One of the best things about living or traveling in South America is the set lunches or almuerzos. These three-course meals are ridiculously good value for money, and if you eat in the right place they can also be seriously delicious.
Almuerzos (or menús, as they are often referred to in Peru) can be found throughout the continent, but particularly in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. At about 11.30am every day restaurants will put signs out on the sidewalk advertising the day’s menu. When choosing an establishment, you’re best off following the crowds (and I don’t mean the tourist crowds!) as the locals know where to eat and where not to eat.
An almuerzo consists of a starter (in Andean regions this is usually a soup while on the coast it’s often ceviche) a main course, a drink and – in most cases – a small pudding. There’s generally a choice of starters on offer and you always get to choose between a few main courses. Just make sure you arrive early, as the good stuff runs out first.
Almuerzos are a fantastic way to taste authentic local cuisine (not the Westernised versions you sometimes get in fancy restaurants) and to experience the local culture. Lunch is the main meal of the day in South America, and it’s a lengthy laidback affair. Most places serve popular, national cuisine, but if you’re after something specific look out for signs saying comida vegetariana (vegetarian food), chifa (Chinese cuisine) or mariscos (seafood). Many places will offer a menú and a menú ejecutivo - a slightly more expensive 'businessman's lunch'.