Antigua, GT: Hector's Restaurante - just about the best quiche and fries I've ever had
This tiny restaurant with four tables and six bar stools is across the street from La Merced church. The food has a strong French influence. Seafood specials are served on Tuesday and Friday.
Hector’s doesn’t have a sign. Only a small chalkboard of specials on the door. Actually, Hector’s seemed to be even lower key on my most recent visit. There was only a mirror in the door with “Yes, this is Hector’s” faintly written in white at the top. Underneath were two 8 x 11 sheets of white paper with the menu.
I had no intention of returning to Hector’s. I liked the food well enough but I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. Still, even on that first visit, I had one of the best preparations of duck I have ever had in my life.
It was lunch time. I was near La Merced. It started to rain. There was Hector’s a few steps away. Why not? A little prayer of thanks to the food gods. This time I got what Hector’s was all about and I’m glad I stopped in again.
Here's what I had rated from A+ to F -
C …... Green and black olives
A- ….. Red pepper, string bean and zucchini quiche with salad
A- ….. Frites with house-made catsup
B + … Beer
B + … Kahlua ice cream with strawberry coulis
Service: B - … Very good
Ambiance: B - … Very good
Restaurant record with more info such as address, phone, hours and menu
Flickr photostream with more pictures
There’s a reason Hector’s is one of, if not THE, most popular restaurants in Antigua. I’ve been at least three times in the past two months (probably 10 times in the past two years) and it’s still as good as ever. The menu is modest, but the ingredients are all top drawer and everything is very well prepared. There have been a few minor changes to the menu since rworange reported on it above. Here's the menu as of April 2012:
Appetizers: A large mixed salad with various lettuces, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and Parmesan croutons served with a honey/mustard dressing on the side; roasted tomatoes with Gouda, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic; beef carpaccio with olive oil, lime juice, capers, red onion, and Parmesan; traditional pommes frites with homemade ketchup; and the soup of the day. Any one of these would make a fine lunch. Prices are about $5 to $6.
Main courses: a vegetarian quiche (ingredients change depending on what’s in season) served with a small green salad; a steak sandwich served with the above mentioned pommes frites; a traditional boeuf Bourguignon; grilled duck breast served on a carrot and potato douphinoise with roasted grapes and creme fraiche; and 8-ounce beef tenderloin medallion served on spinach with a blue cheese and chipotle cream sauce with a side of deep fried potato disks. The most expensive of these mains is the duck, which costs about $19.
There is at least one, often two, specials every day, and on Tuesdays and Fridays it’s usually fish, often a shrimp dish and usually corvina or other fish that’s been delivered that morning from the coast.
Desserts (which I admit to having been to full after a meal ever to have tried) are: chocolate fondant with almonds and Amaretto served with an orange/rum cream; a creme brulee that changes flavor profile from week to week; and vanilla ice cream served with a hint of olive oil and black salt.
The wine list is also modest, but with a decent selection of wines from Spain, Argentina, and Chile that can be bought by the glass or the bottle (although for at least 6 weeks now they’ve been out of the Carmenere.
My favorite dish is still the grilled duck breast; it’s just spectacular. But it’s hard to beat Hector’s steaks, either the medallion or the sandwich. This may be one of the few places in town that believes you when you ask for medium-rare. The only dish that is less than outstanding is the boeuf Burguignon. Not that it’s bad, mind you; not at all. It’s just that other dishes are so superb you sort of hope it will be the best you ever had and it just isn’t.
The place is still tiny and it’s not at all unusual for there to be up to a half an hour wait at prime time in the evening. And don’t try to go with a group of 8 or 10. It ain’t gonna happen unless you're the first ones in the door when they open.
HECTOR'S RESTAURANTE DETAILS
COMPLIMENTARY GREEN AND BLACK OLIVES: C … Average
They are free and it is nice to have something to munch on while waiting for lunch. However, I can’t make more of them than they are. They are just green and black olives.
RED PEPPER, STRING BEAN AND ZUCCHINI QUICHE WITH SALAD: A- … Way above average
Hector’s does quiche right. The wonderful custardy filling had an equally wonderful rustic flaky crust. It is the best quiche I’ve had in a long time, maybe ever.
The salad was top-notch as well with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, chopped parsley, croutons, and butter lettuce. Hector’s has some sort of great source for tomatoes. It is the only place so far I’ve had heirloom tomatoes (previous visit) and cherry tomatoes in Guatemala. The salad was nicely topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Honey mustard dressing is usually my least favorite. Either there is too much honey or too much mustard. Hector’s was excellent with just the right balance.
FRITES WITH HOUSE-MADE CATSUP: A - …. Way above average
The frites were medium cut, skin on white potatoes that were full of flavor. The house made catsup was the first really good use of Guatemalan tomatoes that I can remember. The spicing gave them actual flavor. I asked for an extra, it was so good.
Another poster had sweet potato fries, and though they were totally different from the potatoes I was served, I couldn’t say it any better than this
“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.”
BEER: B + … Very, very good
It was just bottled beer, so why the high rating? It was the glass. It was nicely frosted. Also, Hector’s gets points for serving Cabro beer, probably the only Guatemalan beer with any character or flavor. It has a nice, slightly bitter hoppy edge to it.
Since I had all those fries to enjoy and I was waiting for the rain to let up, I decided to try almost all the other Guatemalan beers sided by side.
Blind-folded, I seriously don’t think anyone could tell the difference between Dorado Draft, Monte Carlo and Gallo. Gallo is probably the lightest of the three, but they all have that watery flavor of Bud light or Corona. Moza is a darker beer and has a little more character but not much. It is like the difference between Lindsey Lohen and Paris Hilton. They are all lightweights and not to be taken seriously.
KAHLUA ICE CREAM WITH STRAWBERRY COULIS: B + … Very, very good
This was a lovely creamy ice cream that included finely ground chocolate that melted on the tongue like snowflakes. The strawberry coulis was good and Hector’s serves it with all the ice cream. However, it wasn’t right with the Kahlua flavor. Next time there’s an ice cream that doesn’t seem like a good mate for the coulis, I’ll tell them to skip it.
Service: B - … Very good
The ever changing ladies here are always friendly and service is prompt. Everything is cooked to order so there can be a little wait.
Ambiance: B - … Very good
Hector’s just celebrated its third anniversary. So the worn, neighborhood Paris café look is planned. Seriously, whoever designed Hector’s should work for Disneyland so instead of fake looking French cafes at the parks, they would look like the real deal like Hector’s.
The background music is good and eclectic … anything from Macy Grey, to Billie Holiday to “Nadine”.
I have never been in the evening at prime time. However, in the afternoon, on off hours, it is a pleasant place to have a good meal and pass the time, especially on a rainy Antigua afternoon watching tourists duck the drops in the plaza of La Merced.
I wish Hector’s was in my home town. If I lived in Antigua I’d be a regular. It is certainly one of the better dining options near La Merced.
Hector’s is the idealized café. A lot of thought went into the décor as well as the food. It isn’t easy to make everything so perfect and yet seem so casual and effortless.
And that’s what I missed last time.