Within the developing metropolitan hub of Lima, we’ve begun to fall into the typical scheme of all large, bustling cities. Our humble, neighborly, familiar senses have left us replaced by the towering, cold metallic structures that surround us.
Whilst the distance between us and others is at times welcomed, we are still humans that long for warmth. But can you find love in the big city? Is it possible to stumble upon a bistro or a café where you can feel like a friend instead of a client? To be literal, no. I’ve scoured the heart and body of Lima in search of this sentiment without the need of compromising quality. When the answer was, quite literally, next to me this whole time.
In Callao (which is considered a small province within Lima but legally separate from us) you hear a lot about the barrio feeling. Where you stroll through the street and everyone, from the bodega owner to the old lady from down the street who watched you grow up, says hello when they see you. In the district of La Punta you’ll find a curious huarique called La Cochera de la Abuela, where chef and proprietor Daniel Justo has made his mark on these streets.
Outside of La Cochera de la Abuela (Photo: Joseph Diaz/Living in Peru)
Daniel’s establishment is quaint; his dishes are prime examples of Peruvian barbecuing. He has a traditional grill for anticuchos, a cylinder to make whole chickens, and a Cajun microwave (or caja china as they’re called here). He takes care of the flavor and the preparation in his dishes, taught to him by his father and enriched by his neighborhood. The name of his restaurant translates to “My grandma’s garage”; in fact, in Daniel’s case, Grandma’s house is located just a few houses down from his restaurant. This name stems from the origins of his business. He started selling chicharron sandwiches in the morning, then moved on to barbecuing at night.
(Photo: Joseph Diaz/Living in Peru)
This continued until he was able to open his own restaurant. His spotlight in the public eye came when famed Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio invited him to participate in a televised anticucho cooking competition, from which he took 2nd place. He only works from 7 pm – 11 pm, which is unusual for a restaurateur. When I inquired as to why, his response was, “I want a life.” He started explaining to me how important it was to spend time with his daughter, all while being interrupted by pedestrians who would walk by and ask, “Are you opening tonight Danny?”, “How’s the wife Danny!”, “Damn Danny looking professional for the interview!” I felt like I was in a place where everyone felt welcomed, everyone knew each other. I had that “_barrio_” feeling, like I was somehow where I belonged. It’s something that you don’t find too often in the big city.
Overall the food was delicious. Plus, their correlation of price and quality can’t be beat in Lima. Their pancetta could have had a crispier skin but it wasn’t a blob of gum either, which was nice. Everything had such a delicious taste to it, even the criadillas, sweetbreads made from bull testicles.
Anticuchos (Photo: Joseph Diaz/Living in Peru)
Though it’s safe in the streets, be sure to take a safe taxi when you go. One of the pedestrians who stopped to speak to Daniel was an undercover cop, and apparently it’s not unusual to have a couple of them walking around certain areas.
In short, if you’re looking for great food and a genuinely warm atmosphere, look no further than La Cochera de La Abuela.
La Cochera de La Abuela
La Paz 2424, La Perla, Callao
Anticuchos: s/. 15
Pancetta in Anticucho sauce: s/. 22
Criadillas: s/. 12
Chicha Morada: ½ ltr: s/. 5