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Ecuador / Cuenca

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Will spend 4 weeks in Cuenca, Ecuador (Oct & Nov 2010). First time in Ecuador. Looking for good street foods, market foods, and great restaurants of all price ranges. Would love to hear your recommendations. Thanks!

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  1. After 4 weeks in Cuenca, here is my own Restaurant Notes:

    In the following list:
    - Restaurants listed in alphabetic order
    - "…" = I have not tried personally but heard from others
    - Ratings: "x*"= Don't bother, "~*" = so so; "*" = good; "+*" = Very good; "++*" = Excellent (Rating factors in the value-for-the-money, in addition to the quality of the food)

    * Ake La Rre. 282.3636. Open daily
    General Torres 8-40, entre Marsical Sucre y Bolivar.
    Spanish tapas.
    OK but not special and somewhat pricy.

    * Cafe Eucalyptus. 284.9157
    Gran Columbia 9-41. x7 5p..late.
    When you want non-local food. Comfortable funky nice jazz pub setting. Uneven food from around the world. Some good, some mediocre.

    * Cafe Austria 284.5887
    Benigno Malo 5-95 @Juan Jaramillo
    Mediocre food but comfortable place for lingering with WiFi, coffee, tea, cakes & some food.

    * Cafe Picanteria
    Juan jaramillo y Benigno malo
    m..f: 7a..9p. sat: 7a..noon
    Chef owner Eric is Peruvian.
    Menu changes daily, with only a few choices of basic local food at very low price. Will also prepare inexpensive eggs breakfast.

    ...Dos Choreras
    On the way to Cajas. About 30minutes from Cuenca.
    I am told that it is a good place for fish, especially the local trout.

    * El Cafe Lojano y Tostador
    Mariscal sucre 10-20. 8:30a..7p m..sat
    Tiny place that roasts local coffee, which you can drink there, or buy the beans to go. No frill; Inexpensive

    +* El Maiz 284.0224
    Calle larga 1-279 y calle de los molinos. 12p...9p. Closed Sun.
    Good local food, somewhat up-scaled.
    We had a nice goat stew (seco de chivo), good local trout (but overcooked), and excellent moose de taxo

    x* El Tequila 282.2807
    Gran Columbia 20-59. 8a..8p daily
    Local food recommended by many, but we were disappointed. Maybe we hit them at a bad night. The carne asade was very tough (The only main choice that night). Sides were OK. Prices were higher than other places of comparable food.

    +* El Tunel
    Honorato Vasquez 6-80 @ President Borrero.
    Good for cheap, local, simple, but tasty $2 lunch. No dinner. Very clean.

    * Govinda's
    Juan Jaramillo 7-27. M..sat 8:30..3p.
    Vegetarian. Ok Simple low cost lunch.

    +* Guajibamba 283.1016
    Luis Cordero 12-32 @Gaspar Sangurima
    m..sat 12..3p, 6..11p.
    THE place if you want to try cui (guinne pig). Call ahead to pre-order it. Also have other typical dishes: Seco de chivo, fritada (fried pork: tasty but tough) & more.
    Cui is a bit pricy ($20 for two people). Other items are cheaper.

    +* kookaburra Cafe 284.0423
    Calle Larga 9-40 y Benigno Malo
    7a..4p thur..mon.
    Nice friendly Australian owners (Chris & Jenny). A very pleasant café for breakfast & lunch. Our favorite non-local hangout place. Simple good food, made with quality ingredients. A good place to read English daily paper, and connect with the local English speaking community. KookaburraCuenca@gmail.com

    ...La Compania Microcerveceria.
    Presidente borrero 4-66 @honorato vasquez
    Microbrewery. I did NOT try them.

    +* Le Petit Cafe
    Luis Cordero 8-74? @Simon Bolivar (eastside of parke calderon)
    Small pleasant low$ French cafe with crapes, quiche, desserts, coffees, and wines. I did not try the food, but the coffee & the molten chocolate cake were very good.

    * Los Molinos Del Batan 288.2258 or 281.1531. 12 de Abril y el Batan.
    Local grilled meats & sides. Tasty but typically over-done meats (beef, pork, chicken. Ask them not to cook it to death). Can accommodate large parties (if you make reservations)

    ...Mansion Alcazar
    Simon Bolivar @Tarqui
    Inside a beautiful boutique hotel. Nice garden setting but pricy. I am told that it's a nice place for afternoon tea in the garden. (I peeked in but did not eat.)

    ++* Mercado 10 de Augusto.
    General Torres @Larga
    Open daily until the afternoon
    Nice big vegetables, fruits, and meat market on the first floor + eating booths on the second floor. You can get here some of the cheapest and best foods in Cuenca! (I am guessing that the other major markets in town offer comparable foods.)
    Some of my favorites:
    - Fried trout (and other fish). All the fish booths are along the east side of the "island", and my favorite is the co-op of the two booths on the southern end of the island. Perfectly fried fish, with nice side salads.
    - Encebollado de Pescado: The same two booths serve a great version of this meal-in-a-soup. (Be sure to squeeze some lime and add the nice orange-color sauce too.)
    - Just about anything else these two booths have…
    - Hornado (whole cooked pork). My favorite was at booth #594, 2nd from the right along the south wall.
    - Fresh squeezed Juice. As you face the north-side wall, the 2nd from the left is my favorite. $0.50 will get you a great glass of fresh squeezed juice. Ask her to make you some of her favorite combinations. And bring an empty water bottle to take some extra to-go.
    - Tamales: savory and sweet. Various good choices along the north-wall, down from the juice ladies.

    +* Moliendo cafe. 280.8710
    Honorato Vasquez 6-24.
    M..sat 9a..9p.
    Inexpensive small Colombian cafe. Be sure to try their empanadas (cheap; get one of each for appetizer), and arepas (fried corn pancakes) with whatever topping that calls you.

    ~* Raymipampa. 283.4159
    Benigno Malo 8-59 @Parke Calderon
    m..sat 8:30a..11:30p
    Mix of local & diner food. Very popular with locals and tourists, maybe because of the convenient location and long hours. Food is mediocre. (but the consume de pollo was nice).

    ~* Sacura Sushi 282-7740
    Paseo 3 de noviembre 2451 y Escalinata. Noon..midnite
    Lonely Planet says that this is Cuenca's best sushi. I say: skip it unless you have a crave for sushi. The nigri comes in tiny portions, the quality is so so, and the prices are high.

    ++* Tiestos. 07.283.3310.
    07.283.5310, or cell: 08.723.3063. jcsj71@hotmail.com
    12:30..15:00 & 6:30p..10p. closed Mon. Sun open only for lunch.
    Juan Jaramillo 7-34 y Borrero
    Right now I think it is the best restaurant in Cuenca!
    Upscale modernized local food. Somewhat pricy for Cuenca (but under $20 per person for a full meal, especially if you go with a glass of house wine instead of bottle choices) but you get your money worth! Don't worry about the "prices for 4", they will ½ them for two, or ¼ for one.
    TIP: Put the menu aside and ask Juan Carlos Solano - chef/owner to cook a variety of his favorite dishes.
    Our favorites: Rounds of fillet mignon, topped with grilled tomato and finger-licking sauce. Prawns (with shell & head intact). The complementary small condiments that precede the main dish.

    2 Replies
    1. re: aristo7

      Hey there

      I just left Cuenca and keep a blog in the next couple weeks I'll have two posts about what to eat street food wise which should compliment @aristo7 's restaurant list nicely as it's the cheap eats.

      Should be next week or so at http://www.baconismagic.ca

      1. re: aristo7

        Aristo7, your recommendations were fantastic! I just returned from spending 5 days in Cuenca and ate very well thanks for your suggestions. Tiestos was as good as you said. We also really enjoyed the humitas and other local treats at El Maiz. We found and devoured the fried fish, salads, and juices at the Mercado, and we loved the arepas with guacamole at Moliendo cafe. Thanks so much!