Don’t let the name of this cozy little artisan café scare you away. The Ayahuasca Cafe is named after the ayahuasca vine, a vision-inducing shamanic medicine plant of the South American jungle that has the very real ability to heal people on a mental, spiritual and sometimes, a physical level. The ayahuasca brew itself tastes horrible, though, and you’d never want to associate it with food. I must admit when I first saw the name of the café, I thought about the ayahuasca brew and immediately lost my appetite. But no worries, the food at The Ayahuasca Café is home-cooked, healthy and incredibly tasty. After one meal at this café, all you’ll think about is how yummy the food is.
This café is the perfect fusion of everything enjoyable about Pisac – fresh, local food, truly hand crafted art, (unlike many of the factory-made things being sold by those calling themselves ‘artesanos’ in the market), a chill atmosphere and a very welcoming, gringo-friendly attitude. Although the owners speak only Spanish, the place is decorated inside and out with thick, gorgeous carved wood signage displaying nearly perfect English. The wide-ranging menu is offered in both Spanish and English. A lot of establishments in Peru use bad English on signage and in printed menus, but the professionalism and attention to detail of The Ayahuasca Café doesn’t end here.
The place is tiny; the front room only has four tables, a couple of small couches and a coffee table. For the weary traveler, this place is chill-out heaven, offering a respite from the bright sun. Jazzy music with an international flair plays on the speaker system. Daniela, the owner, always asks me if the music ¨is good for inspiration¨ when I sit for hours at one of the little tables, writing in my journal.
The interior of the restaurant doorway is hand-painted with a colorful bird pattern that is reminiscent of Inka designs. In Peru, it can be difficult to find a perfectly clean, comfortable and visually pleasing eatery with good service, so this gem is not to be overlooked. Although not advertised, if you have an international phone card, they might allow you to use their nice cordless phone for free if you’re a customer. When not taking an order or cooking food, the owners are busy making art while hanging out in the back room.
The walls are a warm yellow color and decorated with unique items for sale – Shipibo ayahuasca tapestries in all sizes, visionary ayahuasca prints and paintings made by local shamans and a prominent Artesano display in the middle of the room is loaded down with local hand-made jewelry, carved items and small sculptures. From carved poles hangs a display of t-shirts painted with a colorful array of trippy little dwarves. One window is loaded with hunks of natural incense of copal, myrrh and palo santo.
The café con leche is rich and piping hot, the juices freshly squeezed and/or blended and the burgers are delectable, served on a quarter round of fresh, wood-fired whole wheat bread, and dripping with mashed avocado. From vegetarian specialties like spaghetti pesto to the sweet pankekes (crepes) offered for dessert, the menu has something enjoyable for everyone. After your meal, if you want to leave your giant backpack behind, this is a safe spot to do so. The owners will gladly hold your pack while you make the roughly 2-hour arduous climb up the mountain to visit the spectacular Pisac ruins.
The nicest thing about this café is that although it definitely has a new-age shamanic vibe, the proprietors never bring it up – unless a customer asks. This laid-back attitude is refreshing and welcoming – mostly everything in Peru is too aggressive with sales pitches. The prices are very fair (about $3 US for a three course meal with a hot drink) and the portions generous – most gringo friendly places overcharge for less than spectacular food.