Restaurante El Viejo John is a very popular restaurant in Sabaneta that specializes in traditional Colombian food. It’s a great place to experience Colombian food including Antioquian specialties like bandeja paisa.

El Viejo John has many traditional Colombian dishes on the menu including bandeja paisa, buñuelos, cazuela de mariscos (seafood casserole), empanadas, mondongo soup, pescado frito (fried fish) sancocho soup and tamales.

The portions at El Viejo John are huge and the prices are reasonable. I frequently have needed to ask them to pack some of the leftovers to take home, as it has been too much to eat.

Many of the staff working at El Viejo John are long-term employees. Also, the décor of the restaurant is quite rustic and is consistent with paisa traditions. In addition, El Viejo John is located next to Parque Sabaneta, which is arguably the nicest park in the Medellin and Aburrá Valley metro area.

BBQ ribs at El Viejo John

BBQ ribs at El Viejo John

My Experiences at El Viejo John

I first discovered El Viejo John about five years ago. And since that time, I have eaten there many times, particularly in the past nearly three years I have been living in Sabaneta.

I have gone to El Viejo John for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is a particularly popular restaurant for lunch and dinner. And at times you may have to wait for a table, particularly on the weekends.

The last time I went with a friend who hadn’t been to El Viejo John before. I had one of the bandejas for 16,500 pesos and he had the large BBQ ribs for 29,500 pesos. The BBQ ribs is one of the dishes that El Viejo John is famous for. And my friend said they were perfectly cooked and very tasty.

Bandeja paisa at El Viejo John

Bandeja paisa at El Viejo John

The Food Menu

Restaurante El Viejo John has a big menu with chicken, meats, fish, bandejas, sancochos and many other types of typical Colombian and Antioquian cuisine.

Most entrees on the menu are accompanied with French fries or beans and a small salad.

There are over 30 different meats on the menu ranging from Filet mignon to churrasco to BBQ ribs that are priced from 19,000 to 33,000 pesos.

Róbalo Valeska - white fish baked with shrimp, mushrooms and covered with cheese

Róbalo Valeska – white fish baked with shrimp, mushrooms and covered with cheese

Also, there are over 20 different fish dishes on the menu ranging in price from 22,500 to 34,000 pesos. I particularly like the Róbalo Valeska, which is a Snook white fish baked with shrimp, mushrooms and covered with cheese and costs 33,000 pesos.

The 11 different bandejas on the menu are priced from 16,500 to 22,550 pesos. The seven different sancocho soups are priced from 11,000 to 19,000 pesos (three of these are only available on the weekend). And there are many other options on the menu and many additional sides you can add to the entrees.

Furthermore, there is a breakfast menu at El Viejo John. The breakfast menu includes eggs with several different sides as options and ranges in price from 7,000 to 14,500 pesos.

Inside El Viejo John at lunchtime

Inside El Viejo John at lunchtime

The Drink Menu

On the drink menu at El Viejo John there are several natural fruit juices including borojó, grape, guanábana, lulo, mango, maracuyá, milo, orange, strawberry, tomate de árbol as well as natural lemonade for 4,500 pesos each.

In addition, they have sodas for 2,500 pesos and several different coffees and also tea. Also, are 10 different beers on the menu ranging in price from 4,000 to 8,000 pesos.

Furthermore, there are 13 different alcohols on the menu including a couple wines, sangria, aguardiente, rum, and tequila.  The shots or cups are priced at 4,000 to 9,000 pesos. A medium bottle range in price from 25,000 to 85,000 pesos. And a full bottle ranges in price from 55,000 to 180,000 pesos.

How to Get to El Viejo John

Restaurante El Viejo John is located less than a block from the popular Parque Sabaneta in Sabaneta.

An easy way to get to Parque Sabaneta is to take the Medellín metro Line A south to the Sabaneta metro station. And the Sabeneta station is only about 10 minutes from the Poblado metro station.

Parque Sabaneta in Sabaneta

Parque Sabaneta in Sabaneta

Parque Sabaneta is located about a 10-minute walk east from the Sabaneta station. In addition, there are many people walking on the streets to/from the metro station. So, it’s relatively safe during the day and even after dark – but not too late.

Also, there are frequent and inexpensive metro buses that use Civica cards that cost only 2,200 pesos, which run from the Sabaneta metro station to and from the park. Most noteworthy, these buses don’t drop you at the park, they drop you about a block from the park. And the integrated fare including both the metro train and Sabaneta metro bus is only 2,925 pesos.

Metro buses at the Sabaneta metro station

Metro buses at the Sabaneta metro station

In addition, there is a taxi stand at the Sabaneta metro station, which normally has taxis available. Furthermore, any taxi driver in Medellín will know where Parque Sabaneta is located. It’s also normally pretty easy to catch a taxi at the park.


Address: Carrera 45 #70 Sur-42, Sabaneta

Hours: Monday – Sunday: 7 am – 10:00 pm.

The Best Colombia Food (Comida Típica) in Medellín

On the Medellin Guru site we have looked at eight of the best Colombian food restaurants in Medellín metro area with good comida típica – traditional Colombian dishes:

  1. El Rancherito (with nine locations)
  2. Hacienda (with six locations)
  3. Hato Viejo (with four locations)
  4. Mondongo’s (with two locations)
  5. El Viejo John (with one location in Sabaneta)
  6. Ajiacos y Mondongos (with one location)
  7. La Hija de Stella (with one location in Sabaneta)
  8. El Peregrino (with one location in Sabaneta)
Inside El Viejo John at night

Inside El Viejo John at night

The Bottom Line: El Viejo John in Sabaneta

El Viejo John is considered one of the best restaurants in Sabaneta by locals. It’s a very popular restaurant with good typical Colombian dishes. In addition, the portions are big for many of the menu options. So, if you are a light eater you may want to share.

The bottom line is El Viejo John serves paisa cuisine at its best. The ambiance is energetic, the decor is charmingly rustic and the service is usually very good. The biggest competition of El Viejo John is nearby El Peregrino, which is famous for its buñuelos but also has some very good Colombian food.

El Viejo John is a restaurant that is typically busy and full of groups proving that this place is one worth trying. The flavors are usually a cut above many other restaurants in the metro area that serve typical Colombian food.

On weekends, holiday and on Tuesdays (due to the popularity on Tuesdays of the nearby Iglesia de Santa Ana) there is typically a line for a table. So, get there early. Also, note they only accept cash, no credit cards.

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