Up to Date Recs for Antigua
Would appreciate any restaurant recs for Antigua, Guatemala. Will be staying there for 6 weeks, over Semana Santa. Will be with my 14 year old son, but he is a very adventurous, and enthusiastic, eater.
I'm a bit of a "bargain bites" kinda guy, so no Shmantzy Hotel restaurants need apply. But, a place like Hectore's, for an occasional splurge sounds promising (at Trip Advisor). Markets, and all other food related spots are welcome too. I am very open minded about different cuisines, and like pretty much anything that is not a tourist trap, or that I could eat better at home. So I'm thinking Tibetan and Ethiopian are off the table. Thanks for any attention, and thanks to rworange (btw is that Rhymes With Orange?) Purple is no easy one either!
I spent a couple days in Antigua and tried a bunch of places, here are my opinions to throw in the pot:
Had the vibe of a chain restaurant and apparently it is. Very nice courtyard. Lunch started off great with fresh tomato salsa made table side. It was delicious, which made the quality of the rest of the food all the more surprising. This place had the only legitimately bad guacamole I had in Central America, tasted pre-made and like it had filler. The rest of the food wasn't much better--crappy cheese sauce for "nachos" and pre made tasting tomato salsa served with the entrees. Expensive for Antigua, but at least the service was good. Avoid.
La Tienda de La Canche
This place lived up to the hype. Great pepian and caldo de res and the abeulitas running the place are adorable. Of course it is a great value, too. It's filthy but I would return in a heartbeat. Don't miss it.
La Cuevita de Los Urquizu
The spread of traditional food at the entrance looks amazing but we were only hungry for a snack. Got a couple pupusas and have to disagree with rworange here… we did not like these pupusas very much. They were too dense and maybe overcooked. Some of the filling had escaped and was burnt onto the patty. We had much better pupusas from street vendors in Pana and Tela. Nice place though, and good service.
Decent Mexican food in a fun atmosphere. They seem to serve late. Queso fundido was sort of weird, tasted like swiss cheese. Enchiladas were good. Chilaquiles bore little resemblance to Mexican chilaquiles, this was more like American nachos, but was tasty. Service was bad even by Antigua standards. We ended up here because we couldn't find the place we were really looking for, I would go back again as a Plan B but not a Plan A.
A really cute place with a great courtyard, made for a very pleasant breakfast. Good omelette was served with a crepe with jam, chicken-egg soup was something different and hit the spot for those of us that like soup for breakfast. Good coffee. Food was solid all around but atmosphere takes it up a notch, would return.
Casa Del Flan
Tried the eponymous flan. As mentioned on this or another Antigua thread, the flan here is not the traditional version, or at least not what most Americans would expect; it is a square of custard over various fruits including figs. My gf, who was craving typical flan, did not care for it but I liked it quite a bit. I also got to try Moza on draft, which was delicious; I like it from the bottle but it was better on draft. They have hamburgers and sandwiches too but we didn't try any. Try the flan here.
I wanted to love this place. The garden was gorgeous and the bird cages were a nice touch. Fresh fruit smoothie with wine was great. But the food… tortilla soup with black tortillas was good, a nice portion, but nothing special. The sandwiches… lamb burger (actually a lamb/beef blend) was overcooked into a dry hockey puck. The Sobre Rico sandwich, braised beef, was also dry and bland. Roasted potatoes served on the side were underdone. Ciabatta bread was way too soft. On the way out I checked out the other breads they were selling.. the "baguettes" were pathetically limp with a mushy crust, looked like an American supermarket Italian roll. Sorry I can't get down with this place, they talk a big game but seems like they can't back it up, gotta give it a thumbs down.
El Sabor Del Tiempo
Very nice atmosphere in this converted general store, and a refreshing change of pace from all the courtyards and gardens (not that those are not nice!). Started with the margherita pizza, crust tasted like cardboard but the sauce and cheese were good quality, and tasty. This could have been great pizza if it had a good crust. Even despite the crust we enjoyed this very much. Entrees were rabbit in white wine sauce and duck confit with a mango sauce. The preparations and sides (plain white rice, steamed mixed vegetables) were not creative but the food was very well prepared and tasty. Rabbit and duck were both cooked appropriately. Definitely one of the better meals we ate, would recommend.
Super Something Juice Bar
Sorry don't remember the full name of this place. It's a newer place on 6th Calle between 5th and 6th Ave run by an American couple. Huge menu of smoothies and juices, they say all the produce is organic. Smallish menu of breakfast food, burritos and I think sandwiches. The juices we tried were good. Also tried their breakfast bowl--rice, beans, egg, cheese, salsa, guac--and the Caribbean burrito (had coconut and some other Caribbean things on it). Food was fine but a little dry.. they are trying a little to hard to be healthy I think, some extra cheese and sauce would go a long way. Pleasant place for an expat, though.
La Esquina -- CLOSED
It appears La Esquina has closed. There is a club-looking place in the location now. A bummer for us because we really wanted to try it.
We actually didn't get a chance to hit this in Antigua but felt like we had to try it at the airport on our way home. I was prepared to be unimpressed but this was very good fried chicken. We liked the thin breading and seasoning. Definitely better than our fast food fried chicken chains here, and compares favorably with the best fried chicken I've had.
Guatemalan pupusas are different from Salvadoran. They are thicker and, IMO, better.
The best I had was atLa Cuevita de Los Urquizu. I liked this place for breakfast as well and for its buffet of typical dishes. Another joint with an upstairs roof garden
I never wrote these places up and they are Salvadoran pupusas but good
El Sapo y La Rana is known for its giant pupusas ... at least 12 inches accross. You can get regular size pupusas but this photo shows normal pupusas next to the giant pupusas.
Really sweet ladies. My hotel was a few doors down. Don't order anything here but pupusas. I didn't have much success with other things. This place has two types of curtido - the slaw on pupusas ... regular and hot, hot hot.
Pupusaria Cheros is a small chain. They have a few different fillings. It is ok.
Well, I'm tired. I'll pick this up in a few days with bakeryies, sweets, ice cream, the market, street food and more.
Wow! Thanks much, Orange for such a great haul of info. I look forward to the future postings. See what you mean about Michael Sherer. Sounds like quite a piece of work. Three Dot Journalism is often just lazy journalism. Or he may just be too high to finish his sentences. Woah, 'tigua Dude.
What about your earlier high marks for Hector's, El Pescatore Italiano, (best rest in GUA?) and El Rincon del Conquistador? Not bargain bites, or have they fallen off the fave list?
Reiny aka RWPurple (Ha!)
El Rincon del Conquistador closed. They have a place on the edge of Antigua, but they only do dinners by special reservation or catering.
El Pescatore Italiano changed its name to El Cazador italiano ... they never had much fish on the menu anyway.
They say they only changed the name, but the advertising changes as well where they promote themselves as a party place ... some sort of Friday night drinking thing.
Also, one of the people there in the beginning opened his own restaurant, Pangea, which I really liked. I need to check out Michael Shearer to see where this place is now.
It started out very creative, but ... this is Antigua and they don't go for that. He reinvented himself, adding pizza and opening up and upstairs lounge. Some of the original menu is there and the pizza is great. Que Pasa had a discount here and there are also happy hour specials. You don't need to drink.
Now that I know you arent leaving this month, I might slow the pace a bit and do a few posts a day. i always wanted to wrap up my Guatemala stuff but getting re-established in the US and other stuff didn't give me time to do that. i'll post about some of the great stuff I never have as well as tieing up with past posts
Sunday brunch at Casa Santa Domingo.
I'm not finding the report, but it was amazing. Guatemalans come from Gautemala City for the Sunday brunch here. This is a hotel but more like a city with some beyond amazing grounds that includes a church. At the ery least, walk thru here ... but don't skip brunch
Oddly enough, Bistro Cinq, a French restaurant because why eat French food in Guatemala. it does have some local touches. it is not that much of a spulrge and probably one third the cost of a similar French restaurant in the US. The Que Pasa card offers discounts here.
On the border of Antigua is the town of San Felipe de Jesus. it is where locals go on the weekend to eat and relax. Most everthing is closed Mon-Fri. There are Guatemalan candy stands that you don't see in the city. The best black tamales i've had were at Godspel restaurant here. A little fancier and also good is La Prado. Here's my report
Note: While I will not discuss food off the board, you can email me about non-food stuff.
San Felipe de Jesus has some special Semana Santa events.
The cab to San Felipe is inexpensive. I had a great cab driver in Antigua who never cheated me and was always there for me. He speaks some English as well. If you want his number, email me.
Saturday is tamale day. IMO the only place for tamales is the tamale ladies that set up in front of La Repositoria bakery at exactly 5:30 pm. They usually have a secret menu ... a basket in back that might have chuchitos or tamales with prunes and raisins. Always good to ask "Hay mas? Chuchitos?"
My second favorite joint and the second place I would return ... Saberico.
There are three gardens in back. The restaurant grows all sort of herbs and exotic fruit in these gardens that the restaurant uses. They use local and organic food. I LOVE their pepian and the black tortillas. One garden has hammocks. Climb all the way to the tip garden with the lovely cabanas.
You can wander up and down the streets of Antigua, peeking into the many commedors. Here's a few i tried. Again, it is good, honest food at a great price and you will soak in a lot of the local culure
Restaurante Los Nazarenos
Haven't wrote this up either. This is near the market and was half a block from my little hotel. The owner was a wonderful woman who offered to run meals to the hotel if I didn't want to go out to eat. I loved the little touches here ... the pink roses on the menu ... there was a complementary ... amuse buche, so to speak ... of tortilla chips topped with salsa.
There is a place next to another commedor called Travel Menu that is infinately better. Even so, this gets more non Guatemalans. It is, in some ways a little better, but you get less and the prices are on the high side ... like five bucks
Travel Menu ... everybody loves it ... travelers, locals ... i hated it. Maybe it was my choice of the tofu plato tipico ... I have a tendency to order the weirdo thing at a restaurant ... skip the tofu ... but I vote to skip Travel Menu
Egg rolls are another popular thing in Antigua. Travel Menu added them just before I left, however, just down the street is El Cofre. This is a joint I'm not sure will still be there. In addition to sweet and savory egg rolls, the owners wife is Filipino and you could get filipino food there (haven't tried it). They also offered a Guatemalan Plato Tipico. I hope someone will let me know if it is still there. The mashed potato and cheese egg roll and the fruit egg rolls were good.
Lo Mix is know for its fiambre served on Dia de las Muertas in November. It is an elaborate chopped salad with over 50 ingredients. On a regular day ... .meh ... skip
La Casa de Las Mixtas has platos tipicos as noted by Rudy from Antigua Daily Photo
I first went for the Mixtas ... a Guatemalan hot dog with lots of stuff on it. Given that is part of their name, i expected greatness ... but I had better. I didn't hit the lucky lottery when I had the plato tipicos here. Lovely owners and interesting joint. There's an upstairs with more tables ... one thing to note about most Antigua restaurants ... there's usually an upstairs with a spiral stairecase ... if there's not an outdoor patio.
El Gringo Chapin is a place I'm sorry I waited so long to visit. The plato tipico comes with house baked tea bread like banana bread. The day i went it was chocolte tea bread. Though it is mainly Guatemalan food, it also has some gringo dishes. I went there just before coming home because at one time they had meatloaf ... no more. It is on the street in back of the cathedral near central park
Comedors are the diners of Gautemala. At lunch they offer platos tipicos ... a three course full meal that rarely exceeds five dollars ... and that is on the high side. it includes soup (usually forgettable), an entree like pepian, sometimes a dessert, tortillas and usually a weakish agua fresca type of drink. BTW, Guatemala makes the best tortillas in the world. i miss those.
The queen of comedors is La Tienda de La Canche located right across the street from La Merced. Do NOT miss this. A good friend in Guatemala clued me in on this and it is arguably the best pepian in Antigua. I tried to convince some locals that another place was better and was drowned out in protest with descriptions of the depth and nuance. It is not high quality food but it is the food of poverty elevated to the best it can be ... like wonderful soul food.
Here's my post about it
As to cuisine, surprisingly (to me) German and Swiss are big. Germans established the coffee farms. Guatemalans love fondue ... without irony. Chinese is big as well and chow mein will show up on many menus. It is where American chinese was in the 1950's with a Guatemalan spin.
Guatemala is in a time warp. It is like stepping back into the 1970's. Oddly enough there's lots of good baked goods from that era such as carrot cake, brownies, chocolate chips cookies, etc. The best pumpkin pie I had in my life was in Antigua ... you won't be there for pumpkin season.
Now ... ta da ... my favorite restaurant ... this is all from memory as my GT notebook died and i need to find my flash drive that had the back up
My favorite restaurant was Toko Baru ... and i'm glad you like bargain bites ...this joint has three tables. It is THE hole in the wall. it is Dutch / Indonesian.
It is the first place I would return to if I ever go back.
The owner uses his mother's recipes with some influence from his world travels.
The sweet potato fries with peanut sauce to dip are fabulous. They have regular potatoes too,which are fine, but they don't match those sweet potato fries
He makes these three exquisite sauces to go with many of the dishes ... garlic, tomato curry and hot sauce made with dried shrimp.
The one thing I never got was the croquettes Holland-style. The lady who made this time-consuming dish couldn't do it anymore and he was looking for someone new
The falafal and koftu are the best I've ever had.
A lot of the other dishes are similar just with different meat. On Friday or Saturday he makes fried fish.
This is such a great place for atmosphere ... it attracts artists and peace corps workers (they get a discount), rich, poor, the mix is always fascinating and the owner is quite interesting as well.
I want to go there now
My totally unedited and uncommented photos
A heads up re Toko Baru. As of 3/20/12, Christophe moved down the street and is now at No. 8 6a Calle Poniente, not No. 21. It's now on the north side of the street and about a block further east. The restaurant is a little larger with four tables and the kitchen is quite a bit larger.
I'm not as over the moon about this place as rworange. I'd call the sauces good rather than exquisite. The falafal is pretty good, too, but a chicken kabab was dry and no better than what I can get at any street cart in NYC and the pitas can be a tad stale. The prices, however, can hardly be beat. You can stuff yourself silly for about $4.00.
Yep, rhymes with orange ... few people guess that ... they think it is a take off on RW Appple (not).
You better like purple if you are going for Semana Santa
First here is the link to my Flickr sets. There are a few recent US sets in there, but most of it is Guatemala. i have about 30 restaurants that have photos but i never got around to descriptions. Getting re-established in the US was a bigger deal than i anticipated.
Invaluable ... invaluable ... is reading Antigua Daily Photo. My year in GT would have been so much poorer withouth the riches of info there that expands beyond food
Here's the food entries
Que Pasa is a local magazine and you can buy a Que Pasa card that will get you discounts locally.
I see Rudy has a recent post about Mojarras Fritas ... a simple but outstanding dish that you should order every chance you get.
A kind of weird site ... don't let your kid read it ... is Michael Shearers. As much as I hated the style, I got some good tips there and it is probably the most current coverage of the restaurant scene. He seems to catch every opening and closing and change. He is ... electic ... though
Degusta Antigua has many restaurant menus and they announce weekly and monthly specials
I'm going to break this up into smaller posts so it is more readable.
i hope you will report back. Let me know if any of my old favorites are gone (sob) or your finds
FYI, Michael Scherer has a new booklet out for which he's charging an exorbitant $12 for 48 pages. He says the five best restaurants in town are Ni Fu Ni Fa, Angies, La Pena de Sol Latino, Fusion, Sobre Mesa, Hector's, and Bistro Cinq. So much for Michael Sherer.
I've been in the capital for about a week and have only spent a couple of days in Antigua so far, but I've already seen a lot of changes since last year. Will be moving into my apartment there on Sunday and although I doubt I'll be able to post comprehensive updates, I'll at least do my best to to keep at least some of your threads up to date regarding what has closed (Deliciosa, much to my dismay) and what is new (a place above Ocelot that is supposed to have outstanding ceviche on the weekends).