The name refers to a place where spicy food is sold (picante means spicy), even if all meals are not necessarily hot. The origin of these eateries can be traced back to at least 19th-century Arequipa , where artists, bohemians, and foodies would gather for a bite during the day—partying, or on a Sunday lunch. Picanterías still hold much of Arequipa’s culinary essence. So, if you are a foodie and willing to dig into the real thing, you should consider going to, at least, a couple of places; they only open for lunch.
Sabor Caymeño (Plaza de Armas de Cayma 112, tel. 054/25-1362, 6 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 4 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat., 3 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun., US$3–8) is probably one of the last genuine picanterías in the city, located in the upper district of Cayma. The unusual opening hours are because the featured dish of this place is adobo—macerated pieces of pork meat in corn beer, served in a soup-like sauce in which you dip fresh, crusty bread—a typical meal that people eat after a long night of partying and drinks, and this is one of the best places to try it. But this eatery, owned by friendly Doña María Meza, who is still in charge of the cooking, also has caldo (meat broth), costillares (fried ribs with potatoes), and smaller appetizers. As in any other picantería, the place is open as long as there is food.
La Lucila (Grau 147, Sachaca, tel. 054/20-5348, http://pincaterialalucial.com , US$3–6), located outside Arequipa  in the rural town of Sachaca, is without doubt the most celebrated of all picanterías, due to her owner, Lucila Salas Valencia, a living legend of Arequipa’s culinary heritage. Born in 1917, Doña Lucila was in charge of her business until just some years ago, cooking in a old, artisan-made kitchen, where you could still see guinea pigs running in between your legs, and food was cooked over a wood stove. Things have changed of course, and now, La Lucila is quite trendy but trying to preserve tradition in the food-making. Specialties include: rocoto relleno (baked, stuffed bell pepper–like chilis), duck, camarones (freshwater prawns) in different versions (fried, stewed, or in chowder), cuy chactado (deep-fried guinea pig), and a different soup for every day of the week.
La Nueva Palomino (Pasaje Leoncio Prado 122, Yanahuara, tel. 054/25-3500, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun., US$5–10) is a good example of a picantería that has been in business for three generations. The Palomino family, made up of savvy cooks—grandmother, mother, and granddaughter—has opened other restaurants with similar names (La Palomino, for example, is on the corner of Leoncio Prado and Misti; it is much more traditional and owned by a cousin). The menu includes boiled lima beans with mint, choclo con queso (boiled corn with chunks of cheese), chupe de camarones (freshwater prawn chowder), pastel de papas (baked potato cake), and another 50 dishes with lamb, beef, duck and chicken. Portions are huge, so we highly suggest ordering a few dishes and sharing.
Tradición Arequipeña (Dolores 111, tel. 054/42-6467, noon–7 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., noon–8:30 p.m. Fri., noon–midnight Sat., US$5–10) is less traditional but still well reputed for its food. The menu includes adobo, 11 versions of camarones, and a range of chupes (soups). Food is served either indoors under bamboo ceilings or in a cactus-lined garden. On Saturday at 5 p.m., there is a live band, including an orchestra.
Last but not least, the more-than-hundred-year-old Sol de Mayo (Jerusalén 207, Yanahuara, tel. 054/25-4148, www.restaurantsoldemayo.com , 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun., US$5–9) is the result of a long road of transformation from a hole-in-the-wall to a sophisticated restaurant. Still a picantería at heart (that’s why it’s included in this list), this eatery is probably the most popular with tourists. Highly recommended dishes are the ocopa con queso frito, rocoto relleno, and anything with camarones. The service here is excellent, with the waiters literally running from table to table!