As in all parts of Peru, affordable set-menu eateries make getting lunch in Puno quite cheap, although unfortunately the city’s culinary standards do not rise to the level of Lima, Cusco, Arequipa, and the other stops in Peru that you’ve likely made. Most tourists don’t even spend much time in Puno, as its largest attractions, such as the Sillustani Chullpas and Lake Titicaca, are actually outside the city.
However, many do make Puno a priority during the city’s colorful and popular festivals (the Virgin of Candelaria, for example, is considered one of the best festivals of Latin America, and takes place in a couple of weeks). Whether you spend a day or a week in Puno, you’ve got to eat…
Thus, let’s start with the priciest but nicest option first: Mojsa, in the Plaza de Armas, just in front of the cathedral. This restaurant’s name means delicious in Aymara, and it provides a range of local and international dishes with some creative touches. Although its specialty is that unavoidable standard for the Lake Titicaca region, trout, there are other good options as well. These include a superb ají de gallina and a satisfying quinoa soup. For those longing for some familiar tastes, brick oven pizzas are available in the evenings. The service can be slow, and portion sizes vary (a finer dish like the alpaca has smaller portions, while simple dishes like the soups are more filling), but overall Mojsa comes out as one of the best choices thanks to its quality food. Main courses range from S/18-35, which makes the set menu a good choice, as you can try three courses plus a glass of wine for S/20 soles.
From the nicest option, let’s move on to the most authentic and affordable: the city’s main market. At the market, you can find homey stews like estofado (almost a chicken fricassee) and Peru’s omnipresent lomo saltado.
For just a few soles, you can warm up during Puno’s frigid evenings with a huge bowl of soup. If you can’t stomach the sheep head (which gives the broth a great flavor even if the head isn’t pretty), you can order other broths such as lamb. The broths are quite rich in flavor because they are cooked with chuño, the strong-tasting dried potato that many families of the altiplano depend on for survival.