Guatemala: Antigua food? Forget it. Go to nearby FABULOUS San Lucas Sacatepéquez
On my first visti to Antigua, I did my due diligance and searched the web for where and what to eat.Despite promising leads, it was mainly over-priced toursit slop.
I took my Gautemalan family, and the member who is food savy took pity on mye said "Vamos a San Lucas Sacatepéquez."
It is about 15-20 minutes uphill from Antigua ... when we returned after dark, the lights of Antigua glittered like jewels in the distance.
If you want typcial Guatemalan food ... where real Guatemalans eat .. you MUST go to the marvelous mercado de San Lucas Sacatepéquez.
It is packed with restaurants. The food is AMAZING.
Just when I decided to take food photos, my camera broke and it seems not one place in the country has the part. So these pictures came from googling.
There is one large building where there must be at least 50 eateries. Many specializing in churrascos. caldos, atoles and everything else Guatemalan
Check out these mouth-watering photos
There are pots of oil where rellonos are being fried.
There are many stands of ladies maiking tortillas
We were full from an awful lunch, so we only had
- Atole blanco
- Atole maiz
- Abodada pork tamale.
The pork tamale had a red sauce on it. It was topped with the best grilled green onions I have ever had ... ever. At first the thick stacks looked like asparagus. The photos above are good pictures of the onions.
The atole maiz was similarily the best I have ever had ... sweet with deep corn flavor it was topped with fresh corn kernals.
I just had a taste of that, since I ordered the Atole blanco, since I never had that before. We all orderd it with chile. Tho this is made of corn it looks like cream of wheat. It was served in a bowl and had a sprinkly of black beans and a drizzle of pepper sauce. A fresh lime and salt came on the side to be added. This was good, but the regular atole stole the show.
The tostadas were good too. In Quatemala this means a tostada topped with a think smear of guacamole, this slices of white onions and crumbled queso fresca.
I really wish we had eaten here and I can't recommend it enough. We ate at a place called Tita's, but they said they are all good, especially the joint accross from Tita's for chruassco.
Sounds nice. Usually my flights to Guatemala City are late in the day, and GC is an urban rathole in my opinion, I want to get to Antigua before dark for safe haven. The location you describe -15 - 29 minutes from Antigua, where is it in reference from Antigua to Atitlan?
I had to step away, so you only read my post when it was half done. Mever would have guessed that anyone would be up this time AND reding a b urried board. I'm sorry, I'm just not getting over Central America being lumped with South America.
Take another look at the photos of the food.
I also had a great map that I will try to find again tommorrow as I am hitting the wall right now and need to sleep ... good thing for one restaurant in Antigua as I was about to give it a scathing report ... maybe I'll calm down by tommorrow.
Anyway, that post should read 20 minutes. I don't think it is near the lake and have a vague impression it is in the opposite direction.
It's about 20 minutes either driving or taking a bus. In terms of time, it's probably halfway between GC and Antigua (depending, of course, on where in GC you start). Not sure what you mean by safety issues. There are always safety issues in Guatemala if you're taking a chicken bus. Do you mean safety issues at the food stalls? If so, not at all. There's a large building with dozens of stalls in it and additional stalls along the street. All of this is just a hundred yards or so off the main highway. In fact, there used to be food stalls in the middle of the main highway but they became so popular and caused such traffic jams that the authorities gave the vendors their own space just off the road. It's no more dangerous than any other mercado in Guate.
Safety are lingering images of physical violence in this hauntingly beautiful country. Our visit will be only one day from a cruise ship port -- shuttle from ship to Antigua and several hours on our own. Having a wonderful local meal often makes these short forays memorable and you have provided many interesting possibilities, though it looks like we will need to thread carefully around the tourist schlock.
If you've never been to Antigua before and you only have a few hours to spend there, I wouldn't spend them traveling to what is essentially a bus-depot town just to get a few authentic dishes. Antigua is enchanting and there are quite a few wonderful restaurants. They may be French or Italian rather than Guatemalan, but I'd recommend having a very good meal and enjoying the town rather than trying to search out authenticity which can be difficult to find outside of mercados or private homes.
Just on our first read here, it looks like Il Pescador Italiano and Hectors might stand out, but I guess there is part of me that is looking more for something actually Guatamalan -- not wanting to come this far for pizza or quiche. What would you do if faced with this one day challenge? You are obviously very into and very knowledgable and we have few to zero dietary limitations. They even make tacos out of eyeball muscle where we come from in California.
First, let me point out that I assume you are addressing your comments and requests to rworange. She seems to have stepped away from the boards for a while. I haven’t done the amount of research she has, but I have spent some time in Antigua and, in fact, just returned a few days ago. My opinion in a number of instances differs from hers.
For example, I like El Pescador: their pastas are well prepared and their pizza is very good. For a restaurant so named, they don’t have a lot of fish on the menu. In fact, the last two times I was there the only seafood they had was shrimp. But in my mind, to say that El Pescador “would be one of the top restaurants” in “any major metropolitan city in the world” is hyperbole. It’s good. I wish it were in my neighborhood. I’m not sure I would cross town for it. At least, not my town (NYC).
I also disagree with her about La Fonda de la Calle Real. Yes, it has a lot of tourists; yes, the service can be painfully slow and sometimes inept. But it seems from what I read here that rworange only had breakfast there and breakfast isn’t what La Fonda is known for. I know Guatemalan’s born and raised, now living out of the country, who head there immediately upon their return for a taste of some of the foods they remember from their childhood. The place has gone downhill a bit since I was first there more than twenty years ago, but it’s still one-stop shopping for many of the traditional dishes of Guatemala.
Here is a link to a Web site rworange posted elsewhere that shows menus from quite a few restaurants in Antigua:
You see that there are a few other restaurants that claim to serve Guatemalan cuisine. I’ve never been to any of them (other than La Fonda, that is).
A place that might interest you is La Cuevita de Los Urquizú a 2a. Calle Oriente No. 9, just behind Capuchinas. Open to the street, they have large cauldrons of soups and stews with a menu that changes regularly and is written on a blackboard in the doorway. Next to the cauldrons is a glass cabinet of sides, drinks, sweets, and snacks. You order your food and take it to the back courtyard where there are communal tables and you can sit down to eat. It’s been described as a Guatemalan cafeteria, and I guess that’s as good a description as any. This place used to be very much for the locals. It has since become known and the prices have gone up, but the food is still good and it may be as close as you can come to the mercado experience without actually heading to the mercado (and Antigua's mercado isn't that great, anyway).
Joan N, I was responding to you but see why there was confusion. I can tell by the way you write I will get some very good tips for our all too short stay in Antigua and appreciate what you just offered. Thanks for the follow-up. Anything like a street food snacking route you might recommend for this town?
Let me think about a "street food snacking route." I may, or may not, be able to come up with one. The problem with Antigua is that the street addresses don't correspond to the street signs. So although I may tell you that Hector's is at 1ra. Calle Poniente No. 9 A, and you might possibly be able to find it on a map with that information, it's unlikely you're going to find a street sign that says "1ra. Calle Poniente." And if you asked someone in town where to find it, they'd tell you "across the street from La Merced closer to the mercado."
Knowing where you might start could also make a big difference. If you were being dropped off at the bus station, for instance, you'd be right near the mercado and I might suggest stopping in whereas if you were being left off at the Plaza Mayor, the mercado local might not be worth the detour.
Joan N: Great menu link and I can figure out quite a bit of the Spanish only menus (I know Italian), but can you please list some of the key menu item or unique regional names we should look for. I saw "pupusas" and not sure what it is and that one I could not translate.
And when the menu claims something is an "especial" is there anything too bizarre that might be a Guatemalan specialty that may not be mainstream (like buzzard giblets or something?) to also watch out for. Thanks again.
A pupusa is more Salvadoran than Guatemalan. It's basically a thick tortilla stuffed with any number of fillings. The pupusas I've seen in Guatemala, unlike those in salvador, are made with a tortilla folded in half--perhaps because Guatemalan tortillas tend to be thinner than Salvadoran ones.
One thing that can be a bit confusing in Guate is that they have familiar names for something we'd call something else. For example, what is called an enchilada in Guate, is what we would call a tostada. An enchilada is likely to have many different toppings piled onto a crisp tortilla; what they call a tostada would probably be topped only with a smear of tomato sauce and a sprinkling of cheese.
Pepián is a traditional stew that can be found both in restaurants and on the street. It was originally made with turkey but is now most often made with chicken in a sauce thickened with pumpkin seeds.
Paches, which you'd probably find only at a street stand if at all, is a tamal made with potato instead of masa.
I'm really not qualified to attempt to write a glossary of Guatemalan food. These are just a few thoughts prompted by my most recent trip. But if you have any other specific questions, I'd be happy to try to answer them if I can.
As for oddities, as you might be able to see in the photo below (not taken in Antigua, but at a market in Comalapa), the locals don't let any part of an animal go to waste. But I don't recall coming across anything more out-of-the-ordinary (at least, recently) than tripe. Many years ago you could find in the Petén a stew of tepesquintle, a rat-sized rodent; but I believe it's now illegal to serve them. And rworange posted a thread on home-cooking an iguana--but I've never seen it either on menus, in mercados, or in private homes.
I am going to back away a bit on my La Fonda de la Calle Real position.
This article about the 35th anniversary of the original restaurant writes that the restaurant where I ate breakfast is owned by different family members.
If I was the owner of the original restaurant I would demand they change the restaurant name. So if anyone must try La Fonda, then walk across the street to the original.
I will give the other location a try in that case .. but if I have another miserable meal, I'm holding you accountable for this one Joan :-) I went to the breakfast to satisfy my own curiosity since so many people hold it in high regard.
Even so, after having slammed the restaurant, I feel it is only fair to see if the original is any better.
Rather a heavy burden that, don't you think?
Never been to the across-the-street La Fonda. And I don't disagree with a lot of what you have to say about the place. On my most recent trip to Guate I spent five days in Antigua and never once felt the least urge to go there. Nonetheless, for those who will be spending very limited time in the country and would like to try to get some idea of what traditional foods are like and to have that experience where you sit at a table, are handed a menu, and the food is served by waiters on real plates--La Fonda is is one of the few games in town. But don't get your expectations up.
Did you take your trip yet? If not I just got back from three weeks iin Antigua and have some fresh suggestions.
You might consider San Felipe de Jesus which is a five minute cab ride from Antigua. It is prettier than San Lucus and filled with interesting thigs to do and lots fo good typical Guatemalan food. My email address is on my profile page. If you are interested in some reliable cab drivers I have some phone numbers.
Here's a recent post.
Eating in San Felipe de Jesus five minutes from Antigua
As much as I love San Lucas, due to the limited time you have in Antigua, I wouldn't make this a stop ... only because it is just too much of a trek.
Also, as Joan has said somewhere in this thread, Antigua is a mind-blowing beauty of a town. It is probaby one of the most beuatiful cities I've ever visited. San Lucas is on the gritty side ... great authentic food and color ... but if I only had a day, I'l choose Antigua.
A better thread to read is this one devoted to Antigua
The town is quite tiny. Coming from SF, I was surprised that the Central Park is not so much a tourist trap area, There are good restaurants and cafe surroundingg it and the prices are not outrageous.
Places I would definately make stops
1. Dona Gavi for her fabulous ice creams in tropical fruit flavors and flavors such as corn, beet, avocado. They are a lovely thing. Also she is into herbal medicine and an interesting person to talk to. A lot of what is in the shop isn't obvious about being related to health issues. Get some of the fabulous white honey. It is a great gift to take home.
2. San Antonio Bakery - As good as it gets for baked goods and a way to sample Guatemalan bakery items at their best.
3. La Casa del Flan Antigüeño for the unique flan like nothing anywhere else. If you see flan Antigüeño on any menu, I'd choose that for dessert.
4. La Dulcerí¬a de Doña María Gordillo for Guatemalan candy. El Sombrerón is similar with a nicer staff, but they don't have as large of a selection as DMG which is the oldest candy shop in Antigua.
To say Guatemalan candy is sweet is an understatement. One of those tiny candies will give you all the sugar overload you neeed. Here's my post about Guatemalan candy in general.
My suggestions for the best in that long list: zapotios made from zapote fruit, nuegados (sweet little stacked donut holes), huevo chimbo (unique to Antigua), canillitas de leche (like soft caramels and probably the best-liked candy), chilacayote (candied squash), canied figs, espumillas (pastel meringues, El Sombreron does these the best), melcocha (sweets made from seeds), pepitoria (more seed candy), rosario (really just like a sugar cube but wrappedd in beautiful colored corn husks), tamarindos (sweet and sour together. Difficult on the first bite, but addictive toward the end)
5, Banana bread. Officially called zepelins. It is a great fusion of Guatemalan ingreients used by the Germans who settled in Guatemala. There's lots of Swiss and German influence. Don't be surprised to see fondue on the menu.
6. Street food. I wasn't overly impressed with the Mercado Central, but this is the best area to pick up street food. You might want to try a shuco dog - a hot dog with saurkraute, guacamole, an lots more on it. There is usually a choice of longaniza, hot dog or chorizo. I've found the chorizo is the best. The Chevre dog is another type of hot dog, but I prefer shucos. Guatemala City is the birthplace of shucos. Here's my flickr photostream on that with lots of photos of shuco dogs
7. There are some Guatemalan-influenced dishes at El Pescador. Maybe I only had breakfast at La Fonda, but I wouldn't send a dog there. I'm sorry. My home base is SF and I can recognize tourist shlock a milke a way. I was expecting it from La Fonda ... I just didn't think it woul be as bad as it was. Come on, the tortillas were lousy. Don't come to Guatemala, the land of great tortillas, to eat that crud. Also the bread wasn't authentic. Look at some of the other suggestions. I like Hector's but I wouldn't make it my only restaurant joint to try because it is sort of French food with NO Guatemalan influence other than using fresh ingredients.
Here's a great site that has almost evey restaurant menu in town, most of them in English.
Also, my bible in Antigua has been Antigua Daily Photo. I would never have learned as much about this city ... and country ... without the site. I owe the photographar , Rudy Giron, a big debt of gratitude for wa beautiful edducation.
He is someone who has capture the soul of Antigua one photograph at a time. Not only will you learn about the food, but you will learn about the archtecture, politics, history, etc, etc, etc ... everything that is worth while.
Here's a search on the tag 'food andd drinks'
Btw, if you feel compelled to go to La Fonda, they o have piloysfa, a bean unique to the Antigua area. I was going to get an order to go when I had breakfast there, but was so disgusted by the place I refused to spend another cent on any food there. Ask me how much I like La Fonda.
I've scanned all the menus in the website link I have gave you and entere dmost of them in the Chow database.
I've aded notes in the 'Good to Know' section about each of them.
I also have my own list of places I would like to try based on reading the menus and Antigua Daily Photo. If you are interested I can give you what sounds good to me and why I want to try them.
Near San Antonio Bakery is Le Caserole. I would not suggest eating there, but they sell wine from Guatemala's only winery. A warning that it is adequate wine and not great. However, the unique factor comes to play and should you be walking by it, drop in for a glass. They let you sample them all. Not a destination by any means ... just if you walk past.
Speaking of walking ... cobblestones are hell on your feet. If anyone in your group wants to wear high heels, I'd reconsider.
I only began taking photos recentlly an am bad at it, but here's what I have for Antigua so far. A lot of the palces I wrote about I didn't have a camera with me.
Anyway, Antigua Daily Photo has some spectacular professional photos. \
Oh yeah, Antigua has fresh goat milk ... as in shepards walk the streets and sell the milk direct from the goat. I'm pretty adventurous ... hey, I ate the iguana (tastes like chicken) ... but haven't worked up the courage to try this yet. I hear you should proabably boil it.
And ... chow mein is practically a national dish. So if you see a Guatemalan restaurant serving typcal GT food with chow mein ... it is authentic. Try it the way Gautemalans eat it - with catsup. If the restaurant has chow mein and fondue, you have probably struck gold if you are looking for authentic Guatemalan cuisine
It was late when I answered this, but I'm only checking this site once a week these days. If you need any reply sooner than that, email me that you posted a question on the board and I'll respond on the board.
One I forgot to mention is that fresh guanaba is one of the most fabulous tastes I've tried in Guatemala. Definately order anything you see that has it ... drinks, ice cream, etc.
Also, speaking of ice cream, you requested info somewhere in this thread about that. To me Dona Gavi is the one that is worthwhile.
There are lots of chain ice cream operations in Antigua. Sarita makes a good guynaba ice cream.
I just tried Pop's for the first time this weekend. They do really great shakes. I need to try more of their ice cream Skip the rum raisin (ron con pasas). The raisins were so hard it was like eating bullets. I had to spit them out. They do make a really interesting banana split type of dessert with about five scoopes of ice cream lots of bananas, fresh pineapple sauce, etc for 12 quetzales (about $1.50)
I haven't tried a flavor at Marco Polo that I've liked. Yogenfruz is some sort of big chain and I always feel sorry for the tourists buying the stuff because Dona Gavi is only a few steps away. La Nieveria, another chain, is the worst I've tried so far. Think cheap, no-brand supermarket ice cream, but not as good.
There is a place on Central Park called Gelato Bar which looks like a chain, but it isn't. The people are super nice, the gelato is made in small batches with interesting ingredients. Unfortunately it is terrible. Guatemalans like lots of sugar in things and these are so sweet it ruins the gelato. You can always give it a try and maybe have more luck than I did. The best out of a sorry batch was the mojito ... and even that wasn't anything great.
Oh ... street food ... you must try Guatemalan shave ice ... granizadas. They do it better than anyone. Ask for 'frutas' which comes with all sorts of fruit toppings.
Sorry it took so long to come up with a map. It took me awhle to figure out that Sacatepéquez was a department which I assume is similar to a county. Anyway it made the search more productive
From Antigua we took 10 to CA1 where the baloon is for San Lucas.
If you follow CA1 to the left, there is a split at 1 at Finca San Isidro. That will take you to the lake. It is a pretty long drive to the lake from Antigua, but San Lucas is just outside Antigua.
Here's a website of the city with some bad photos and a bad video. I hesitated on linking due to the poor quality, but who knows, maybe it will give you some more info
Unless you're going by a circuitous route, San Lucas Sacatepéquez isn't on the way from Antigua to Atitlan. The food stalls are barely a stone's throw off the main road from GC to Antigua. If you're taking a taxi one way or the other, I'm sure your driver would be thrilled to stop there for a while and would probably even show you a few of his favorite places. Don't know what time the stalls close, since we've only gone during the day, preferably on Sunday when there's much greater variety. If you arrive in GC late in the day, there may be slim pickings by the time you get to SLS. Maybe it would make more sense for you to stop on the way back from Antigua.