Other than the cluster of restaurants around Pasaje Nicolás de Ribera El Viejo and Pasaje Santa Rosa, central Lima’s restaurants are spread out. That said, it is worth taking a cab to some of them, especially the classics in Pueblo Libre.
Antigua Taberna Queirolo (San Martín 1090, tel. 01/460-0441, www.antiguatabernaqueirolo.com , 10 a.m.–1o p.m. daily, US$8) is a charming Spanish-style café that has been open since 1880. This is a good place to come in the afternoon or evenings to sample pisco (or fortified wine), made in the winery next door. There is a slim but good menu that includes salted ham sandwiches, plates of sausage, and steamed fish.
Opening onto the lawns of the Museo Larco  is the tasteful Café del Museo (Bolívar 1515, tel. 01/462-4757, www.museolarco.org , 9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, US$10). Renato Peralta leads the small kitchen and sends out precisely flavored, light plates of ceviche, rocoto relleno, and chicharrones.
Sandwiches and salads, as well as truffles, cakes, and mousses, are available at Cocolat Café (Pasaje Nicolas de Rivera el Viejo 121, tel. 01/427-4471, 8 a.m.–6:30 p.m. daily, US$4–7). Nearby is the historic El Cordano (Ancash 202, tel. 01/427-0181, 8 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, US$6–12), a century-old establishment that was a favored haunt of writers and intellectuals. Though its facade is a bit tattered, this is an excellent place to come for a US$3 pisco sour or a filling midday meal.
If you are staying in Pueblo Libre, or visiting the Museo Larco , eat lunch in the neighborhood. El Bolivariano (Pasaje Santa Rosa 291, tel. 01/261-9565, www.elbolivariano.com , 10 a.m.–10 p.m. daily, US$10) is a time-honored Lima  restaurant in an elegant republican-style home that is visited mainly by Peruvians. The menu includes Peruvian classics such as seco de cabrito (stewed goat) and arroz con pato (rice with duck).
More intimate than its sister restaurant in Breña, La Choza Náutica (La Mar 635, tel. 01/261-5537, www.lachozanautica.com , 10 a.m.–8 p.m. daily) has excellent ceviche and seafood.
OK, it is a chain, but Pardo’s (Pasaje Santa Rosa 153, tel. 01/427-2301, www.pardoschicken.com.pe , noon–11 p.m. daily, US$10–12) still serves the best spit-roasted chicken, with affordable lunch menus and open-air tables right off the Plaza Mayor. It also serves anticuchos, brochettes, and chicharrones.
In the same pedestrian walkway, T’anta (Pasaje Nicolás de Rivera el Viejo 142-148, tel. 01/428-3115, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun., US$7–14), a Gaston Acurio restaurant, serves up refined plates of Peruvian favorites lomo saltado and recoto relleno, as well as creative new inventions like ají de gallina ravioli.
A new and more upscale spot is Los Virtrales de Gemma (Ucayali 332, tel. 01/426-7796, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Sat., US$10), in a restored colonial home one block from the Plaza Mayor. The hardworking owners have created an excellent and varied menu of Peruvian and international food.
Though a bit faded from its past glory, L’Eau Vive (Ucayali 370, tel. 01/427-5612, 12:30–3 p.m. and 7:30–9:30 p.m. Mon.–Sat., US$7) still serves up wholesome and delicious lunch menús prepared by a French order of nuns. Dinners feature cocktails, the singing of “Ave María,” and an eclectic selection of international entrées.
In Breña, La Choza Náutica (Breña 204, off first block of Arica, tel. 01/423-8087, www.lachozanautica.com , 11 a.m.–1 a.m., US$9–11), is a former hole-in-the-wall cebichería that has become more upscale and successful over the years. It serves special ceviches (including an “erotic” version) and tiraditos in huge portions.
When in central Lima, do not miss the opportunity to sample chifa (Chinese-Peruvian cuisine) at one of the largest Chinatowns  in South America. There are at least a dozen places spread along the town’s two main streets, Capón and Paruro.
The best known of Lima’s Chinatown is Wa Lok (Paruro 864, tel. 01/427-2750, 9 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, US$12–17) serving more than 20 types of dim sum. Try ja kao dim sum, a mixture of pork and shrimp with rice, or siu mai de chanco, shredded pork with mushroom and egg pasta.
A good, less expensive alternative to Wa Lok, with a more elegant dining room, is Salon Capon (Paruro 819, tel. 01/426-9286, 9 a.m.–11 p.m. Mon.–Sat., US$8–10), serving Peking duck, langostinos Szechuan (sautéed shrimps with ají), and chuleta kin tou (grilled sweet pork). Both have lovely display cases of after-lunch desserts.
The Hare Krishna–operated Govinda (Callao 480, tel. 01/426-1956, 9:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), the country’s tried-and-true vegetarian chain, has a varied, inventive menu with pizzas, sandwiches, yogurts, and veggie Chinese food.