Food & DrinksRestaurantsTraditional Food

Late Afternoons, Chicherías and Picanterías Are the Place to Be

The places where the people of Cuzco tend to gather the most are in the chicherías, or picanterías. Especially people who are forty or more years old enjoy going every afternoon to one of these places, meeting their friends, and having one of the great Andean refreshments, chicha or frutillada. They may also play cards or just spend their time telling jokes and sharing the news of the day.

These place let people rest after the work day and before going home. They are places of transition from one to the other.

Having a Good Time in a Chicheria (Photo: Walter Coraza)
Having a Good Time in a Chicheria (Photo: Walter Coraza)

The women called mamachas, who are traditional women who run the chicherías or picanterías, put out a stick with a red flag, often a red plastic bag, which lets people know there is chicha and picantes. They place the sticks and flags in visible place, like on the building’s eaves.

Inside the picanterías one encounters happiness and joy, as well as love. People have fun together. At the end of the evening, some of the people are a bit drunk and little by little they go home.

In addition, every afternoon the mamachas prepare a special dish or snack to offertheir customers. These dishes are called picantes. The dish can be a delicious main course of ollucos (papa lisas) or boiled potatoes with hot sauce. The majority of the offerings are like these, typical Andean foods.

In some picanterías, besides the snack, they also prepare and sell the famous “extras”, main dishes heaped high with lots of food and part fo the tradition of Cuzco. People make the food go down with big glasses of chicha or frutillada (strawberry chicha).

These picanterías are known by the older persons as sites of fun. There they play every day a game called sapo, a game in which everyone participates and makes bets. They play for glasses and sometimes pitchers of chicha.

A Great Tradicional Meal in a Picanteria (Photo: Walter Coraza)
A Great Tradicional Meal in a Picanteria (Photo: Walter Coraza)

The game consists of trying to toss coins or tokes from a certain distance towards the box in which you find a toad (sapo) with its mouth open waiting for a coin. The person who wins is he who gets the coin in the mouth of the toad. He is crowned as a king. The whole afternoon is like a fiesta. He drinks chicha and doesn’t have to pay. The owners of the chichería give him lots of glasses of chicha.

The owners of the picanterías give warm attention to their customers. While earning money is important, their main goal is making sure the people in their chichería are enjoying themselves and having fun.

The prices of the chicha, frutillada and extras are economical. The glass of chicha costs 0.50 S/ (0.14 $ US), the frutillada 1 S/ (0.28$US) and the extras from 7-8 S/ (2.5-2.8 $ US)

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