“Where is the best place to get fish?”, I ask Margarita, the owner of El Viajero Hostel in Cartagena.
She grabs a map off the reception counter and writes “Pargo Rojo” way over on the left, near where the beach ends.
“Here, Pargo Rojo. It’s not fancy, but it’s the best”. Which is exactly what I want – the best fish I can get my hands on. She also mentions another place, a little closer and more ‘fancy’ (expensive) and good, but not as good.
I’m thinking to myself, ‘Why I would ever go pay more for not-as-good fish?’ Besides, the second I asked, Margarita and another receptionist both blurt out “Pargo Rojo”, so that is where we are going.
As Diego and I are getting ready to go, Jorge, a new guy in our room, starts talking with us, asking if we know a place for him to exchange Euros. Since Diego has a friend in Cartagena, and the bank wouldn’t take a few of my bills, we just found a great place to exchange money. So, as the conversation jumps between fish and money, we realize we all seem to get along, and invite Jorge to come with us. After a quick stop at the money exchange for our new friend, the three of us grab a taxi and set out for the end of the beach and delicious fish.
PS: Have I mentioned yet that Diego has never had shellfish? Jorge, whose from Spain, and me from New England, have grown up with this stuff, but this is all new to Diego. And we have determined he has no choice but to try it.
This is what happens when you hang out with travelers. We rip you out of your comfort zone and shove weird food down your throat.
Pargo Rojo is awesome. They have a nice, and varietous selection of food, and for a fresh fish in a tourist city, prices aren’t that bad. (The ginormous platter of mixed seafood – including a whole fish, was 50.000COP – about $28USD). We also decide to go all out, and order cazuela – a bubbling clay bowl of mixed shellfish cooked in a cashew-type sauce. It steams my camera as I try to video it, and smells unbelievable!
Sticking out of the cazuela, is the top half of a langostino, which I pick up by the antenna and start taunting Diego with.
“You’re going to try this”, I tease him while he looks at this alienish creature with mistrust. But Jorge and I are relentless, and I scrape out a chunk of fresh, juicy meat out of the shell and shove it in Diego’s face. He looks at it like a little kid looks at broccoli, but really having no choice but to try this to shut me up, he smells the chunk of cooked flesh, closes his eyes, and sticks it in his mouth.
“It tastes like fish”.
Seriously? That’s your only reaction? That it tastes like fish? Well, at least you don’t hate it.
So for the next couple hours Jorge and shove a whole bunch of other ocean creatures down Diego’s throat and Diego replies “It tastes like fish” to every single one of them. But he likes fish, so this is a good thing, I guess. At least Jorge and I can get all gushy over the fresh, seafood together.
Pargo Rojo is a delicious fish restaurant in Cartagena. It is at the end of the beach, about a 5 minute, 6.000COP cab ride, or an hour walk along the beach away from the walled city. It is definitely a local’s place (it even says “Local’s Only” on the wall leading to the beach), which we blatantly ignored and went to (anyone can go to this beach by the way).
When you go to Cartagena, make sure to take a trip down to Pargo Rojo for a late lunch. Then go back and check out the rest of beautiful Cartagena.
About Dani Blanchette
I am a freelance travel and music photographer and creator of GoingNomadic.com.
I love music, food, and exploring cities without guidebooks. I’ve flown a helicopter, hitchhiked down the east coast USA, and once snuck into the back of a zoo (in Serbia) and pet a lion.
I am always up for an adventure, and sometimes I videotape them.