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Guatemala: Antigua restaurants, street food and more

My main post covering all of Guatemala is getting long so I'm starting a new post here. The Antigua section of that long topic starts here

Places I've tried to date:

Fernando's Kaffee (si - recommended)

Panaderia San Antonio (si, si, si - HIGHLY recommended)

Quesos y Vino (no - skip)

Invaluable sources of info

Antigua Daily Photo

Que Pasa en Antigua

Degusta Antigua (about 100 online restaurant menus)

The absolutely BEST Guatemalan food just 15 minutes from Antigua

San Lucas Sacatepéquez

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  1. La Casa del Flan Antigüeño

    Located right across from Central Park, the specialty here is indeed ... flan.

    It is different from any flan I've ever had. It gives flan a good name. It sits on top of sweetened chopped figs (higos), sweet potato (camote) and yams (chilicayote). It is almost a fruit-cake type of mixture ... in a good way. The flan itself is rich and more white than yellow, reminding me more of a cheesecake.

    There is a lovely photo of the flan at the top of the menu page link which is at the end of this post.

    I am suspicious of restaurants in areas with lots of tourists. This place makes a highly recommended flan.

    We also ordered
    - Combo 2 - Hamburger, fries, salad, beer (35 quetzales or about $4.25)
    - Hamburguesa gigante (18 quetzales or about $2.25)
    - Jamaica
    - Coffee con leche

    I had the gigante burger. The difference with this from the regular burger is that they replace the lettuce with chopped cooked cabbage.

    The soft bun is different from an American bun. It is surprisingly lighter in texture. The hamburger itself was more like a soft meatloaf. There was a slice of tomato and lots of thousand island dressing. The cabbage was pretty neutral tasting and worked well.

    It came with a little salad of iceberg lettuce, tomato and sliced onion. There was half a fresh lime to squeeze on the salad. If you go in with American burger expectations, this might not do it for you. However, it was not a bad deal for the price.

    The combo looked exactly like this

    There is also a veggie burger we didn't try

    The jamaica was on the sweet side but had an inch of thick whipped pink foam on top that was good. The coffee was forgettable. Not awful, but there was no there there. However, I am finding Guatemalan coffee in general lacking. I am not a fan of light roasts

    The place is nicer than the fast food menu would indicate. While there are menuboards on one wall, there are also nice heavy wooden tables. The waiters are bi-lingual. It looks out on the square and has good people-watching. Again, the menu link below has some nice photos.

    I tried a friend's french fry which wasn't anything special. If there was a green dipping sauce like in the photo, I can't say ... due to a parking incident.

    What kills me about Antigua is that you can find street parking almost anywhere in the city. There are parking officers (?) on the corners that sell all day parking passes that you hang from the mirror on the windshield. The cost is 10 quetazles (about $1.25). These warn you NOT to park in red or yellow zones.

    For some reason my friend decided it was OK to park in front of the restaurant next to a no parking sign in the prime section of town with the traffic police half a block away. I tried to talk him out of it ... please, please talk to the cop a few feet away ... no go ... but hey ... it is his home country ... maybe he knew something I didn't ... NOT

    Someone came by and slapped a sticker on his car and though he tried to talk his way out of it ... nope. They would have none of that. He tells me he will be back and takes off at a run. When he gets back, he tells the waiter to wrap his food to go and we should pay and leave. They nicely gave us the beer to go as well, transferring it from the glass to a plastic cup.

    When I walk to the car to get in, I discover that in Antigua when you are illegally parked, they boot your car immediately. So he had to go over to city hall and deal with a $40 fine. In all the commotion, I wasn't paying attention to the condiments. So there might very well be a green sauce.

    Don't park illegally in Antigua

    La Casa del Flan Antigüeño

    Portal de las Panaderas no. 10, Central Park
    Phone: 7832-8810
    Hours: Daily: 8:00 am - 10:00 pm

    1 Reply
    1. re: rworange

      I have had the Flan Antigüeño elsewhere and so far no one does it better. I had the flan here again and it was every bit a good a the last time.

      My Flickr photostream

    2. Antigua mercado

      After reading such glowing reports about the market ... both on Chowhound and elsewhere ... quite frankly, this was a major letdown. I was going to use a four letter word that starts with an "S" and ends with a "K" ... but I'm too much a lady.

      Quite frankly, the produce market in lowly Esquintla outshines this ... and it is less expensive.

      Maybe it was the day of the week. We went on a Wednesday. When we asked someone for directions they said that Thursday was a better day to go. In Esquintla, any day is a good day to go.

      This article about the Antigua market says the big market day is Saturday ... well, no one ever tells you THAT.

      There are some photos which give an idea about the market. While there was a little corner with about a dozen stands just devoted to produce, most were mixed in with the other stands selling cheap purses, plasticware, clothes, etc ... which you can find on any street corner throughout the country.

      As far as "authentic' Guatemalan crafts ... as authentic as any of the stuff one would find on SF Fisherman's Wharf. I'm guess the only thing authentically Guatemalan is the warehouse where these items were bought.

      I know this is harsh, but people raised expectations too high. Maybe anyone else going to the market can find a mid-point.

      On the day we went, it was mainly pineapples, bananas, oranges, a half dozen different mango varieties, coconuts, watermelons, radishes, other root veggies such as onions and those Roma tomatoes which I'm guessing must be the national tomato of Guatemala ... thats all you see everywhere.

      I did pick up a bag of rambuten for about 35 cents. There were also some fresh moras, a Guatemalan blackberry that I like qutie a lot. Even though I can buy it at home, I got some fresh pacaya ... just because I am still fascinated by it. I also bought some jutes which I had never seen before

      Compared to the SF Bay Area farmers markets, this was not in the same league ... a few levels way below ... though it did reminde me of Bay Area flea markets. I doubt that even some of the fruit was local. I asked my friend and he said he thought it was being sold by actual farmers. I'll buy that they grow Gala apples somewhere in the cooler parts of Guatemala ... but Gala apples with stickers that have a fruit code ... really ... really?

      I will say that the Antigua market does outshine the SF Ferry Plaza farmers market in one aspect ... even a third world country knows that a parking lot is not a frivolous nicety, but a requirement. Even the local buses have their major stop at the market.. Listen up CUESA in SF ... a farmers market needs a parking lot next to it ... or maybe CUESA could give its custoemrs lessons on hauling off produce by teaching its customers how to balance it in baskets on their heads .. it would give a little color for SF tourists ... sorry for the rant and digression.

      When I go to language school in Antigua in August, I'll stop by on Saturday and see if it is any better.I am not going with high expectations, however

      1 Reply
      1. re: rworange

        The best store in Antigua for embroidery and needlework, authentic crafts, and rustic furniture, closed about 6 years ago, and it's been downhill since. I'm glad I acquired a fair amount before the artistry is lost. I have a guest room dedicated to Guatemalan items that I think would be impossible to do again. Sad.

      2. Hector’s

        It would be hard not to like Hector’s. It is a cozy small restaurant with four tables and six bar stools overlooking the … well, I guess you could say open kitchen ... the open part is by necessity. The restaurant capacity is about 14.

        The food is solid with a strong French influence. They make outstanding duck. The two of us hate duck. We were both blown away.

        We had

        - Complimentary green and black olives with garlic
        - Complimentary basket of bread
        - Roasted tomatoes with Gouda cheese, balsamic, olive oil, garlic and fresh basil
        - Grilled duck breast over a potato and carrot Dauphinoise, roasted grapes and crème fraiche
        - 8 oz of grilled beef tenderloin medallion served over a spinach and white wine crème and deep-fried potato discs
        - Jamaica agua fresca
        - Beer

        The daily specials were mahi mahi or shrimp.

        The little bowl of olives was a nice way to start the meal. Nothing out of the ordinary though. The basket of bread was warm and the type of soft airy bread Guatemalans prefer.

        The roasted tomatoes really need to be shared by two. There are four thick slabs of large tomatoes topped with four good-sized portions of cheese. Here is a photo from another site.

        Except for the special, the menu seems unchanging. Our menu was almost identical to this online version.

        There are tiny changes. The cheese for our tomatoes was different. The crème brulee that day was passion fruit.

        Hector’s likes to stack items on the plates. There was a tower of beef and potatoes. The duck slices were more stacked that fanned across the potatoes.

        Those thick duck slices were incredible. They almost had the texture of a perfectly roasted leg of lamb … though not that flavor. Reading on the web, it seems Hector’s makes a great duck a l’orange. The prep in my meal was coated with pepper and herbs which, IMO, detracted from the superb and generous slices of duck.

        The grapes were good, the roasting giving them an intense sweetness and raisin note.

        The Dauphinoise was a thick, large square of potatoes. It was rich … and did I mention large … and I couldn’t finish it. A large dollop of crème fraiche was on the side.

        My friend’s beef and creamed spinach were tasty. I didn’t try the large wedges of deep-fried potatoes but he seemed happy enough

        The Jamaica was on the sweet side, but that seems to be local Guatemalan taste. Frosty glasses came with the beers.

        It is a convivial place to have a drink. A party of eight Guatemalans (tables were pushed together) ordered lots of cocktails such as martinis and bottles of wine. Like much of Gautemala, there is a 1950’s feel about the place.

        The Spanish red wines by Casa Solar include cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo, malbec, syrah and merlot Whites are a dry Viura and a Viura chardonnay. The pours for all drinks are generous. A glass of wine is $5 and a bottle $20. Cocktails are about $5.50. Beer is $3 -$3.50.

        The staff is very nice though service is slow because everything is cooked from scratch. I could see out of the corner of my eye, fresh spinach being tossed in a frying pan.

        It is an intimate restaurant serving respectable food. I can see myself going back. I’d like to try dessert which on the day we went, in addition to the crème brullee, included

        - Chocolate fondant made with almonds and amaretto served over an orange and rum crème
        - Ice cream served with strawberry coulis

        Here are some other photos of the food

        What cracks me up about the photo of the pasta, is that the rack is suspended from the two tables in the rear of the restaurant … space really is at a premium. The photo had to be taken off hours. I sat at the table to the left.

        Here’s a few user reviews from the menu site. There are some bad photos with the reviews. Ignore those

        Lots of mentions on the web that both Guatemalans and tourists know about the place. However, I was the only non-Gautemalan there. One side of the menu is in Spanish and the other side is in English, so there are no language issues.

        Here’s a bit of a review with some photos. The reporter is an older gentleman who seems to pepper his reviews with at least one photo of a scantily clad woman. So disregard the photo of the two tootsies standing in the doorway. I’m guessing he hired them to pose … or photo-shopped them in .. that doesn’t look like a menu from the restaurant that they are holding. Hector’s is nothing like that. In fact, I haven’t seen anyone dressed like that in Antigua. The other photos and the slide show are good.

        As noted there is no sign, so look for the yellow restaurant in the shown in the picture. People always mention the menu board on the door … but even that is discreet. It is right across the street from La Merced church and next to a restaurant on the corner called Fusion. It is not that hard to find ... if you are aware it is there. Strolling on the street, you would walk right by and never notice it was a restaurant.

        1a Calle Poniente no. 9a Antigua

        Phone: 7832-9827

        Mon-Tue: 6 pm – 10 pm
        Wed-Sun 12:30 pm – 10 pm

        2 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          Had lunch at Hector's my last day in Antigua. A few things have changed since you were there--including the menu. Minor tweaks, really. The homemade pasta has been replaced with boeuf Bourguignon; the quiche is now an appetizer as are the french fries. And he's now closed on Mondays. That may be temporary, though. I kept hearing from restaurant people that Antigua had been practically empty since the start of the mudslides, so Hector may just be giving himself a day off during a slow time.

          It may seem odd to serve french fries as an appetizer, but they were sweet potato fries and just about the best fries I've ever had, sweet or no. They were shoestring cut, double-fried, and sprinkled with coarse salt. One serving was plenty for 2, but I just couldn't stop eating them. They were terrific, even after they began to get cold, and I nearly finished them.

          The special that day was a seared tuna on mixed greens with an Asian dressing. Hector's friend had caught a huge tuna the day before and sold Hector 10 pounds of it. It was just barely pan-seared, gloriously raw on the inside, and as good as could be.

          About those little bowls of olives on the table. You say there's nothing out of the ordinary about them and you're right that there's nothing special about the olives. What IS out of the ordinary is that they are on the table at all. Very unusual in a Guatemalan restaurant.

          1. re: rworange

            We had dinner at Hector's tiny restauarnt and had an awesome time. There was 8 of us dining and I had stopped by earlier in the week to see what we should do about getting in with that many people. Hector told us to come early, as close to 6pm as possible, and he should be able to accommodate us (he doesn't take reservations). So a couple evenings later the bunch of showed up and we were seated, but after having to make 2 other couples move to a different table. They were gracious about it since they had not started their dinner yet.

            I think between the 8 of us of we ordered just about everything on the menu. My husband had a chicken special and I had the pasta special which was homemade fettuccine (we could see the pasta drying in the kitchen) with smoked fish. It was very , very good. We ate and drank lots and left a little poorer but satisfied and happy.

            Hector himself was certainly a large part of the dining experience. That dude has some energy...

          2. La Dulcerí¬a de Doña María Gordillo

            According to Antigua Daily Photo “tecolotes (owls) represent Luck, Prosperity and Abundance in Guatemala.”

            This must be true as the top shelves on the walls of Doña Maria Gordillo are lined with a huge collection of 100-hundred-year-old owls. This candy shop, located in a house built in 1546, has been successfully in business since 1872.

            In this next link with a photo of the sign, it states “The typical or traditional sweets at la Dulcería de Doña María Gordillo are “… made from milk, condensed milk, coconut, almonds, marzapan, guyava, sesame seeds and more … Kindira at Virtual Tourist … suggested to give the clerk your price and have the lady make the selections for you.”

            That first photo doesn’t show the candy cases. I was surprised though how little real estate inside the store is given to candy. Ceramics and plates cover the three walls. There are three glass candy cases and a medium glass candy case to the back of those.

            El Sombrerón is another candy shop that is similar. The photos of the candy and the cases on their website are almost identical to Doña María Gordillo

            I went late, about 6 pm, so the back case was almost empty and the other cases were 1/3 full. I had no clue about any of the pretty candies in the case and at that visit hadn’t read the tip of giving a price and having them select.

            I started a thread about Guatemalan candy on the General Board so I am more informed next time.

            The candies are all made by hand. I bought two beads of a rosario (rosary). These are brightly colored tusa (dried corn husks) wrapped around sugar balls to form a rosary-shaped necklace.

            Inside was a sugar ball in two halves, one half pink and the other white. It was pretty much like sucking on a sugar cube. I’ve read that most Guatemalan candies are small because they are intensely sweet. That was true of everything I tried at this shop.

            I also bought “Curls of Honey”. Scroll down for photo in the next link which perfectly describes them as “Sweetened with honey and boiled to a taffy-like consistency, these honey curls are sticky and feel almost as if they are still melting while you eat them. This isn’t a particularly complex candy, but it still tastes quite good!” I’m not a taffy fan, but everyone else liked these a lot

            I had a few other marzipan-y small candies. On the El Sombrerón site there is a small round brown candy with a stamped design that is similar to one of those.

            One person on the web said that Doña María Gordillo probably has the best candy in Guatemala, although service is definitely "NOT" their middle name. Being confused about what to order, I can’t really say, but I do know it took forever for them to wait on each customer. First you must get them to acknowledge you. Then you point to what you want. Then they get a piece of paper. Tthen they write it down. Then they get a box. Then they pick each out … slowly. Then they go to add up the bill. Then they go to the back to get your change. I probably missed a few steps in this process. Also, they shorted me three quetzales … yeah, about 24 cents … but still.

            I’ll be back though. There was something with some liquor on a sign that they were out of. I speak fluent booze. Now I have a better feel for the types of candy being sold and the flow of the transactions.

            3 Replies
            1. re: rworange

              On a second visit I took a few photos. One is below and there are more on flickr

              I will probably add to that photo stream on subsequent visits.

              I put the candies and cokies I tried this time on my general post about Guatemalan sweets

              The standout was that brown and white candy and for people who don't follow links here's the description

              ZAPOTIO - Zowie … one of the best sweets I had in my life. The rich mouth-feel was incredible … like the densest whipped cream … or the texture of the lightest, most heavenly mashed potatoes. It was like waking up on the softest featherbed in a world class hotel on a lazy Sunday morning. Sheer luxury.

              It is the brown and white candy. It is made from zapote fruit and that must be what gives it that amazing consistency. Zapote is somewhat like sweet potatoes.

              There were nice notes of cinnamon in it. So far I have only seen these at one store in Antigua, so they might be a creation of that shop ... the best creation since God said “Let there be light … “

              Needless to say, I liked these a lot and would buy them again.

              The only nit I had on this visit was I was buying a gift of mixed hard candies for my stepson's birthday. In one of the candy jars wars little bags of M & M's. No, no, Maria. I know you hand make your candy and selling this makes the claim a little less credible. It was only one jar. Lose it.

              Heres the Restaurant and bar record with address, phone and hours

              1. re: rworange

                Dulces El Sombrerón

                I stopped by Doña María Gordillo's competition. There are two locations. The shops are smaller than DMG.

                I didn't find much I wanted. They had some pretty meringues which were good.

                I finally tried nuegados, stacked and glazed donut holes. They were denser than an American cake donut and with a little more spice like cinnamon. Even though the thick sugary glaze was sweet, I liked these and would buy them again

                The service is nicer here but DMG had a largers selection

                Restaurant and Bar records with phone, address and hours

                El Sombreron Poniente

                El Sombreron Oriente

              2. re: rworange

                Just for the record, I bought "Curls of Honey," both the white and the dark, and I wouldn't describe either as "taffy-like" or "still melting while you eat them." They were very, very hard and had to be bitten into shards before you could begin to chew them. Flavor was good, but I'd strongly recommend that anyone not looking to replace a crown while in Antigua make a different selection.

              3. This place was so supurb and one of the best restaurants I've eaten at both here and in the US this year, that it needed its own post.

                Antigua: El Pescador Italiano – Gastronomic greatness in Guatemala at last!!!

                2 Replies
                1. re: rworange

                  Another outstanding place practically across the street from El Pescador Italiano. It is a block of food greatness.

                  Antigua, Guatelmala: The tantalizing and terrific Tienda de Doña Gavi - It snows supurb organic ice cream

                  1. re: rworange

                    Fiesta de Santiago

                    In Latin American the feast day of Santiago is a big deal with celebrations spanning over a week. First, of all, Antigua makes it as difficult as posible to get any info about the event and the schedules in various online sources such as this are just wrong.

                    We missed the parade because it took place in the morning and not 4 pm. Not ONE police officer or tourist office could answer if there were going to be fireworks that night (the mag was correct about that). There was only ONE marimba group, not several.

                    However, what was annoying was there seemed to be no special food for this celebration ... only the usual street vendors.

                    SOOOOO ... this is the reason for this post. Has anyone attended this event in Antigua and know if I missed anything food-wise? Was there a bakery item or other event related food?

                    There seemed to be a carnival near the market, so I'm wondering if I missed something there. We hung around Central Park where the other activities were.

                    I asked about the festival on the General Board since it seems to be such a big deal and I was curious if there was any special food associated with it in any country.

                    When the saints, go munching in - Fiesta de Santiago and other saintly snacks

                2. Restaurante Da Vinci

                  I came to this restaurnt for one reason only. I was intrigued by the Mayan lasagne on the menu using Guatamalan spices an cocoa.

                  An old Chowhound post mentioned it though they had the name wrong and called it Mona Lisa. Since there was no ML in Antigua, but there WAS a Da Vinci with Mayan lasagna, it had to be the place.

                  It was fine. The sauce reminded me of mole. One of the group thought it was pepian. I was surprised when looking at the online menu that the met was chicken. I would have thought shredded beef.

                  Like many of the Antigua restaurants I tried, this was very 1950's in terms of food. The other two people in the group had Lomita a la Forestiere ... beef tenderloin with red wine, mushrooms and bacon served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. It was good for that type of dish, though I thought the beef could have been better.

                  A basket of warmed complimentary dinner rolls came with the meal and four little balls of herbed butter, the size of small marbles. I am guessing the rolls were microwaved.

                  One good thing about 1950's cuisine is the cocktails are top-notch. You can drink your way through Antigua and not give a damn about the food.

                  My friend wanted a micalada (beer with tomato juice). They didn't have it so he ordered the bloody mary mix with a beer and did his own mixing. The house-made Bloody Mary mix was fabulous ... one of the best I've had for a long time.

                  Wine in Antigua ... not good ... not much. It is usually a choice of house red or white. I got the red which reminded me of Franzia boxed wine.

                  Da Vinci gets a lot of raves on the web.

                  People mention how beautiful the place is ... maybe at night when the lights are low. I thought it looked as tired as an older woman who may look beautiful by candle light, but in the light of day ... not so much. We went for lunch and were the only customers there.

                  You pull the rope on a large bell to get the staff's attention. There is a small bar and the indoor dining room. There was an outdoor area, but it was in the process of being cleaned. Service was fine.

                  I thought it was average at best. I've had the Mayan lasagna I'm over Da Vinci.

                  Restaurante Da Vinci
                  6a. avenida norte #32
                  Tel. +(502) 7832.0546

                  Lunch: Mon-Sat noon - 3pm
                  Dinner: Mon-Sat 6pm - 10pm
                  Sunday: Noon - 10 pm

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: rworange

                      I had fiambre at Da Vinci Restaurante yesterday. Here's a Flickr photo stream with a few photos of Da Vinci that I will update about a month from this post

                      Fiambre is a Day of the Dead dish in Guatemala.

                      Fiambre - the perfect pot luck dish that tastes … heavenly … actual food of the gods

                      I only gave Da Vinci a try because the house where I am staying shares a wall with the restaurant. So I trotted next door to give their "gourmet fiambre" a taste. It was fine, but like the other food I tried at the restaurnt, only average.

                    2. This blogger covers the breakfast scene in Guatemala. There are only so many typical breakfasts one can eat. English doesn't seem to be the first language, but it is very good. There is a bit of fondness for chains, but other suggestions with lots of photos and menus.

                      Doña Luisa de Xicotencatl

                      Filadelfia Coffee Resort & SPA - coffee plantation with restaurant

                      Hotel Soleil Antigua

                      Hotel Porta Antigua

                      La Fonda de la Calle Real Antigua

                        1. LA CASEROLE OVERVIEW

                          La Caserole, a popular French restaurant, was sold around January 2010. The new owners bought it to feature their wines, Chateau Defay. It is a young winery and the only one in Guatemala.
                          The pleasant staff and charming restaurant were coloring my opinion of the food. I needed some time to distance myself and to write about it objectively, not just because I liked the ambiance. It isn’t bad, but a lot of my ratings would have been higher if the plating and preparation was more careful.

                          Here's what we had rated on a scale of 1-10

                          - Complementary rolls with butter: 5 - Average
                          - Tomato soup: 5 - Average
                          - Caesar salad: 5 - Average
                          - Crepe stuffed with smoked salmon: 2 - Way below average
                          - Penne with Bolognese sauce 7 - Above average
                          - Snook with chipotle sauce: 6 - Slightly above average
                          - Profiteroles: 4 - Slightly below average
                          - Coffee: 7 - Above average
                          - Beer: 5 - Average
                          - Wine: 5 - Average

                          Service: 7 - Above average
                          Ambiance: 7 - Above average
                          Price: $$

                          One of the nice things was that for a significant part of the menu, there was the option of ordering half servings. This allowed us to try a little more without being overstuffed, even though the half servings were good-sized.

                          The outdoor tables that hug the walls are next to a pretty patio. It is Antigua’s rainy season. Torrential rain poured down a few feet away but we were dry and enjoying Mother Nature’s show. It was a relaxing spot to linger on a rainy afternoon. The food, while average, did not take anything away from the experience.

                          Details are in the next reply

                          Château Defay - Guatemala's first winery

                          Restauant and Bar record link with address, hours, phone, menu and other info.

                          My flikr photo stream which has a few additional photos

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: rworange

                            LA CASEROLE DETAILS

                            - COMPLEMENTARY ROLLS WITH BUTTER: 5 - Average

                            These would have had a higher rating if they had not been over-baked. A few were scorched on the bottom and had hard spots. The second basket they brought later was fine.

                            This started the meal with what was a reoccurring theme. Food that was good, but carelessly prepared. It might have been an off day in the kitchen, but first impressions are often lasting.

                            The Anchor New Zealand butter is a good brand. I wish though some of the excellent local Guatemalan butter had been used instead.

                            - TOMATO SOUP: 5 - Average

                            One of the nice things was that for a significant part of the menu, there was the option of ordering half servings. This allowed us to try a little more without being overstuffed, even though the half servings were good-sized. The half-sized -portion pictured was a regular-sized bowl.

                            The soup of the day was tomato. It was fine but nothing special. It was a nice presentation with the drizzle of crema on top.

                            - CAESAR SALAD: 5 - Average

                            The Caesar salad was served with a side bowl of extra croutons. They had been sitting out too long. They weren’t stale, but the texture was more chewy than crisp. There was a generous portion of dry cheese. My friend liked it. The two tomato slices on top were the rather bland standard Guatemalan tomato. This variation from the classic did not add anything in taste or presentation.

                            This was another half serving and the size of a regular dinner salad.

                            - CREPE STUFFED WITH SMOKED SALMON: 2 - Way below average

                            The smoked salmon itself was excessively salty. It ruined the dish. I was glad we only ordered a half-portion (one crepe) and shared. The sauce and crepe were fine.

                            The day before my friend was talking about Guatemalan dishes using dried fish. He explained how newspapers were covered with salt. The fish is put on top and covered with more salt. Another newspaper was added on top and the fish was left to dry in the sun.

                            After a week, the fish is removed. When using it, it must be soaked three times to remove the salt. He said this smoked salmon tasted like Guatemalan dried fish before it was soaked.

                            - PENNE WITH BOLOGNESE SAUCE 7 - Above average

                            This was the best dish we tried. The penne was perfectly al dente. The sauce was flavorful, the grated cheese good quality.

                            The winery has a small restaurant with some Italian dishes. La Caserole may be including a few here. This might be the better direction for this restaurant. The wine is better suited and for those who don’t like the wine, beer is good accompaniment.

                            - SNOOK WITH CHIPOTLE SAUCE: 6 - Slightly above average

                            I never tried snook (robolo) before. It is served at many restaurants in Guatemala. It is a white fish. It was very fresh and perfectly cooked, moist and delicious.

                            From the Chow ingredients database

                            “Snook have excellent flavor because they eat crustaceans and other fish … The flesh is dense and firm, delicate and flaky, and has moderate oil content and full-bodied flavor.”

                            More on snook

                            Robalo recipes or how to cook snook

                            Since I chose a red wine, the tasty chipotle sauce with a nice kick of heat was an excellent match.

                            The baby squash brought the rating of the dish down. Yes, that is baby squash next to the rice. Even in person, they looked like potatoes. Again, there were scorch marks

                            - PROFITEROLES: 4 - Slightly below average

                            These were straight from the fridge which made the pastry bordering on soggy rather than tender. There was ice cream in the center. At least, I hope it was ice cream and not just partially thawed. Still tasty but not what it should be. This was also a half portion and the waiter was nice enough to give us an extra plate so we could share. There was no extra charge for sharing.

                            - COFFEE: 7 - Above average

                            The roaster is local, the beans Guatemalan and it had more character than most Guatemalan coffee I’ve tried so far. It was served with hot steamed milk.

                            - BEER: 5 - Average

                            The usual local suspects. IIRC, my friend had Gallo.

                            - WINE: 5 - Average

                            Vin de payes indeed They were really nice and let us have tastes of all seven wines. None of the wines is a great wine, but all are drinkable

                            A CENTAVO FOR MY THOUGHTS

                            In my opinion, the owner made a huge mistake. It is fine to feature the wine you produce. But this is the only wine served here. Someone who likes fine wine is not going to be happy with this selection. French food needs great wine. It is not a cuisine where beer or liquor can be substituted if the wine list is poor.

                            It seems a Guatemala restaurant doesn’t consider itself successful unless it becomes a chain or franchise. On top of starting a winery, the owner wants to open a Guatemalan chain. There may or may not be another restaurant in Guatemala City. If that is the case, the food is going in exactly that direction … produced more or less competently, but indifferently, by line cooks and not chefs.

                            They have a little tasting room and restaurant at the winery. To get there means driving over five miles of dirt roads. I know Guatemalan dirt roads way too well. This is up hill on the side of a volcano. All I can think is … are they kidding?

                            It seems everything is in high gear with none of the bugs worked out.

                            The Las Vegas saying is often applied to Guatemala. If you want to make a small fortune in Guatemala, start with a large one. I hope I’m wrong, but IMO the owners are going to make a small fortune.

                            1. A few meals and a couple of snacks in Antigua:


                              Gorgeous venue. Tables in the back under awnings surrounding a pool containing rose petals and floating candles and a fountain that could have you believing you were dining near a waterfall. Unfortunately, the food didn’t live up to the ambience. A lobster bisque with one tiny piece of overcooked lobster was just okay; no pow to it. And the leguado (they say it’s sole but it’s not like any sole I’ve had before) was overcooked and the butter/herb sauce too overpowering and salty. Decided to pass on dessert in favor of sipping some aged rum and just relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere.

                              Bistro Cinq

                              A French bistro, obviously, more rustic, with some beautiful wrought-iron and recycled wine bottle chandeliers and another handsome wrought-iron chandelier holding dozens of votive candles. (I want one of those for my apartment!) Food was moderately priced and, based on what I had, significantly better than Welten. I had calamari en plancha, although where the plancha came in I’m not at all sure. It was perfectly cooked, seemingly sautéed in a well balanced butter and wine sauce. For a main I ordered a special of lamb ribs. I asked a couple of times if they were chuletas, chops, and they kept saying no, they were ribs. But indeed they were two double chops from a rack of lamb cooked, exactly as requested, “media rocha.” One neighbor had onion soup, which I didn’t taste but she said was the real thing. And another neighbor had the short rib risotto, which I did try and which was indeed the real thing—perfectly cooked rice, creamy and full of beefy flavor.

                              Posada de Don Rodrigo
                              I was told by a local that this hotel restaurant was where I would find the best “plato tipico” in Antigua and she recommended the longaniza (sausage) in particular. The grilled longaniza was served with guacamole, refried beans, rice, and queso fresco along with black tortillas and two salsas--one picante and one not. It was one of the best preparations of longaniza I’ve had, and I’ve had quite a few.

                              I was too full to finish lunch, but as I walked through the main square I discovered a Festival del Maiz with lots of music and many food stalls. I couldn’t eat any more food, but just had to try what I think must have been torrejas. Torrejas are usually described as being similar to French toast, but I would say they are more like a flattened baba au rhum without the rum but with a few raisins. It seemed to be a fried sweet bread soaked in a heavy, honeyed, sugar syrup. It was very sweet, as so many Guatemalan sweets are. Tasty, but not something I’ll need to try again.

                              Finally, not in Antigua, but in the market in Comalapa, I tried taquitos. As far as I can tell, Guatemalans use the terms “taquitos” and “tacos” interchangeably and both are made with rolled rather than folded fried tortillas. I guess the number of fillings and toppings for taquitos is almost infinite. In this case the filling was refried beans. The woman selling them put a single taquito in a plastic bag, spooned on a bit of tomato sauce and guacamole, added a ladleful of cooked shredded beets, and with my vigorous approval piled on the salsa picante. Perfect street food: crunchy, flavorful, and messy as hell. Can’t wait to try more versions of it.

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: JoanN

                                Sorry it took so long to reply. I wanted to add the restaurant records first so I could link to them. Sometimes that amuses me, sometimes I'm lazy about it. Since I bought my regional Guatemalan cookbook, I've been mainly amusing myself with that.

                                Anyway, thanks for saving me some bucks and lost calories at Welten. It does sound lovely so I'll have to stop by for a drink. They have the world's most annoying website though. I can just see the programer being so pleased with his little tricks. No. I want info quickly, not disappearing links and guessing how to navigate.

                                As to Bistro Cinq, I sounds like a better place to take my friend than Le Caserole as that was his intro to French food.

                                Will have to check out Posada de Don Rodrigo. So far my longaniza experiences have been disappointing.

                                I'm not a torrejas fan as things with a lot of honey like baklava are too much ... not that this is anything like that. It is supposed to use sweet rolls, i.e. pan dulce.

                                Haven't tried tacitos yet, but they sound great and that photo makes me hungry.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  I had another version of taquitos last night. But before I get to the taquitos . . . .

                                  There’s a family in the neighborhood (zone 15) that sets up a stand every Sunday afternoon to sell atol de maiz, taquitos, tostadas, tamales, rellenitos de plátanos, and a dish I’ve forgotten the name of which is essentially a soft tortilla sandwich containing a slice of grilled steak, tomato sauce, sliced onions, and cheese.

                                  My daughter-in-law brought along her own containers and ordered atol, tostadas, taquitos, and rellenitos.

                                  I’ve had better atol in remote markets. This one didn’t seem to have been made with what we’d consider sweet corn. The corn kernels were large, tough, and chewy and not at all sweet. Seemed more like corn you’d feed the cattle than eat off the cob.

                                  The taquitos were stuffed with ground beef and vegetables and were much better than the ones I had in Comalapa. But they were covered with cooked cabbage instead of beets, a tomato sauce that didn’t have a whole lot of flavor, and a pretty skimpy sprinkling of cheese. I added hot sauce out of a bottle once we got them home. Now, if I could only combine those taquitos with the salsa and accompaniments from the market at Comalapa I could be very content.

                                  The tostadas were just fried tortillas with tomato sauce, a few slices of onion, and a sprinkling of cheese. My grandsons ate them up so quickly I didn’t even get a chance to try them.

                                  The rellenitos are a fritter of sweet plantain puree suffed with stir-fried black beans mixed with sugar and cinnamon and dusted with flour before being deep fried. It can be a dessert, a snack, or a side dish and is sometimes served with crema, which is translated as heavy cream but is more the texture of crème fraiche. I’ve had them a few times before and keep forgetting that I find them more appealing in the description than in actuality.

                                  1. re: JoanN

                                    Yeah, I haven't found a rellenito yet that seems worth the calories. They are fine, but uninteresting to me.

                                2. re: JoanN

                                  I forgot I had a mollete at La Fonda de la Calle Real ... probably because it was so forgettable. It was just bread pudding ... squishy, soggy bread pudding. There was no syrup which disappointed my Guatemalan friend. He gave it a 3 1/2 on a scale of 1 to 10.

                                  I was posting my report about La Fonda which jogged my memorh. I've been putting off posting to recover from post tramatic restaurant shock syndrome.

                                  Antigua, GT: La Fonda de la Calle Real or how to say “tourist trap” in Spanish

                                  I post outside this thread when a restaurant is exceptional ... and La Fonda de la Calle Real was exceptionally mediocre. No wonder people don't think much of Guatemalan food if they eat at joints like this.

                                  Anyway, here's a photo of their mollete.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    I support your opinion of La Fonda de la Calle Real. I have eaten there several times over past years, and the service is getting worse. The last time, I waited 25 minutes for someone to take my order. I'm used to slow service "after" the order, but "before"? When my food finally arrived, I had to ask for water (again) and had to hunt up a servilleta on my own. Finally, they tried to short-change me. As touristy as Antigua is, I've never had this happen before... There are wonderful restaurants in Antigua but this is definitely not one of them.

                                  2. re: JoanN

                                    I really wanted to try the longaniza at Don Rodrigo ... and the flan ... but I am running out of time on this visit. I'm coming back for a week in December, so maybe then.

                                    The family I'm staying with mentioned a joint that they think has better longaniza, but I'll have to get back with the name.

                                    A few leads from them I want to note before I forget.

                                    It seems that not only this family, but every Guatemalan I talk to says the best Guatemalan typical food is in the next town of San Felipe. I had a miserable piloyada at El Papaturo. The other places I know have it on the menu in Antigua got a thumbs down ... La Fonda De La Calle Real - for tourists only ... Cuevita de las Urquizas ... ok, but they use too much fat in their cooking according to the consensus.

                                    The place to get piloyada is El Prado in San Felipe. It is on my to try list. For anyone unfamiliar with the area, a cab to San Filipe would not be expensive. as it borders Antigua.

                                    The best Gautemalan tacos are at a place on 4th Avendia and 7th Calle. It has no name and opens at 6pm.

                                    There is also a joint I need to get more info about that has the best tacos of the Mexican type. It is at the end of some street, in front of a school and opens at 9:30 pm.

                                    Getting specifics is difficult. Supposedly a great place to eat is a joint called La Reunion. It is on the road from Escuinla to Antigua, just before where the bridge washed out. Ok. I know where the bridge disappeared. I'll have to keep my eyes open for La Reunion on the way home.

                                    And it turns out the best place for sushi is Nokiate near Cafe Sky, I actually went to this place and thought there was greatness there. It bills itself as a "Latin Asian" kitchen, but it is mainly Japanese with a few items such as chicken and plantano yakatori ... which was really, really swell. Haven't done a write up yet, but here's a few photos whit more to be added

                                    Also, Nokiate had some of the best service I've ever had in a restaurant. Lots of reports on the web say similar things about the service.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      I had hoped to be able to get back in February or March, but it's beginning to look as though it will probably be after Semana Santa.

                                      Never even heard of San Felipe. Sounds like a great find.

                                      The few times I've been to Cuevita de las Urquizas I didn't find the food unusually fatty. I wonder if it depends on the dish.

                                      I know what you mean about pinning down specifics. Locals never seem to know which street anything is on, just what shop or ruin it's across the street from or next to. Frustrating.

                                      La Reunion sounds very familiar. I think we may have stopped there once on the way to the coast. If I can find out more, I'll get back to you on it.

                                      1. re: JoanN

                                        San Filipe is a few streets away from Finca Filadelfia, the coffee plantation. I was in San Felipe on Nov 1st, but only had some atol ... BTW, it is atol in Guatemala, I learned and not atole. Being the holdiay, a lot was closed, but they have a lot of Guatemalan candy stands and street food and a ton of restaurants. I have decided my favorite atol is arroz y leche.

                                      2. re: rworange

                                        Coincidentally, Antigua Daily Photo had a picture of a Guatemalan taco from a joint called Tacos y Refrescos El Portalito. Will have to check that out as well

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          I believe that the owners of Bistrot Cinq also own Nokiate. BC is on my list of possible places to try in Feb 2011 because of Joan's review but now maybe I will have to try Nokiate too.

                                          1. re: JazzyK

                                            Is this a first time visit?

                                            I had no intention of trying Bistro Cinq this visit because I can go to a French restaurant anywhere and it gets enough attention in guide books and such.

                                            However, a local restaurant card I bought from "Que Pasa" had a two for one offer on appetizers.

                                            I have to give them credit in that they didn't blink an eye and thought I was just going to order the apps. I could have left BC only spending 60 quetzales, about $7.50. If I had chosen the sliders, I only would have paid 32 quetzales with my card for two orders ... and they were pretty hefty sliders. I saw them on another table. I haven't gotten to my report yet, but here's my Flickr photo stream.

                                            The food was better than those pictures make it look. Bistro Cinq now has an absinthe bar and serves brunch on the weekends

                                            If I had one restaurant to eat at in Guatemala it would be Sabor Rico at this point.

                                            They flat out have the best pepian I have ever tasted anywhere. The black tortillas were good but not as great as the ones I had recently in San Felipe. Sabor Rico is almost all organic. They have three beautiful gardens on three levels with all sorts of exotic tropical trees, laden with fruit. Fresh herbs used by the restaurant grow amoung the flowers.

                                            It is more, for want of a better word, a deli because if you check the menu there are lots of sandwiches ...and fabulous looking sandwiches. They also make chocolates. I liked their truffles more than the regular chocolates though those were good

                                            For fabulous chocolate, don't miss Choco La La. It is one of the rare places I've noted as don't miss in the Restaurant database. I liked them so much I took time out of my packed schedule to do an immediate Chowhound post

                                            I'm not sure what's going on at the former El Pescador Italiano which has since changed its name to El Casador Italiano. The same chef is there ... who btw doesn't have a Michelan star, just the same name as a chef who does

                                            However, one of the staff from the former El Pescador opened his own restaurant, Pangue

                                            The young owner/chef is American and from the state of Washington. He has some interesting ideas. Don't know if things are different at night, but in the afternoon it was a bit of a hilarious disconnect to eat a 'tasting menu' served by this young guy in the tattered faded jeans.

                                            I liked it a tad better than El Rincon Del Conquistador where the chef is also doing creative things with local ingredients. Though one of the best dishes I had this visit was at Rincon del Conquisdor The caracoles en la crema de ajo is an extrodinary cream soup that makes it worth a stop. The soup rich, the caracoles plump and succulent. I'm not going to tell you what a caracole is because you might not consider it ... and that would be your culinary loss in this case. If you like clams and mussels, you wlll love this.

                                            It is fairly near Sabor Rico, so maybe a progressive nosh? Something at one place and something at another. I really want to order the beautiful mint lemonade at Sabor Rico on my next visit.

                                            Also Dona Luisa Xicotencatl really is a swell bakery and at this point my favorite. Yes, yes, I like San Antonio, but I loooove Dona Luisa. This joint, a few steps from tourist-infested Central Park doesn't need to be this good, but it is. Very good coffee too

                                            I'm getting to a point here. Bistro Cinq and Nokiate are great. However, you can get that stuff anywhere. I think those places are more for residents than visitors who want to try something they can't get at home. However, good food is good food.

                                            I'd only go to Nokiate as a visitor after going to Cafe Sky for a drink ... which was a surprising dive that you need to scale three flights to get to the outside terrace. But the view is addictive. and it is a good place to order a michelada the Guatemala bloody mary.

                                            I say 'addictive' because I thought the same thing at first as the guy who said "I've seen better views". As I lingered over my michelada the ambiance grew on me. If I worked in Antigua, it would probably be an occasional stop with coworkers at the end of the day. Better than Monoloco. But geez, don't waste any limited time allocated to eating at Cafe Sky. The food looked better than I expected, but there's better in town.

                                            I want to stop by Black Cat Inn (not hostel) next time to check out the view from their terrace and see how it compares to Cafe Sky.

                                            I will get to these reports slowly, but here are all the places I stopped in the last three weeks. Note that as I add to my Flickr sets these may get pushed to other pages, but right now Antigua is at the top

                                            Just a note that I really was short on time and for many of the above sets as of this post there are more photos to come. Also the photos are raw and uneditied, so they should look a tad better as I get to each report and have some time to pretty them up.

                                            Sabor Rico in particular has lots more photos of the pretty gardens ... and the sweet house terrier.

                                      3. GELATO BAR

                                        Owner Andrea Novella makes small batches of gelato, frozen yogurt, sorbet and ice cream in the usual and unusual flavors.

                                        There are 14 flavors in the counter. 12 of which are standards, such as Nutella, limon, pistachio, vanilla and frutti di bosco. In addition, there are two special flavors every month, a creamy one and a sorbetto

                                        Other flavors may include green mango, jocote maranon, mamey, mango with lemon, pumpkin seed and salt, kiwi, tamarind with chili, vanilla olive oil and canillitas de leche (dulce de leche ice cream with pieces of a Guatemalan type of soft caramel called canillitas de leche).

                                        Alcohol-based flavors may include: beer, Bacardi mojito, michelada, strawberries and champagne, apple martini

                                        It is a bright, cheerful place with welcoming and helpful employees. It was a joy to spend some time there.

                                        Unfortunately, the gelato is sweeter than the staff. Too much sugar just overpowered the flavors.

                                        Many sizes of gelato are available from tiny mini gelato shots to multi--flavor cups. There are two sizes of waffle cones.

                                        We ordered mini shots and I could barely finish those because of all the sugar.

                                        Here are the flavors we tried: Mojito, pineapple with yerba buena, raspberry rose, mandarina, naranja con pepitoria (ground pumpkin seed).

                                        I was disappointed that the only alcoholic flavor was mojito, but it was the best of all the flavors we tried. In this interview, Novella says “Alcoholic gelati such as mojito, piña colada or apple martini are more complicated to handle as it's quite tricky to keep them frozen”

                                        So perhaps the recipe is different for these with less sugar. It had a true mojito flavor and would be great to use if making the drink at home.

                                        The pineapple had a nice fresh flavor and the touch of mint was just right. Raspberry rose was quite floral, with the rose flavor dominating.

                                        Skip the mandarina which had an artificial, cloying flavor. The other citrus flavor, naranja (orange) with pepitoria used the juice of fresh local oranges and was much better than the mandarina. It was decorated on top with a fresh orange slice dusted with pepitoria. It captured the spirit of the corner street vendor selling bags of orange slices scattered with the pumpkin seed powder

                                        It was really a shame because under all that sugariness were some quality ingredients.

                                        While I was there a Mayan woman stopped by with a basket of avocados which the staff decided wasn’t quite up to their standards for the avocado gelato. As an aside, in addition to avocados, this lady was also selling hot chicarrones from a straw basket that insulated them with layers of colorful Mayan cloth. The sample she gave was very good.

                                        Again, the gelato would have been good if the sugar had been toned down. They were sugar headache sweet, but Guatemalans like it dulce, so it is probably accommodating local tastes.

                                        They also offer crespelle (their version of crêpes) with Nutella or à la mode with any of the ice cream flavors.

                                        They have several types of coffee drinks like frappé, shakerato, cappuccino, latte, espresso and flavored coffees. The coffee is produced locally

                                        There were some boxed teas such as yogi tea and Bigalow. Italian soda syrups were Torani and Monin

                                        Gelato shakes include crème brulee, caramel chai and cookies, toasted coconut, banana almond, etc.

                                        Eight candy bins held sweets such as gummi bears.

                                        A few colorful tables and counter seats are inside this tiny shop located right across from Central Park

                                        I’ll be back in Antigua soon and I want to give them another try. I like the owner’s commitment to making a quality product even though for my tastes it is flawed. There has to be a few flavors I like. How sweet can michelada gelato be?

                                        Restaurant and Bars record with address and other info

                                        My Flicker photo set with more pictures