Posted by: Jessie Kwak | November 11, 2009

Midweek Snack: The Peruvian Set Menu Explained

Welcome to the Midweek Snack, a weekly feature where Rob and I will explore Peruvian cuisine. Each week this might take the form of a restaurant review, a featured regional dish, an interview with a local chef, or a recipe. From time to time we’ll also write broader pieces, which we’ll call “Peruvian Cuisine 101.”

In today’s episode: Peruvian Cuisine 101: How to Order the Set Menu

The set menu is everywhere in Peru, and it’s the best-value option when eating out. Most little hole-in-the-wall joints will only serve a set menu, and will run S/.4-6 (US $1.40-2.00) for your meal, but even some nicer restaurants with a full a la carte list will often have a set menu for S/.8-12 (US $2.80-4.00).

So what does “set menu” mean? It’s an all-inclusive meal with an appetizer, main course, and beverage. It took us a few tries to get the hang of set menu places, so we put together this little tutorial to help other travelers out.

A pair of restaurant signs in Huanchaco Peru

Set Menu: Terms you need to know

  • entrada – appetizer
  • segunda – main course
  • postre – dessert
  • refresco – a beverage of whatever type they feel like giving you
  • sopa de la casa – soup of the house
  • platas a la carta – dishes that aren’t included in the set menu
Stuffed avocado appetizer at a restaurant in Lima

Could life be better? Stuffed avocado appetizer at a restaurant in Lima.

Step 1. Look at the menu board outside the door and choose your meal. Most tiny places won’t have a printed menu, so decide what you want before sitting down. There may be two categories on the sign—entrada and segunda—so choose one of each. If there’s only one one list you can pretty safely assume that the entrada will be soup of some sort.

When the waiter comes, act fast. They’re accustomed to customers who already know what they want, and so service can seem a bit abrupt. Say that you’d like the menu, and tell them your choice from the sign outside. Sit back and relax.

Menu at the Restaurante El Pacifico in Huanchaco

The menu at Restaurante El Pacifico in Huanchaco

If there is no posted menu, the waiter may rattle off a short list of choices. After two months here , I still don’t recognize the dishes they’re offering me most of the time. Sometimes I ask, but mostly just pick whatever sounds most interesting. It’s all been pretty good so far.

To demonstrate this technique, Rob and I went out to lunch at a delicious little S/.4 menu place in Huanchaco, Restaurante El Pacífico. We really sacrifice for you folks.

We both ordered the pollo escabecho and a jar of limeade to share. Delicious.

Polle echabado at Restaurante el Pacifico in Huanchaco

Pollo Escharchado and limeade for lunch. Yum!





  1. Getting hungry just reading about it. Those stuffed avocados…mmmh… that Menu Economico brought a smile to me…what do they really mean? Fast service? Not much food on the plate? Recycled stuff?

  2. Hi Fida–thanks for reading! “Menu Economico” pretty much means: cheap, fast and delicious! Portions in Peru are pretty intense–I can’t finish my meal more than half the time, and I try my hardest.

    • Hi Jessie, thank for putting up this helpful information. I will be traveling to Peru on 5/11/11 and would like to know what are the Economico restaurants around Miraflores.

      If you have names that you have been too.

      I would appreciated very much.


      • Hi Irene–I hope you enjoy your trip! The first step in finding an Economico restaurant is to leave Miraflores. If you have some time in Lima, we wrote some articles about the city on Unpaved South America. Magdalena was a beautiful neighborhood (we stayed with Scott at Tambopacaya, a backpacker’s hostel in that neighborhood.

        Miraflores is a nice neighborhood, and it’s very comfortable for foreigners who are new to the country, but it’s quite expensive and not very true to Peru. Have fun!

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