Tempting Tastes Around the US Celebrate Peru's Bicentennial

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday August 2, 2021
Originally published on July 28, 2021

Peruvians worldwide are commemorating 200 years of independence. Though a visit to South America's northwest coast may be a bit out of reach these days, there are exceptional places stateside to celebrate the first independent state of the Spanish monarchy.

But before we knock back too many Pisco sours, let's remember Peru still has several benchmarks to reach regarding LGBTQ rights. While homosexuality is legal and protections are in place for housing, gender recognition, and employment discrimination, Peru has yet to legalize same-sex marriage, and transgender people often face discrimination. The country's fifth president in as many years, Pedro Castillo, has flip-flopped on LGBTQ issues, some say to get elected.

Still, Peru is often a bucket list destination, and the country held its first Pride event in June 2019 with the hopes of bringing more visibility to the country's LGBTQ population. Peru's World Heritage sites (Machu Picchu, Cusco, Manu National Park, and many more) traditional textiles and cuisine offer travelers an immersive, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and Llama Trip, the country's first LGBTQ tour provider, will get you there in style.

[READ MORE: Two Homelands Converge for LGBTQ Cuban Americans in Miami's Little Havana]

But you can also find a taste of Peru here in the U.S. Here are some of our favorite Peruvian restaurants:

POPULAR at PUBLIC Hotel, New York City

Leave it to mastermind hotelier and former Studio 54 co-founder Ian Schrager to reimagine PUBLIC Hotel's signature restaurant into a lush Peruvian botanical garden. The enticing backdrop gives context to chef Diego Muñoz's dynamic menu and cocktails, which pop with refreshing ingredients from his homeland.

"Peru is more than a territory with beautiful biodiversity and landscapes, it is also its people who create the country's culture every single day," says Muñoz. "Our menu presents a progression of dishes that are quintessentially Peruvian and universally beloved in my homeland. They represent a story of migrations, cultural meldings and mutual respect. These dishes also remind us that the most delicious food is 'popular,' our restaurant's name, meaning 'of the people.' We look forward to sharing our joy with New Yorkers and visitors to the city."

Standout dishes include citrus-forward ceviche, loaded with briny snapper, octopus, red onion, sweet potato and two types of corn, and sticky prawns with chow mein noodles and toasted peanuts. Or choose to spend a leisurely weekend sipping hand-crafted cocktails and listening to live music, including Peru's most famous instrument, the charango, while indulging in huevos con salchicha — soft-scrambled eggs with spicy pork sausage and fried yuca so pillowy you could take a nap on it.

Chef Diego is also responsible for the cocktail menu, which includes a range of drinks made with pisco, a South American brandy, and lesser-known beverages, such as chica morada, which is made from purple corn.

For a queer-centric nightcap, head to the nearby LGBTQ bars that have managed to survive the pandemic, including The Boiler Room, Phoenix, and Nowhere.

Kausa, New York City

Hell's Kitchen has emerged as New York City's LGBTQ hub, and although the past year has proved challenging for many businesses, others have emerged to bring new life into the neighborhood. Case in point: Kausa's Peruvian cuisine and pisco bar. Kausa has quickly become a local favorite, drawing crowds to its outside seating to people watch and indulge in sharable bites like empanadas along with various ceviche incarnations and a carnivore's dream platter that includes pollo a la brasa, anticucho, chuleta, hanger steak, and chorizo.

Hell's Kitchen still has plenty of LGBTQ bars to check out pre- or post-meal, with more slated to open in the coming months. DBL (Dive Bar Lounge) packs a crowd with plenty of outdoor seating, while Q, though short in name, delivers a long list of entertainment from drag and cabaret to a roster of the city's best DJs.

La Mar by Gastón Acurio, Miami

Miami is known for its diversity of Latin cultures, including a large Cuban American presence, but Peruvian influences can be felt throughout the city, too. Head to the Mandarin Oriental for a modern take on Peruvian cuisine that still honors centuries-old culinary traditions.

Choose from 15 different ceviches, a fresh take on lomo saltado (stir-fried beef tenderloin with red onions, tomatoes, soy sauce, and cilantro), a tart yuzu curd for dessert, and other delicious options.

For a sophisticated nightcap, head to nearby Redbar or Lost Boy for impeccably made classic cocktails — also great for happy hour.

Rosty, Los Angeles

For Peruvian comfort food, look no further than Maritza Gomez's homage to her mother's restaurants in Lima. Wait for the weekend (available Friday through Sunday) to order causa de camaron acevichadas — layered smashed potatoes with shrimp, a creamy rocoto pepper sauce, boiled egg, and black olives. For another hearty dish, try the seco de carne — a beef stew with a cilantro sauce and Peruvian spices served with rice and beans.

Ready to dance the night away? Head to Club Chico, which just reopened on Los Angeles' legendary Sunset Boulevard.

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at www.wexlerwrites.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.