Guatemala — Food and Restaurants
Guatemalan cuisine is a mixture of traditional Mayan ingredients and Spanish influences. As in most of Latin America, corn is the main staple food and black beans (frijoles) are eaten at almost every meal. The most popular meats are chicken, turkey and beef; and if you are close to coastline, local fish and seafood are specialties. Guatemala is a well-known exporter of coffee across the world, and although the locals generally have a weaker version, stronger blends are available on request. For a refreshing cool drink, try licuado, a tropical fruit juice drink mixed with milk, or ask for it pure. There are a good selection of dining and drinking options in the main cities and towns.
Bars and Pubbing in Guatemala
You will find a wide choice of vibrant establishments in the three main towns of Guatemala City, Antigua and Flores. The main area in the capital for nightlife is Zona 10 so head to 16 Calle (16th Street), which hosts the vast majority of bars. For something a little more bohemian, El Portal (Portal del Comercio, 9a Calle, Guatemala City) is a bar said to have been frequented by Che Guevara, who lived in the city during the 1950’s. In Zona 10, you have Kalhua (15 Calle and 1a Avenida, Guatemala City), one of the most popular nightclubs with four floors of dancing that is open until 3:00 a.m. For live music, Bodeguita del Centro (12 Calle, Guatemala City) in Zona 1 is another venue that reflects the bohemian side of Guatemala City, with folk, rock and jazz performances, as well as movie nights.
Antigua Guatemala is another popular destination and home to many expatriates. Many venues blend Guatemalan culture with influences from other countries, which make for an interesting atmosphere. A good place to try is Café No Se (1a Avenida Sur, Antigua Guatemala); open until 1:00 a.m. every night, which provides a rustic setting to take in a few drinks, but the main attraction is the tequila/mescal bar. Flores is a small, fairly quiet town, especially after dark, although you will still find a few places that keep their doors open until 1:00 a.m. or later on weekends. Café-Bar Las Puertas (Calle Central and Avenida Santa Ana, Flores) is popular for its margaritas and often has live music on weekends.
Guatemala is not known for its nightlife in the regional areas, but even in small places there should be at least one bar where you can try the local beers such as Gallo, Brahva or Victoria. You can unwind alongside the locals after a day of sightseeing while listening to salsa or merengue music. Many of these bars close early during the week, so for a livelier atmosphere, ask around for a local fiesta (community parties), which are frequently arranged celebrations where anyone is welcome (normally for a small cover charge).
Dining and Cuisine in Guatemala
The three main hubs of Guatemala City, Antigua Guatemala and Flores also offer the widest selection of restaurants. Other places will not leave you hungry, but you will be limited to a small menu of local dishes that are delicious and filling, typically a plate of meat and beans. Specialties like jocon (chicken stew in a green sauce), hilachas (shredded beef in red sauce) or a seafood dish called tapado (containing locally grown plantains) are common. Most dishes contain a hint of chili or spice, but are generally only mildly spicy.
Guatemala City has a good mix of regional restaurants and international fusion. Zona 10 is the main dining and entertainment area and simply exploring on foot will lead to plenty of seafood gems and steakhouses. This is the home of Jake’s (17 Calle, Zona 10, Guatemala City), a fusion restaurant well known for its fine dining and eclectic atmosphere. Kacao (2a Avenida, Zona 10, Guatemala City) is also here, which has traditional dishes for lunch and dinner. Arrin Cuan (16 Calle, Zona 10, Guatemala City) is another good place to sample Guatemalan food in a tranquil atmosphere.
Another great city to eat in is Antigua Guatemala, which has a wide selection of fine dining. La Fonda de la Calle Real (5a Avenida Norte, Antigua Guatemala) provides some true Guatemalan favorites, such as chiles rellenos (stuffed bell peppers covered in fried egg whites). It is open between 12:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. daily for lunch and dinner. To soak up the vibrant Latin décor, head to Restaurante Las Palmas (6a Avenida Norte, Antigua Guatemala), which is open for breakfast at 9:00 a.m. and closes at 10:00 p.m. In Flores, one standout is Café-Bar Las Puertas (Calle Central and Avenida Santa Ana, Flores), which offers a selection of local and international dishes, and is a good place to kick back and enjoy a drink after your meal.