Iquitos’s most famous dish is the juane, and restaurants serve a variety of exotic jungle juices made from the cocona and camu camu fruits. Main plates include paiche con chonta (fish with palm heart salad) and tacacho con cecina (fried banana mixed with smoked pork meat). Inchicapi de gallina is chicken soup with peanut, cilantro, and manioc root; it is quite good, as is picuro or majás rodent stew (which actually tastes more like pork).
Apart from these typical foods, many restaurants offer bush meat, including alligator, deer, turtle stew, and even grilled monkey. Eating these plates only encourages illegal hunting. There is a ban on fishing or serving paiche during its reproductive season October–February. If you order it during this time, ensure that it comes from one of the fish farms and not from the river.
Cafés, Bakeries, and Ice Cream
A main Iquitos hangout for both locals and gringos is Ari’s Burgers (Próspero 127, tel. 065/23-1470, 7 a.m.–3 a.m. daily, US$1–7). This open-air establishment resembles a jungle version of a greasy spoon. It is strategically located on the Plaza de Armas with its fluorescent lights. The huge menu includes burgers and fries, milk shakes, vegetarian dishes, grilled meats, and a huge range of desserts.
Ice cream in Iquitos is ubiquitous. The hot, humid climate invites pushcart ice cream vendors, a number of gelato shops on the Plaza de Armas, and lots of popsicle stations. The best of these is Shambo (Morona 396, 9 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, US$0.30), which sells only natural, fruit juice popsicles. Your flavor choices range from grape to strawberry to aguaje to beer!
A block off the Plaza de Armas is Huasaí (Napo 326, tel. 065/24-2222, 7 a.m.–4:30 p.m., US$4), a family-owned bustling restaurant whose tables fill up very quickly at the lunch hour. Most people come for the US$2.50 lunch menu with fish, chicken, beef, and vegetarian options. It also serves tamales, cebiche, sandwiches, and juices.
Restaurant Paulina (Tacna 591, tel. 065/23-1298, 10 a.m.–10 p.m., US$4–6), on the south end of town, serves up a mouthwatering array of local food, including cebiche and paiche a la loretana with fried yuca and palm heart salad. The owner, Paulina Angulo, has operated here for more than a decade, attracting locals with a good-value US$2 lunch menu.
On the Malecón, there are a couple of good restaurants with outdoor seating. La Noche (Malecón Maldonado 177, tel. 065/22-2373, 7 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, US$5–7) opens early for breakfast, serves refreshing fruit drinks throughout the day, and draws its biggest crowd in the evening.
Restaurante Turístico El Mesón (Malecón Maldonado 153, tel. 065/23-1857, 11 a.m.–1 a.m. daily, US$5–7) is the more traditional option, where you can try everything from pescado a la cubana (fish with bananas and eggs) to tortuga al curry (curried tortoise).
Despite the heat, the favorite evening option in Iquitos is grilled meat. The tiny Buen Gusto (Morona 441, tel. 065/22-3337, 7 p.m.–midnight Mon.–Sat., US$5–7) has parilladas of beef, chorizo, and tacacho, which are among the favorites.
La Querencía Parrillada (Napo 138, tel. 065/22-5785, 6 p.m.–midnight daily, US$3–6) is a small corridor of a restaurant with bamboo ceilings and wooden tables. Locals claim this place has the best steak in Iquitos.
Fitzcarraldo (Napo 100, on the Malecón, tel. 065/22-3298, 8 a.m.–11:30 p.m. daily, US$5–7) has become a classic, with its rubber boom days stylish decor. The restored colonial house has a pleasant, open-air atmosphere, and there are also tables outside on the Malecón. The menu includes brochettes of meat, fish, and chicken and pescado en salsa de maracuya, an Amazonian fish with passion fruit sauce.
Located in a grand, tile-covered 19th-century house, Restaurant Gran Maloca (Lores 178, tel. 065/23-3126, noon–11 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–8 p.m. Sun., US$4–10) serves a wide variety of jungle dishes. If bush meat does not appeal to you, there are also pastas, fish, and meat. The formal dining room is air-conditioned. The restaurant has a recommended and affordable three-course lunchtime menu.
For a true night on the Amazon, take a boat out to the extravagant floating restaurant/bar Al Frío y al Fuego (Embarcadero el Huequito, tel. 065/965-607-474, www.alfrioyalfuego.com, noon–4 p.m. and 7–11 p.m. Tues.–Sat., US$7–15). The place, built in 2006, also has a floating swimming pool. The specialties are regional fish, meat, and exotic drinks from the jungle. A good treat.
Good wood-fired pizzas, lasagna, and ravioli are served in a cozy atmosphere at Chez Maggy Pizzeria (Raimondi 177, tel. 065/24-1816, 6 p.m.–midnight daily, US$3.50). Colorful art and a full bar make this a great place to have a leisurely dinner.
Antica Pizzeria (Napo 159, tel. 065/24-1988, www.anticapizzeria.com.pe, 7 a.m.–midnight daily, US$5–14) is the more hip pizza choice. They have delicious thin-crust pizza, great salads, fresh pasta, whole-wheat pasta, and more. Highly recommended.
The best place for Peruvian-Chinese food is Chifa Long Fung (San Martin 454, in front of Plaza 28 de Julio, tel. 065/23-3649, noon–2:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.–midnight daily, US$4–6), claimed to be one of the best in the whole Amazon.
Across the plaza is a solid budget choice, Chifa Hong Kong (Bermúdez 471, tel. 065/24-1691, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. and 7 p.m.–midnight daily, US$3–5).
The largest supermarket is at Próspero 401 (7 a.m.–11 p.m. daily), located in a 19th-century mansion called Los Portales that is covered in Portuguese tiles. Another good option is Mini Market Marthita (Arica and Ucayali, tel. 065/23-5734, 6:30 a.m.–1 a.m. daily). If you are looking for imported favorites, you might likely find them in Autoservicio Saby (Raimondi 195, 6 a.m.–midnight daily).
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition