegant ranchero-style restaurant is the best place in Tarapoto for steaks and other slabs of meat. The steaks here are some of the best I’ve ever had in Peru. Jr. Augusto B. Leguia 458
  • El Brassero (currently closed, perhaps permanently) — Specializes in pork ribs, which are prepared in a few different ways. It’s good stuff. San Pablo de la Cruz 254
  • Caja Criolla — This place does the best chunks of pork in town, cooked in a caja china, with rendered fat, crispy crackling and succulent meat (just like my mum’s roast pork back home, which is high praise indeed). There’s also good chicken cooked in a cilindro peruano. Jr. Rioja 328
  • El Norteño — Serves a variety of good Northern Peru-inspired dishes, but the standout plate is the pollo cantones con arroz chaufa (Cantonese chicken with fried rice). It’s without doubt one of my favorite dishes in Tarapoto, and well worth the short trip down to La Banda (El Norteño is a block from La Banda’s main square). Jr. Santa María 246, La Banda de Shilcayo
  • Brava Grilled — The best hamburgers in town; also serves chicken tenders, wings, excellent fries and more. Jr. San Martín 615.
  • Chalet Venecia — Probably the best service in Tarapoto and one of the most elegant atmospheres. If you’re craving Italian food, you’ll find good lasagnas and other pasta dishes here. The quesadillas are a treat, and my wife is obsessed with the profiteroles. Some dishes come up a little short, especially considering the price, and you’ll find better regional cuisine, ceviches, and steaks elsewhere in Tarapoto, but the service and ambiance provide a good all-round experience (especially if you’re trying to woo someone). Alegría Arias de Morey 298

Cevicherias in Tarapoto

Primer Puerto, Tarapoto

The ceviche/jalea combo at Primer Puerto (photo © Tony Dunnell)

  • Primer Puerto — Currently my favorite cevicheria in town. The food here has a freshness and vibrancy about it, the service is good and the prices are reasonable (typically between S/.20 and S/.30). Jr. Ramirez Hurtado 461
  • La Leche de Charly — A good alternative to Primer Puerto. Portion sizes aren’t as large, but it is cheaper. Well worth a try. Jr. Libertad block 4.
  • El Pollo Marino — An oldie but a goldie, this place has been serving solid ceviches and other seafood-inspired dishes for a long time. It used to be packed every lunchtime, but the influx of new cevicherias has put an obvious dent in its client base. Still, a good cevicheria with competitive prices. Try the ceviche mixto or picante de mariscos, or the jalea mixta if you want to put on a few pounds. Jr. Miguel Grau 182
  • La Concha de Sus Mares — A popular cevicheria a few blocks up from the main square, often with live music at the weekends. Good ceviche and an excellent picante de mariscos. Best avoided when it’s really windy, unless you don’t mind picking pieces of thatched roof out of your food. Jr. Camila Morey 250

Chifas in Tarapoto

  • Chifa Canton — This is my go-to chifa in Tarapoto, with tasty set menus (soup or fried wonton plus main meal) and epic à la carte options. Try the tai-pa especial on the lunchtime menú, or the sizzling tai-pa a la plancha on the standard menu. Jr. Ramon Castilla #140.

Pollerías in Tarapoto

  • Tropipollo — This place is located on La Banda’s main square. Since discovering this place, I’ve never ordered pollo a la brasa from any other pollería in Tarapoto. Jr. Amazonas, Plaza de Armas, La Banda de Shilcayo
  • Pollitos Park — I used to go to Pollitos Park occasionally before I moved down to La Banda and discovered Tropipollo. Pollitos Park isn’t as good as Tropipollo, but it’s a decent alternative (especially if you have young kids, as there’s a big climbing-jumping-screaming-playing-structure-thing for los niños). Jr. Moyobamba 257

Menú Places in Tarapoto

The Peruvian lunchtime menú — in case you don’t already know — is an inexpensive set-lunch option served by many restaurants throughout Peru.

  • Suchiche Café — Has a very respectable lunchtime menú for S/.8 or S/.9. Jr. Lamas 245.

Worth a Mention…

Here are some places that people who know Tarapoto might expect to see on this list. They are also places featured on TripAdvisor, which I guess we can’t ignore these days. They aren’t among my top choices for varying reasons, but they do deserve a mention.

  • Real Grill — Real Grill is one of the more prominent places on Tarapoto’s Plaza de Armas, a square that is sadly short of interesting businesses. The tables outside Real Grill are good for people watching, the food is OK, and the pisco sours are nice and strong. It’s also a good meeting point. But I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for food, unless you want to have a few beers while eating a tasty plate of chicharrón de pollo.
  • La Patarashca — Located in one of the prettiest buildings in town, this place has decent food, good service, and pulls in a large amount of tourists from Lima and beyond. It specializes in regional cuisine, but the touristy nature of the restaurant has made many dishes completely overpriced. If you want cecina, chorizo, tacacho etc., go to one of the numerous street grills in Tarapoto, where you’ll pay S/.10 (maximum) for something that might cost S/.35 at La Patarashca. Some friends of mine have particular dishes that they highly recommend at La Patarashca (I forget which, sorry), but I’ve yet to be overly impressed with anything, including the patarashca de camarones, which was thoroughly disappointing. Jr: Lamas 261
  • La Collpa — A great location, this time with excellent views across the valley behind Tarapoto, but overpriced. It’s a well-known and touristy restaurant, but I haven’t eaten at La Collpa for a few years after too many lackluster experiences. Perhaps it’s better now? Av. Circunvalación 164

What Are Your Favorite Restaurants in Tarapoto?

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few places that should be listed here, and I’ll be adding more restaurants to this list as I slowly eat my way through Tarapoto.

But what I really want to hear are your opinions about the restaurants mentioned above — positive, negative, or in-between — as well as, and more importantly, your own restaurant recommendations. Cheers!