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Jul 29, 2011 07:31 PM

Guatemala: 4 days each in GC and Antigua with a 5 yr. old, a spice-averse granny, a somewhat vegetarian and 2 omnivores

My wife and I are taking our adopted 5 year old back to Guatemala to give him a first visit back to his roots. We will be accompanied by his 89 year old grandma who is very adventurous but can't tolerate spicy foods and his god-mother who eats fish but not chicken or red meat.

We will be 4 days in Zona 10 of Guatemala City and 4 days at La Antigua. Also 4 days in Panachel -- which we didn't go to on previous trips.

Based on my wife's and my first visits to finalize adoption, I would go back in GC to Kakao and in Antigua to that touristy place that Clinton ate at and that one that's a hotel with multiple lobby spaces and a woman who is making tortillas all through the meal (I don't remember the name of either one but I know others will know what I am talking about). But I welcome thoughts on other places. In GC, Jake's? Tamarindo's? We can go upscale but don't need to. We don't need to avoid touristy places but don't mind avoiding them if we can.

Based on the composition of our group, I guess we need impressive food with variety and something acceptable for a child.

Calle 2-19A, Zona 10, Guatemala City, Guatemala 01010, GT

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  1. If you've been to Guatemala before, then you know spicy is no problem. Guatemala is not Mexico and they are adverse in general to spice. You also know that Guatemala is EXTREMELY unfriendly to the elderly if there is any mobility issue ... Actually Antigua is unfriendly to any woman in high heels.

    Those cobblestones are killers and in the year I was there I had a half dozen major falls and was just grateful I never broke a leg.

    Your five year old would enjoy the Oakland Mall in Guatemala City very much. The entire top floor is devoted to children with two-tier carosel. On the second level is Nais Aquarium Restaurant which has the largest indoor aquarium with Marine biologists taking care of it. There's a bubble to walk inside and maybe tours (When we asked on the most recent visit they said no. However, the website still mentions them).

    Nais is a chain, this is the only one with an Aquarium. It is decent enough chain food. My opinion is that it is a good breakfast place. However, the main reason for going to Nais is for the aquarium. I wouldn't recommend any of the other restaurants that don't have it.

    Also no worry about the fish eater as pescado frito is on almost every menu. The country is embraced closely by two oceans and the ceviche is fantastic.

    Will you have a car? Having just come back from year in Guatemala there are some places I love, but it they are car dependant.

    What days will you be in Antigua? The weekend holds different options, so if you are there on Saturday or Sunday, then I'd give different recs.

    The touristy place Clinton ate is probably La Fonda de la Calle Real. You want to eat at the location on 3rd Calle which is a block farther than than the 2 near Central Park. It is the nicest, with the best service and menu. Do NOT go to the one next door to Pollo Comparo which universally sucked on both of my visits there ... once for breakfast and once for dinner. My understanding is a different family member own this restaurant and it shows. The original restaurant across the street is small and cramped downstairs and I don't know how much stairs are an issue for the older member of your group.

    The other joint may be Panza Verde which I didn't think much of. It could also have been Casa Santa Domingo which I love ... it has a museum inside and a chapel and the best breakfast buffet in the city. And ... um .. it COULD be La Posada de Don Rodrigo, which I wanted to hate because of the toursity-ness, but actually loved ... except for the dumb ballet ... skip that ... though who knows ... your child might enjoy it and the diners are invited to joint in (shudder ... just NOT my thing ... but the food really was good).

    Some favorites of mine are Saberico which had the best pepian I had in Guatemala. It is basically organic food with three fabulous gardens your five year old would love. Everybody seems to love Hectors near La Merced. If you want upscale, there's Welten with a swimming pool filled with rose petals. I'll FINALLY be doing a report about it in a few days. Bistro Cinq is liked by most people.

    If people are REALLY adventurous, then La Cancha which is kitty corner from Hector's and across from La Merced. It is NOT the same as Las Canchas which is on the other end of town and the polar opposite of La Cancha.

    It will give your child an idea of what growing up in Guatemala really would have been like. Located in back of a tiny store, it is like sitting in most kitchens in Guatemala. You will be sharing tables with Guatemalans. It has arguably the best pepian in Guatemala. I say arguably because I've had quite a few arguments with locals on whether Saberico or La Cancha has the best pepian. I'd go here for breakfast as the person who doesn't like meat might have a problems since lunch and dinner only offer three dishes and I don't ever remember any of them being fish.

    It is quite the adventure though so I'm not sure if someone who liked Kakao would faint in the real Guatemalan experience of La Cancha ... but it is an institution. I liked Kakao ... but it is sort of the Disney version of Guatemala. La Cancha (the blonde) is run by a maybe 80 year old woman who is almost as big as the pots in the kitchen. She is just the sweetest person in the world. Spanish helps. Here's my report

    Here's my collection on Flickr of restaurnats I've eaten at in the past year in Guatemala.

    Currently there's arround 100 restaurants (some stuff is Guatemalan food in general) In the next two weeks I'll be catching up with the other 25-30.

    The flicker photostreams all link back to Chowhound reports.

    If you let me know about the car situation and what days you will be in each city, I can make some additional recs that will fit your situation. Not all the joints in the Flickr link would work for your group.

    Are you going at any speicfic holiday time such as Halloween or Christmas? Those giant kites for Halloween are pretty fabulous and would lead to other recs.

    Haven't posted about Welten yet, but here's some pool photos

    1. In GC, both Jake’s and Tamarindo are reliable and very good. Jake’s has a lovely outdoor courtyard and a menu sufficiently varied to suit all tastes. Not sure Tamarindo is a good choice, though, for a 5-year-old, or for a non-spice eater. I think the best dishes are the Thai ones and most of those are fairly spicy. It’s also a bit pricier than I think the food sometimes warrants. Tapas y Canas, also in Zone 10, might be a better choice for your group.

      Agree with rworange that the 3rd Calle location is the best of the La Fonda de la Calle Reals, although Clinton ate at the larger one on the street of the arch. Also agree with her about Sabe Rico; it should definitely be on your list; the menu will please all. I’m more of a fan of Bistro Cinq than she; never had a disappointing meal there and I like the atmosphere a lot. I love Hector’s, had a simply awful meal at Welten, have never had anything less than great meals at Panza Verde, and although I’ve never had their breakfast, the lunches and dinners I’ve had at Casa Santa Domingo were more pretentious than good. I like Epicure; nice garden, good breads and pastries, surprisingly good spare ribs; another menu on which everyone will find something that appeals.

      In Pana, you’ll want to go to Deli Jasmin, down at the end of Avenida Santander, for breakfast. Tables are set in an outside garden surrounded by greenery. You can linger with your coffee while the five-year-old watches the birds and butterflies dart around in the fruit trees.

      Bistro Cinq
      4 a Calle 7, Antigua, Guatemala, Sacatepequez 03001, GT

      1 Reply
      1. re: JoanN

        Ok yeah, I forgot about Epicure oddly enough, because it was the one place I ate at the most. It is pretty much straight up French food though. It has one of the more beautiflul gardens in the very back... in a city of gorgeous gardens. There are a nuumber of steps to get up to it though, if that is an issue. Not horrible, but not sure if you need to consider that.

        Bistro Cinq at least has a Guatemala slant somewhat. I would have been a real cheerleader for BC if the final meal there (brunch) had not been a total disaster. Still, I;ll chalk that one up to one server who I hope someone has fired by now. Seriously ... if you try to catch someone's by waving ... after bening ignored for white a while ... and they just wave back cheerily and disappear ... well ...