Guatemala City restaurants, street food and more
My main post covering all of Guatemala is getting long so I'm starting a new post here. The Guatemala City section of that long topic starts here
The only place I've posted about so far is La Estacia Steak House. It is Guatemalan chain with one location next door to the American Embassy
Some useful links
Revue magazine which has some restaurant info for various cities in Guatemala
Que Pasa Antigua expended its scope this month to include restaurants in other parts of the country.
Ok, I'm changing direction on this thread. For any long report ... good, bad or indifferent ... I'm going to post separately and link here.
Skillets is a small chain (2-3 restaurants currently) in Guatemala City that is owned by Guatemalans, but makes American food betther than most US chain I've been to
Gautemala City: Skillets – The better American burger … by Guatemalans
CHINA QUEEN OVERVIEW
China Queen seems to be the place a lot of people go for Chinese food. It is always mentioned whenever I ask about good restaurants in Guatemala City.
I can see the appeal. This is like the Chinese restaurants I go to near my home in the US. The food is good and the prices are reasonable. It is not a tourist destination, but a reliable favorite for locals
Of the four Chinese restaurants I’ve tried in Guatemala so far I’d put it a solid second, but only because the number one restaurant had exceptional shrimp egg rolls.
Here's what we had rated on a scale of 1-10
- Chicken egg rolls (tacos chino con salsa agridulce) … 6 - Slightly above average
- Mixed fried rice (shrimp, chicken, pork) … 7 - Above average
- Chicken with veggies and champinones ... 7 - Above average
- Camarones migado (breaded fried shrimp) ... 5 - Average
- Chinese tea … 4 - Slightly below average
- Limeade … 4 - Slightly below average
Service: 7 - Above average
Ambiance: 6 - Slightly above average
See next reply for details
Restaurante China Queen I
6a Av 14-04, Zona 9
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Restaurante China Queen II
Phone: 2331-6438 or 2361-9452 or 5550-6565
6a Av 12-54, Zona 9
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Restaurant and Bars records
CHINA QUEEN DETAILS
CHICKEN EGG ROLLS (tacos chino con salsa agridulce) 6 - Slightly above average
These were a good standard egg roll. The wrapper was crispy and not oily. It was stuffed with lots of veggies and sprouts with some chopped chicken.
The sweet and sour sauce was a standout. I forgot to take a photo when it was served, but it was loaded with chopped onions celery, carrots and pineapple. There was also a jar of hot sauce on the table.
MIXED FRIED RICE (shrimp, chicken, pork)) - 7 - Above average
In Guatemala the Chinese food servings are huge. This could have fed 4-6 people. It was nicely done. The rice was not greasy, it wasn’t too salty and there was lots of good shrimp, chicken and pork.
CHICKEN WITH VEGGIES AND CHAMPINONES: 7 - Above average
I was not clear on the difference between champinones and hongos which are both on the menu. Hongos are dried mushrooms such as shitakes and champinones are fresh button mushrooms.
I was craving veggies and this had lots of broccoli, carrots, onions and snow peas, in addition to lots of mushrooms and chicken. I liked the chicken because it didn’t have that odd texture that some chicken has in Chinese restaurants
CAMARONES MIGADO (breaded fried shrimp) 5 – Average
These were ok, Nothing particularly memorable good or bad. There is plain mayo on the side for dipping.
CHINESE TEA 4 - Slightly below average
It was ok, but served lukewarm which gets it the below average rating. It was difficult to tell if it was from tea bags or leaves. A pot was about 75 cents. There is no complimentary tea so far in Guatemala.
LIMEADE 4 - Slightly below average
Guatemala has great limeade. This was fine, but it just wasn’t as good as other places. Something was a little off. A nice maraschino cherry was on the bottom.
There was nothing extra at the end of the meal such as orange slices or fortune cookies.
SERVICE: 7 - Above average
Our waiter was a saint. We kept changing our order and he kept crossing out what he wrote down without the slightest bit of annoyance. He made sure it was correct before leaving. He was just an overall nice guy.
One thing I liked was that he brought an English menu with him, but he didn’t give it to me. He didn’t assume I could only read English. When I didn’t understand the difference between hongos and champinones, he then said he had an English menu if I liked and handed it to me. Unfortunately the translation for hongos and champinones was mushrooms and champinones … no help there.
AMBIANCE: 6 - Slightly above average
It is not fancy, but it isn’t shoddy either. There’s a little bar area to the right of the entrance. There’s a porch in front where you can dine outside.
The menu isn’t as extensive as some, but it was adequate. It had the following sections: sopas, sopa min, chaw min, carnes, mariscos, chap suey, pollo, palomita, patos, arroz, otros, lou min, postres. bebidas,
Most sections have a choice of lomito, pollo, cerdo, camaron or a mix.
The sections dedicated to meat or seafood were almost identical which the sauce being different: sweet and sour, mushrooms and oyster sauce, salsa chino, salsa de frijol chino, salsa curry, salsa agridulce, salsa de tomate
A few variations of the sauce/veggie offerings
- carne asada de cerdo (cha-sui)
- chile jalapeno relleno al estillo cantonese
- sam pou (berenjena, chile, y queso v\c/pescado)
- camerones fu yung ha (con huevo)
- caracol con veduras y retono de bambu
- pollo a la hawaiana
- orange chicken
- lemon chicken
- ma po tau fu
There’s a full bar. The beer list was brief: Gallo, Dorado ice, Brahva, Monte Carlo, Dorado draft
There are few restaurants that don’t serve milk shakes and liquados and these were on the menu.
Desserts included lai chee, duranzo con helado, helado, and pasteles
AGROCHINA ORIENTAL MARKET
This store in Guatemala City sells wholesale and retail Chinese groceries, vegetables, frozen food, cookware and other items
The shop is extremely clean and well organized.
The vegetables are super fresh. A few I remember were mustard greens, onchoy, bean sprouts and ginger.
There is a large selection of Chinese tea.
Shitake and other dried mushrooms, called hongos in Guatemala, are available in small 1 oz size bags up to large sacks that cost about 100 USD.
Huge woks and other equipment used by Chinese restaurants is in the back of the store
Guatemalan restaurants don't serve fortune cookies. At the front counter there were bags of the cookies, but they had the fortunes in English.
Other interesting items included the preserved duck eggs and large triangular zongzi (Chinese tamales)
They sold Chinese beer and, IIRC, sake.
This is a very nice store and a great resource for Asian items in Guatemala City.
They wouldn’t allow photos in the store, but here are two photos on Flikr of the exterior and entrance where you can get a peek into the store
Here’s the link to the Restaurant and Bar record with the address and phone
Just stumbled across this post and your description is spot-on. Yes, they do sell sake.
Did you know there's another Chinese grocery just around the corner and across the street? The other one (no idea what the name of it is) is smaller and has far less merchandise, but I found top-name brands and products there that weren't in the other store. For instance, the second store carries Pearl River Bridge soy sauces, the brand I prefer. They also had the brand of zha cai I was looking for. As long as you're there, and especially if you're looking for something specific, it's well worth checking out both stores.
The shuco originated in Guatemala City near the Liceo Guatemala, a college in zona 4. Today the streets near the school are lined with shuco dog restaurants and carts. Here my report on that area
Guatemala City: Shuco Street … Who’s your shuco daddy?
NAIS AQUARIUM RESTAURANT OVERVIEW
The food was fine at this Gautemalan chain, but it is all about the aquarium. This is a great place to either take a date or the kids.
A bar, multi-level dining room and larger main dining room surround the 128 foot huge main tank which holds 30, 000 gallons of salt water . The over 450 fish include 38 species from around the world
I'd go back for a drink to sit at the table in the bar area which is inches from the tank and watch sharks, rays, jelllyfish and tropical fish in brilliant colors such as electric blue and bright canary yellow do water ballets as they gracefully glide by.
More details on the Nais website, but here's an overview in English from the opening in 2008
Here's what we had,for breakfast rated on a scale of 1-10
- Revoltillo de chorizo ... 6 - Slightly above average
- Bonyorno ... 5 - Average
- Complimentary pot of coffee - 7 - Above average
- Complimentary buttered toast ... 3 - Below average
Service: 7 - Above average
Ambiance: 8 - Way above average
See next reply for details
Phone: 2382-8219 or 2382-8229
Diagonal 6 Calle 13 Zona 6
Oakland Mall 2ndo Nivel
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Open 365 days of the year
Restaurant Hours: Daily 7 am - 11 pm
Jellyfish Lounge Hours 6 pm - 1 am
NAIS AQUARIUM DETAILS
Nais is a mid-range Gurtemalan chain restaurant servng breakfast lunch and dinner. Think TGIF or Applebee's.
My sole purpose for going to the location in the Oakland Mall was because it was the only restaurant in this group built around an aquarium. For lunch and dinner there are soem seafood dishes in addition to the regular Nais menu.
Breakfast was ok but it won't bowl you over. Speaking of bowls, I had breakfast in a bread bowl,
Revoltillo de chorizo
Scrambled eggs in a bread bowl seems big in Guatemala. It is on the menu of quite a few mid-range chains. Coming from SF, home of clam chowder in a sourdough bowl, I felt compelled to try it for comparison.
A French bread (not sourdough) bowl was filled with eggs scrambled with chorizo and peas. It was topped with a white cream sauce with herbs
This actually was ok and better than clam chowder in a sourdough bowl which I detest.
The scramble was done well, the cream sauce tasty and the soft bread was a good match for the contents and sopped up the cream sauce nicely.
Two scrambled eggs on a sausage patty topped with salsa and served with fried plantanos and mashed black beans. My friend had this and I tried a bite. It was ok. Nothing to .. heh ... write home about ... but I guess with this post I am.
With good coffee surprisingly difficult to find in Guatemala ... the national drink might as well be instant Nescafe .... this flavorful brew was really welcome in the morniing. It came in a carafe, a la IHOP. The nice touch was when asked if we wanted milk, a pretty white ceramic tea pot was served with steamed milk.
Guatemalans seem to love buttered hard toasted French baguette slices. I've even been served this dross at home. Sorry. I'm not even going to accomodate local tastes, be forgiving and give it a higher rating. It always tastes like stale toasted bad French bread. I like this less than instant Nescafe. Someone should introduce the mini muffin to Gutemala.
The prices were surprisingly reasonable because they could have gouged given the setting. We paid about $6 each. That may be high by Guatemalan standards, but they also have lunch specials during the week for that price which include a drink, soup or salad, entree and dessert.
The Oakland Mall is the best I've visited in Guatemala. It is modern, stylish and has lots of great stores. There's a huge cineplex as well. Nais is on the second floor
In addition to the main tank there are fifteen home-sized aquarium tanks in various corners. The main monster tank has an area you can duck under and step inside a bubble to watch the fishies like you are scuba diving.
Along the bottom of the tank are photos of the fish with names and descriptions.
There are photos of the restaurant on the website, but I thought this photo I found on the web did a nice job of caputuring the look.
"Visitors can ... immerse themselves in the underwater aquatic world watching divers feed the fish, or taking a "Back Stage Tour" to learn about the Life Support System and marine species. The sophisticated Life Support System ... is under the supervision of a team of marine biologists, aquaculturalists and aquarium technicians working 24 hours a day 365 days a year"
A few other articles with additional info
The food is better than it has to be. Our servers were pleasant and efficient. While it isn't a tourist destination, it can be a good choice for locals. It is a place I'd take the kids if we are shopping at the mall or going to a movie ... but only that location with the aquarium.
My friend looked around and said "There are no Gutemalans eating here".
He was correct. This is a tourist restaurant, but probably the best of its type..
Here's what we had, rated on a scale of 1-10
Anacates (wild mushroom) and loroco gratin: 7 - Above average:
Guatemalan enchiladas: 7 - Above average:
Subanik: 8 - Way above average
Gallo en chicha: 7 - Above average:
Tres leches cake: 8 - Way above average
Guatemalan bunuelos (totally different from Mexican): 7 - Above average:
Complimentary rolls: 4 - Slightly below average
Complimentary tortillas: 5 - Average
Complimentary herbed butter: 6 - Slightly above average
Complimentary pacamas sauce: 5 - Average
Complimentary powdered peppers: 5 - Average
Michalada: 3 - Below average
Pina Colada: 5 - Average
Cappucino: 6 - Slightly above average
Complementary water: 6 - Slightly above average
Service: 8 - Way above average
Ambiance: 8 - Way above average
Price: $$$ (Mostly ok for the restaurant class, but some on the silly side)
Another Chowhound summed this up nicely "It advertises itself as "high Guatemalan Cuisine" they have a decent mixture of regional dishes. None quite as good as home cooking, but all passable and a good place to try some of the different options available."
I would say the food is very good and more than just passable. The ambiance is lovely, the service very good. There are a lot more typical Guatemalan foods than most restaurants. There are wild Guatemalan mushrooms and chilitepe pepppers on the menu, for example
Here's a blog that did an excellent job of describing the restaurant. There are nice photos as well.
Details about my dinner are in the next reply
2da avenida, 13-44, zona 10
Phone 2237-4188, 2377-4189
Hours Daily noon-4pm and 6-11pm
Located in the upscale Zona Viva near the US embassy, the definition of "high Guatemalan Cuisine" means a stylish restaurant, using quality ingredients with modest adjustments for tourists tastes and prices that pay for the first two.
The 'gallo' in the gallo con chica was really pollo because they said rooster meat was too tough ... which was a shame as I had a theme entree going and ordered a Gallo beer to go with it.
As to the prices, most were in line, but some were just stupid. They had grilled onions on the appetizer menu for $2.50. You can get some really nice grilled onions even in the US for free with your tacos. Forty quetalez (about $5) for a chopped radish salad was excessive especially given these were not massive portions.
It is really the Disneyland version of Guatemala, but in an acceptable way. Ive been to a lot of restaurants aimed at tourists and few do it so well as Kakoa. It doesn't insult their tastes by really dumbing down dishes. It just tries to accomodate the tastes of non-locals while keeping true to the cuisine.
The meal starts with complemetary rolls and a condiment tray of herbed butter, green salsa and powdered pepper which might have been pepino but it was dificult to tell.
With even the most modest bakery making some very good Pan Frances, this version seemed like Parkerhouse rolls and heating them made one of them hard.
The big complaint that I have here is they serve everything in threes ... three rolls, three tortillas, three appetizers, etc. Usually people dine in sets of two or four and this is just awkward ... for two people, who gets the extra. For four people, two need to split or need to double the order,which still gives you extras.
The butter was nice and my friend said it was the special country butter. The herb may have been chiplin, but was diced finely, so it was difficult to tell.
One of the tourists touches was we asked for glasses of water. The tourist touch here was they brought a bottle of watter to the table, opened it and poured it. I've seen tourist in Guatemala fret because the water served in glasses on the table might not be safe. Even if you are aa timid traveler you should be safe here.
We had a pina colada and a michelada to start. Even though it used fresh pineapple juice, there wasn't a thing that made me go 'wow' about the taste. It was fine. Nothing was wrong with it, but there wasn't anything special either.
The michelada was just off and not a good example of this drink. They didn't reallyhave it on the menu but made one on request ... badly. We both switched to bottled beer for the rest of the meal.
Anacates (wild mushroom) and loroco gratin: 7 - Above average:
This was really a queso fundido. A little crock of bubling melted cheese filled with mushrooms was brought to the table with tortillas. The cheese overwhelmed the loroco flavor and the musrooms were more about texture. These mushrooms look so much like chantrelles, I was surprised at the chewy texture. Anyway, it was very good spooned into the tortillas.
Guatemalan enchiladas: 7 - Above average:
The Guatemalan version is really a tostada. A layer of ground beef topped with diced beets and an hard boiled egg slice were nicely assembled. The three enciladas were small cocktail-size.
Subanik: 8 - Way above average
This version had melt-in-your mouth tender cubes of pork in a smoky red sauce. Some examples and explanaation here
My high rating is due to all the dishes I've had in tomato-based sauces seem to taste the same. This had a very distinctive and layered. flavor. My friend ordered it and liked it at first and then got bored half-way through.
I suspect it had to do with the green sauce which really didn't have much character. The only reason I upped the rating from a 4 to a 5 was because it was freshly made. Usually flavor and spiciness of dishes in Guatemala is upped and enhanced with sauces and salsas. Since the green salsa wasn't doing its job, I can see how my friend got bored.
Gallo en chicha: 7 - Above average:
I had chica at home. It is a fermented pineapple drink. It is the only thing I truly hate in Guatemala. I was curious to see if it could be sucessful in this dish. It was. This time the red tomato sauce had a sweet pineapple taste to it, like a sweet and sour sauce but not overly sweet. There were tender chucks of boned white chicken breast. I liked it. It came with a large scoop of white rice to add.
Tres leches cake: 8 - Way above average
This was one of the best tres leches cakes I ever had. The cake moist without being soggy. The whipped cream was thick and excellent as well.
What really tugged at the strings of my heart was that I passed a note to the server that it was my friend's birthday and not only were they able to understand my Spanick, but they brought out the slice of cake with a lighted candle and sang "Happy Birthday" in both English and Spanish. Nicely done guys.
Guatemalan buenlelos (totally different from Mexican): 7 - Above average:
I've never had this before so it is difficult th rate. My friend said it was good but didn't rave, so the rating is a guess.
The Gautemalan version was three creampuff balls of choux pastry in a not too sweet syrup. Here's a photo and more info
Cappucino: 6 - Slightly above average
In my Ishmael search to actually find good coffee in Guatemala, this actually tasted like a cappucino, had some flavor, good steamed milk on top and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
This is a lovely restaurant that captures the feeling of Guatemala. It is an open restaurant under a huge ... huge ... thatched hut ... so you can have that tropical atmosphere if the real thing is too much for you. Actually it is a lot nicer than the real thing.
The tablecloths are of lovely Guatemalan fabrics. The male staff is dressed in traditionl Mayan costume which has a pirate feel to it. It is odd, while there are lots of women in traditional dress in Gautemala in the four months I've been here I've only seen one man were the traditional clothes
To complete the touch, there's even a little stand at the walkway to the restaurant that has someone selling Guatemalan crafts.
It's everything Guatemalan ... food and atmosphere ... all in a pretty upscale package
Fabulous ... FABULOUS outdoor market in Guatemala City that merited its own thread
Guatemala: Central de Mayoreo (CENMA) World-class, mind-blowing market in Guatemala City
Although this next link is in the above thread, it doesn't mention that it also has the major produce markets by zone with photos. There are also some other markets in other cities. There are a few videos on the site about the markets as well.
Mercados de Guatemala
RESTAURANT PALACIO CRISTAL
Palacio Cristal is the newest restaurant in Zona 9 on 6a Avinida, a stretch of road that seems to have quite a lot of large Chinese restaurants. These are not your corner tiny hole-in-the-walls. These are the places you would throw a banquet ... a Chinese-Guatemalan banquet.
By this I mean the menus are comparable to Chinese American restuarants. They just cater to Gautemalan tastes.
It opened May 31st, 2010 and is a nice enough restaurant with large tanks of pretty carp, white table cloths and modern crystal chandeliers. The wait staff is very formal, dressed in black pants and white shirts. They are very efficient, pleasant and well-trained.
As to the food ... if you like MSG, you will really love Palacio Cristal. I'm not some who normally notices MSG, but the top of my mouth was almost burning from it.
The stunning thing to me was one of our party took food home and doused it with a liberal amount of soy sauce and salted the top. Yikes.
Maybe I should have went the the dish suggested by the waiter - Palomitas fritas (2 fried pigeons). However, I have yet to try a pigeon anywhere and couldn't bring myself to do it in a new restaurant.
Everone said to get the duck, but I RARELY like duck. I had a taste of it here and I suppose it was good, but I'm not a duck fan. The people who ordered it were very happy and finishe the huge portion of chopped duck.
Then they said to get the fish. Eh, didn't look exciting on the menu. However, it was the best thing I saw going by ... wonderful-looking large whole black fish.
With memories of the wonderful fresh shrimp from Ocean Palace, that is what I chose. Big mistake.
Instead of the shrimp chow mein I ordered I got shrimp in a salty brown sauce with cashews and vegetables. The vegetable(s) was mainly diced green peppers. Neither the shrimp nor the cashews seemed super-fresh.
Like all dishes here, these are huge. This would have fed two easily.
We also had
- Tacos Chino (aka egg rolls) Skip. Over-fried,filled with unidentifieable veggies, msg, msg
- Mixed chop suey - looked good. I didn't try
- Braised duck with pineapple - good, as mentioned. Fresh pineapple used
- Fresh orangeade - good
- Michalada (beer and bloody mary mix) very good
There's a 50's time warp going on in Gautemala. For food, that sometimes isn't good. but it is excellent in terms of classic cocktails Even the orangeade had maraschino cherries in them.
I was thinking I was going to make the michalada my drink of choice in Guatemala since every restaurant has them. This one had a nice spicy mix. However, looking at the take-out menu I saw pina coladas. In this land of coconuts and stellar fresh pineapple, I probably should make that my drink of choice.
Anyway, a complementary dish of peanuts was served at the beginning of the meal. It ended with a complementary dish of sliced oranges ... which the group salted. Yikes. Fortune cookies never made it to Guatemala from what I've seen so far. I haven't decided yet if that is good or bad.
Like the sweet and sour sauce with the egg rolls, the red pepper sauce on the table didn't have much taste. I guess they get points for serving a sweet and sour sauce that was neither in a sugar-obsessed country.
Palacio Cristal had the most extensive tea menu I've seen so far in Guatemala. It is not complementary but there was jasmine, crysanthymum, poley (?) and Lipton. Desserts included: Lychees, logans, melocoton, pastel Chino and caja de machay (I wonder if those were Macau egg tarts).
Love that tofu is called queso Chino (Chinese cheese)
A poster on the SF board, hhc, always includes rest room info in her reports. Tho I doubt she is reading this board, I thought of her and Palacio Cristal. The rest rooms were really nice ... spacious ... with an area to change babies ... pretty frosted etched glass doors for the stalls ... super clean
There's parking around the bulding and an additional lot a few feet away.
Re-reading the menu, giving them the benefit of the doubt, maybe I ordered wrong. They do offer dishes, like thos fried pigeons and the steamed fish, that other local menus I've read don't have. A few other different menu items from the same old, same old
- Lettuce wrapped minced meat
- Fish maw soup (in this case called panza de pescado)
- Fish balls (abondinga de pescado)
- Mapu tofu
- Ginger, onion and cilangor salad
- Shark fin soup (unfortunately Gautemala is big on shark fin)
- Peking duck
They also have banquet menus for parties of 10 or more
However, I can't overlook the use of too much msg in all three dishes I tried.
PS. The menu was in both English and Spanish. Easting out has given me incentive to REALLY learn Spanish. Either Guatemalans LOVE Chinese food or somehow I have the reputation of being into Chinese food as that is what is always suggested when we eat out. Also, people have the impression I'm a fan of duck. I hate it usually. Back to my Spanish books ... so I can correct this misperception. Until then it seems I'm stuck with duck ... and Chinese-Guatemalan food.
Restaurant Palacio Cristal
6a Avinida 13-33
Phone: 2334-8344 or 2334-8344 or 2334-6854
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
Nais Aquarium - Don't sleep with the fishes, wake up with them. I haven't been yet, but the photos are pretty stunning. Owned by the game group with Nais restaurants. The breakfast menu seems identical to the other restuarants. It seems more about ambiance.
While visiting a relative in Mexico City, I asked for restaurant reccomentations. I wasn't taking them too seriously as Applebee's was on the list. But ... hey ... I decided to check out the recs that weren't American.
One rec was Lai Lai ... which seems to be a Chinese Fast Food chain. One was in Wal-Mart (aka Hiper Paiz).
I stumbled across this great restaurant blogger and it turns out there is a place called Lai Lai Dim Sum ... who knew ... dim sum in GT. Most of the Chinese joints here are horrible stereotypes. In the US, these restaurants would attract mobs protesting racial insensitivity.
Anyway, although the blog is in Spanish, if you don't know that, you can get a general idea using an online translator. There's also another dim sum joint in the city ... and Mongolian BBQ ... though he writes of that place "desserts that seem removed from The Rocky Picture Horror Show"
Ya know ... online translators may influence my English restaurant reports as there's some creative transalations such as a rather boring salad bar with "dramatically conventional ingredients" and "rancid rolls" For dessert he avoided the "the gelatin that seemed inspired by science fiction" and went for the "gloriously sweet pineapple and watermelon"
He also does just some general food topics. I liked the term he coined "Gastrosexual"
"By all means, the food and its preparation can be extremely sensual: the textures, the aromas, the colors… the heat of the source of fondue, the voluptunes of chocolate, the firmness and roundness of the eggplants… the ... champagne, that irritates your throat lewdly and causes that the eyes fill to you of tears of pleasing… :the whipped cream that takes your breath away and almost leaves you dead, to only revive you in the middle of its frothy fullness"
Anyway, a nice local perspective about restaurants. He has some of the places mentioned over and over and over on all the English tourists sites ... but also a lot more that are more geared to people who live here
Barquillos / barquilos
These are rolled wafer cookies ... ginormous rolled wafer cookies ... two feet long ... that are sold by street vendors for 5 quezalaes or about 55 cens. The bags have about a dozen cookies that look like this
They are similar in taste to Pepperidge Farm Pirouettes ... but no filling
They are giant versions of those rolled wafer cookies that come with ice cream or fancy coffee drinks.
I put them under Gautemala City because this is the only place I have seen street vendors selling them. The minute you hit the city limit, there they are and the minute you leave ... poof ... no more barquillo vendors
It seems the origin of these cookies is Spain and the are very popular in the Philippines where you can get ube barquillos
More about rolled wafer cookies world-wide ... but I'll bet Guatemala wins for size
Panaficadora Benedicion (Zona 17)
This shop in the middle of nowhere has the best pan Frances and sweet breads I’ve had in Guatemala. They are not light and airy, but yeasty with a nice crust. The cookies are also quite good. Avoid anything flakey though. The meat-filled turnover had an unpleasant lemon taste to it. We both threw it away.
Given the excellence of the breads, I had high hopes for the mil hoya that I tried once elsewhere. These look fabulous with lots of layers of flaky pastry around a center of white cream. This second one was as bad as the first, the white stuff tasting fake … but not in a good way like a Twinkie. The flaky pastry … meh.
But the bread … the bread. It is the reason for this shop to exist.
This is really out of the way in a strip mall. It would be at least a 45 minute drive from the center of the city. So as great as the bread is, I really can’t recommend a special trip … and I never caught the exact address.
However, if you ever find yourself in Zona 17 and in the area of the Metronorte shopping mall (there’s a Hiper Paiz (Wal-mart) there. Then I recommend trying to find it. Continue on the road away from the city. You will pass some large stores such as Distun and Super Mayan. Look for the first strip mall after Super Mayan. If you get to the gas station next to the restaurant selling chicarrones … you passed it.
Café Zurich – chocoadictos
The strength here is anything with chocolate.
They make their own Swiss-style chocolates that remind me a little of Neuhaus. Some chocolates with liquor are literally that .. chocolate with liquid booze inside. The little marzipans are very pretty as well.
The hot chocolate was exquisite. It must have been made from melted chocolate it was so smooth, rich and thick (but not too).
They also make some nice cream cakes. The black forest cake with light sponge, cherries and whipped cream was wonderful. I had a nice mousse torte as well, though I didn’t like the raspberry mousse cake because I thought it lacked flavor.
They have a number of hot and cold chocolate specialty drinks such as: orange and cognac, fresh mint, amaretto, cherries and kirsch, pistachio, hazelnut, cardamom, chai, toasted almond, coconut, cinnamon and ginger.
The coffee is not great. The cappuccino comes in a glass mug that looks pretty with it’s perfect proportion of 1/3 coffee, 1/3 milk and 1/3 foam. However, it doesn’t have much taste.
I thought the savory items we tried were only ok. The ham croissant only had a single thin piece of ham and the pastry dough was only fair. The chicken empanada didn’t have a lot of flavor though it had things like olives and raisins mixed in.
They have a breakfast menu with Guatemalan, American and European items. You can get muesli. There are a few salads, soup and other lunch items.
I don’t think this is a chain despite them having two outposts in a tony neighborhood at the edge of the city. Yes, I know … three locations probably qualifies them as a chain. However, I didn’t see more than that, so they are small.
I was at the one across the highway from the Hiper Paiz Puerta Parada. I don’t really have that address, so I’ll give the more accessible and original location in Zona 10 near the American embassy.
Address: 6 Av. 12-58
Mercado Central - 8 Calle and 8 Av (Zpma 1)
At 9:30 am vendors were still setting up stands. The customers at the produce stands were mainly restaurant owners buying veggies for the dishes they were preparing that day. At the foot of the steps that lead down two flights to the market, Comedor Flor Antiquena was setting for the day.
The market is divided in two parts. One half has way over 30 small comedors (restaurants) and the other half is produce, flowers, seeds, grains, beans, dry dog food, spices, meat, fish and candy with a few food stands mixed in
Down another flight of steps is a level with mostly household items and a half dozen cheese stands. Other areas in the market are devoted to crafts and non-food items.
I got a coke while waiting for the vendors to finish setting up and watched Flor prepare for the day. I was going to get a coffee but when she pulled out the jar of Nescafe … well. She didn’t have anything other than bottled drinks.
One table was de-stemming tiny tolito chiles … a daunting task since they are the size of ball-bearings. The next table held jars of spices and a third table the veggies – winter squash, tomatoes, oregano, basil, garlic, onions, corn, celery, cilantro. Hunks of meat simmered on the stove … the guisado (stew) was on
Mayans in traditional dress passed by balancing baskets of produce on their heads. Some of the stands delivered atole on trays to the various vendors.
Around the corner from Flor, were vendors selling spices from large plastic bags or burlap sacks.
The fruit vendors sold mountains of tropical produce such as mamy, zapote, pataha, papaya, pacaya, mangos, nance, guavas
At the back of the market meat and fish vendors lined one aisle. Large cuts of meat and strings of sausages hung from the ceilings of these stalls. Trays held various organ meats. I liked one chicken vendor who had a string of tiny rubber chickens on a wall.
Fish vendors sold mainly tlapia and shrimp. There were also endangered seafood items such as turtle eggs and shark fins (I had no clue that’s what the were),
All of the meat and fish was unrefrigerated and not in coolers and VERY few on ice. Some trays were covered with plastic to discourage flies, but not many.
In the same aisle as the meat, I decided to stop at Refresqueria San Judas Tadeo for an atole de habas.
Googling after my visit it seems this is one of the better known comedors at the market and it was easy to see why. The 10 little plastic stools at the counter were always occupied. The spread of food looked mouthwatering.
A few of the items: fat sausages, fried pacayas, chopped radishes, tortitas, chucitos, ground meat, fried turnovers, whole roasted chickens and a lot of things I never saw before.
Habas are broad beans. They get described as lima beans or fava beans, but they are really a different type of broad bean. These are often sold roasted which splits them open like butterflies. I don’t like them much as they are very hard … like the jaw-breaking quality of corn nuts.
For atole, the habas are dried, roasted and made into flour. Served in a large glass mug, it had a nutty taste that was like roasted almonds. They also sold a beautiful looking atole de arroz con leche that was ladled out of a pot and lovingly sprinkled with cinnamon. Atole was five quetzales (about 55 cents)
The market in general is a good place to sample different atoles. Other vendors had chocolate arroz con leche, plantano (had that at home), atole blanco (had that elsewhere) and regular corn atole
While sipping the atole and being entertained by the marimba player across the aisle (Guatemalans are big on marimbas) the people next to me ordered some fabulous looking tacos made from the fat sausages. I had to get them.
For 12 quetzales ($1.50) there were two small tacos each with a whole sausage. On one taco the sausage was covered with chojín (diced radishes with onions in lime juice) and the other with guacamole A bowl of a green sauce called pacamas was passed to me by the people in the next seats.
The sausage was juicy, meaty goodness with little bits of peppers and maybe herbs. This linhk about this comedor says they are longanizas nahuizalqueñas. If you scroll down, just after the photo of Harry giving a thumbs up at the Jude counter, there is a photo of the sausage tacos. The toppings are different from what I had though. If you click on the photo, it will enlarge and there is even a nice cross view of the sausage interior.
The stall was decorated with fake flowers, lots of religious statues (Jude, I presume), dolphins and clowns … Guatemala has the creepiest looking clowns … not a country for the clown-phobic. A sign on the wall read “Se vende chica” a fruit that has a taste of pears. Since there were some bottles under the sign, I am guessing they made it into a beverage.
The most noted comedor is Doña Mela’s food stall. I didn’t read about this until after my visit. It seems celebrities and even a Guatemalan president have made stops here. I’ll give it a try on my next visit. There’s even a video about the place
Hey, Jude was very tasty. I was happy and next time I want that arroz atole.
I wandered over the candy tables across the way and bought some dulces típicos, typical Guatemalan candy.
While they didn’t have some of the more elegant candies at the shops in Antigua, there was a very good selection. I had
Canillitas de leche – Probably the most popular Guatemalan candy and rightly so. They have the taste of caramels without the stickiness that threatens teeth fillings. The texture is like a soft fudge, but not as solid. It is texture-wise (but not taste-wise) somewhere between canned frosting and fudge ... but again, the taste is of a really good caramel.
Tamarindos - The photo of these red sugar balls was so pretty. so that was the other candy I selected. The taste was ... startling. It was sort of like Sweetarts, but more intense. It was amazing that something that was basically just a ball of sugar could be so tart and tangy at the same time. Tamarind seeds are included for prolonged puckering pleasure. After getting over the assertive taste ... well, it was kind of addictive.
Then it was over to another stand that had six huge jars of aqua frescas, or refrescos as they are called here. This is actually a photo of the stand
I chose lime because it also had something that looked interesting, like black pepper. It pretty much tasted like lime. Then I started thinking about the flies over at the meat stands a half a aisle away. “Um, por favor, que es eso? El negro?” I inquired.
“Chan” she replied to my relief. Lime and dragon fruit agua fresco … cool. It was delicious.
How can you dislike a place that sells dragon fruit for 50 cents each and bags of rambuten for $2 One stand had the the most amazing white mushrooms … six inches across. Of course, this being Guatemala, dogs joined the shoppers.
I didn’t explore the cheese stands too much. One was a common cheese vendor that can be found almost everywhere in Guatemala. They are actually quite good and make a nice crema and queso fresco. This article about the market also mentions queso de capas, queso de Peten, and queso de Taxisco. There’s a picture of one cheese and some addition photos of the market.
The stand that really caught my eye was Queso de Jalapo. There were huge wheels of cheese, some fresh cheese and quesadillas. In Guatemala a quesadilla is a sweet cake made with cheese. Next time I’ll bring a cooler.
Fresh goat milk, direct from the goat, is available though I didn’t see it. However, in another part of Guatemala City I saw two separate goat milk vendors, herding three goats that looked like these from a photo someone took of the central market.
My husband had a doctor’s appointment in Guatemala City and I said I wanted to go along and he could drop me off to do some shopping and sightseeing. Everyone, literally was scandalized by my shopping alone at the Central Market because it was so dangerous.
Phone conversations ensued and an aunt was sent down to safely drive me back to the doctor’s office. She lives in a town with a reputation for gang violence and SHE said it was dangerous.
Other relatives who live in Guatemala City was also were shocked. In the next post, I’ll write about the market near them in zone 17 on the very edge of the city which was proclaimed safe … no robbers and lots of police.
As indicated, I really dug this market. I liked it more than the Antigua market. To me it seemed no more dangerous than any other market in any city and I took all the precautions I usually take. So I’ll be back to explore more.
Photos, websites and blogs about the Central Market (most in English, some in Spanish)
Doña Mela food stall
Photos of produce stalls
Nice photo of picaya (the veggie, not the volcano)
Photos of the spice and veggie stalls
An offal photo of meat
Mercado Calle 10 and 15 Avenida a (Zona 17)
With the exception of one level-headed relative, everyone who has knows about my trip alone to the Central Market in Guatemala City has been shocked. I’ve been told it is very dangerous.
When I recently visited a wealthy relative in Guatemala City, Doña Estala, the family matriarch whisked me away with her nephew, her body guard and had the driver take us in the minivan to the local mercado in that section of Guatemala City.
Doña Estala knows this market like I know the farmers markets in the San Francisco Bay Area and the woman can bargain.
One vendor had some exquisitely sweet, juice oranges. When she heard the price, she said “Muy caro” and started to look at something else. Prices were arranged and the bodyguard hauled off a bag as large as Santa’s, filled with those wonderful oranges. I do believe the vendor threw in some plums in the transaction.
Her nephew told me that bargaining like that is common, especially for a regular customer and there was usually some extra item added to the deal.
The little cheese stand across from the orange vendor had pails of thick, rich crema that was ladled into plastic bags. They also carried some nice queso fresco, some with lorroco and a few other cheeses.
In back of the cheese vendor was a carneceria where we bought some chicarrone.
From one fish vendor she purchased two long black pez sierra (wahoo). Her nephew pointed out little crabs that looked like crab on a stick. The claws and legs are extended and wrapped with strips of banana leaves. There was also carocol (sea snails). For fish with scales, the vendor scraped them off into a large burlap bag. For the wahoo, he removed something near the back of the head and the fins.
The chicken vendor had two types of chicken. One type was pale and on the scrawny side. The others were plump golden birds that are fed a special diet of maize and the skin is as yellow as a bright ear of corn.
I should mention that in almost all the markets I’ve visited in Guatemala, none of the meat or fish is refrigerated or kept on ice. A meat market will have sections of beef and pork hanging from the window with pans of organ meats. Every time I see chickens, often sitting in the sun, I think of the SF Bay Area organic chicken vendor who says she can only sell her birds frozen due to health regulations. A cooler doesn’t meet the local health code temperature standards.
We bought some wonderful, small deep red dragon fruit – three for 5 quetzales (about 55 cents). When I had one at home, it actually had a very noticeable spicy note to it. It was excellent.
There were vendors with fat red and yellow plantains. I had the yellow plantains at another market and didn’t think too much of them. However, the plantains are sweet in Guatemala and not the starchy type that require cooking
One vendor had two different types of pineapple and another had two types of watermelon. There were bags of black tamarindo pulp with seeds
There were quite a few vendors selling Guatemalan candies, dulces tipico, especially figs. There were at least three ladies with big bowls of figs in syrup. Though they tried to keep them covered, I think the flies were winning in terms of the figs.
I saw my first fresh lorroco, a flower used for many dishes. I had a taste of ceresas, a black fruit like a tiny cherry that had a tanic note.
Dona Estrela picked up some nances, a yellow fruit that was used as a beverage that night. One stand had deep pink guava that perfumed the air. We stopped at a little shop around the corner to pick up a bag of fresh tortillas.
Vendors sold roses, snapdragons, and other flowers. There were some parakeets for sale and a few hung around outside the cage. Everyone in Guatemala seems to have caged parakeets. I haven’t been to a house without them. Lots of people also have large Lorroco’s as well.
This was a bustling market. The streets were lined with food shops and restaurants. There were many produce, cheese, meat and fish vendors. There were also lots of other goods such as clothing, pots, pans etc, but the food stands ruled here.
I thanked Dona Estrela and said I liked it very much. She nodded and said that unlike the Central Market there were no robbers here and lots of police to keep shoppers safe.
First-class article about Doña Mela at the the Mercado Central that I came across today.
It takes the author a few paragraphs to get to but there are photos of: MOLE DE PLATANOS, TOSTADAS, RELLENITOS Y PLATANO FRITO, CHILTEPE (love it), BUCHE CON TORTILLAS, CHICHARRONES, ENCHILADAS (impressive), PANZA (cow stomach and surprisingly good), POSOLE CON CHOJIN Y GUACAMOLE, and RELLENITOS
I learned about a lot of those mystery foods I saw at stands
Revolcado "It’s made out of ground pig head. And by pig head, I mean the whole thing.... everything that involves head. I’m not going into details. But it tastes damn good. At Doña Mela, you buy it by the pound. It’s pretty much like a mix between a thin sauce and a thick soup. With bits and pieces of ... a pigs head. (Don’t worry; you cannot tell what it is) High on vitamins... minerals... collagen... iron... all the good stuff."
Buche - pigs stomach cooked in lime juice with tomatoes, onion, thyme, laurel (bay leaf) and cilantro . Who knew? In Mexico it means cow's head.
"Enchiladas in Guate have nothing at all to do with Mexican enchiladas. Here they are a huge pile of meats and vegetables and they are served cold. It’s a very colorful sight and kind of sloppy to eat ... It has carrots, string beans, beats, onion and green peas, marinated in vinegar and salt, thyme and laurel"
Patitas a la vinagreta - pigs feet "boiled and mixed with cabbage vinaigrette, slices of green bell pepper, thyme and laurel ... The fun part, I understand, is sucking on the jelly inside"
Tira - Long strips of cow’s stomach in a thick tomato sauce with spices that include cinnamon
Fritanga - If I understand this correction, potato patties, moranga (blood sausage, quite tasty if done well ... think boudin noir), tortillas, guacamole and radish
There's lots more descriptions of dishes and how to eat them, I just posted the ones I was unfamiliar with. Good article. Anything by this writer about Gautemala is excellent.
Doña Mela - Mercado Central
The only thing good about Doña Mela, is that my friend took pity on me and later we went for good Gurtemalan food ... actually Guatemalan greatness ... at Billares San Carlos
Guatemala City: Billares San Carlos - Since 1951 the world's best doblada
I am finding that is quite a sucessful strategy. Take a Guatemalan to an over-hyped tourist joint and they feel sorry for you and take you someplace for great Guatemalan food.
"It's not very good" my friend said when I said i wanted to go to Doña Mela
"But it gets raves everywhere. There's a video about it. Presidents and celebrities eat there" I said.
"It's not very good" my friend repeated
We went. It wasn't very good.
First of all, there are no seats. You stand at the counter. Only bottled drinks are available.
I am not even going to waste my time describing the stuff because it was all the same ... tasteless diced stuff on guacamole or with chopped radishes served on cold tortillas.
The chicharrones are a joke. Crunchy, yes. But minced. What is that all about. The moranga (blood sausage) was inedible. I have had great moraga. This wasn't it. It had a disgusting liver taste. Even the chopped radishes were soggy and flavorless. I've had good versions elsewhere.
The rest is a blur. Some dry shredded chicken stands out.
The enchiladas looked tired and so unappetizing that I didn't order one.
Go instead to the far superior Refresqueria San Judas Tadeo around the corner. They have seats and much better food. Unfortunately they were sold out of the atole when we got there in the afternoon.
I am such a smuck tourist here and my Chowhound instincts are just not kicking in. I can't believe I fell for the hype. The food gods have smiled on me though with friends and family who are cluing me in on Guatemalan food greatness. This was not it. Doña Mela was the antonym for greatness.
This was so bad that my friend coughed up some info about great places in Esquintla that he has been holding back on. This was so bad, after lunch when he saw a Taco Bell, he said that was better than DM. I had to agree.
I went back tto the Central Market to try out the cheese vendors. Here's info about Guatemalan cheese I've tried so far.
La Sampedran is the real star. They sell four items and only four items - queso de jalapa, queso de Zacapata, mantequilla de costal and mind-blowing great quesadillas or Guatemalan cheese bread.
Both dry cheeses cut from huge wheels are excellent, the Zacapata with a slight creaminess and the Jalapa more crumbly.
The mantequilla de costal or sack butter is dense, rich, creamy and wonderful.
The quesadilla made with tha butter and the Zacapata, a cheese like Parmesan but with more character, impressed all my Guatemalan friends and relatives. They proclaimed it excellent.
Also, the guy at the shop is just wonderful. He got did just fine with my fractured Spanish and was nice enough to label each bag with the cheese name.
Lacteos Santisimos Trinidal has a larger selection of cheeses. The stars here for me were the chile queso seco and the slightly smokey, creamy and elegant requeson that was wrapped in a plantain leaf like a tamale. The requeson is similar to ricotta, but better.The notes about the rest of the cheeses from this shop are in the general link about Guatemalan cheese.
Both shops are worth a stop.