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Jun 9, 2010 10:55 PM

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