Nicaragua — Food and Restaurants
Nicaraguan cuisine uses both traditional Latin American ingredients of corn and fruits, and Caribbean coast and islands’ seafood and coconuts, providing different tastes. The majority of Nicaraguan food is a mixture of Spanish and indigenous cuisine, where corn is the main staple. Examples of typical dishes include Nactamel, a doughy corn mix (called ‘masa’) wrapped in a plantain leaf then cooked with a pork, rice, potatoes, and other vegetables; or a guirilla, a flat-bread made from corn which is sweetened and served with crumbly white cheese. Fruits used in Nicaraguan cuisine include jocote, mimbro, and bananas. Avocados are also used avidly when in season. Corn is not just used for making food, but drinks also, such as chica (a cold drink sweetened and usually flavored with banana or vanilla), and pinololillo (a cornmeal and cacao beverage mixed with water or milk).
Bars and Pubbing in Nicaragua
Managua hosts a lively clubbing scene that rivals other capital cities, and San Jan del Sur is also known for its partying atmosphere. The lakeside town of Rivas provides energetic nightlife, whilst Granada and Leon also both offer a fun atmosphere. If in Managua you should head to the Zona Rosa, which is the city’s main entertainment area, hosting some of the best nightclubs, called ‘discotecas’ by the locals. The most popular music to dance to in Nicaragua is reggaeton, salsa, merengue, bacchata, and cumbia. Here you could try Moods (Galeria Santo Domingo, Managua) or Chaman (Laguna de Tiscapa, Managua), both open Wednesday to Sunday nights. If you are looking for live music in Managua you can go to La Ruta Maya (Estatua de Montoya, Managua), open Thursday to Saturday providing an eclectic mix of local talent. Leon is a bustling university town, and also contains a Zona Rosa (Calle 1 and Avenida 1, Managua), which is a single block containing the city’s best nightclubs. Here you can go to Oxigeno (Calle 1 and Avenida 1) or Liquid for the best dancing, open Wednesday to Saturday nights. A good bar to head to, also in the Zona Rosa, is Bar Barro (Calle 1 and Avenida 1), open 8:00 a.m. until midnight Sunday to Thursday, and late until 2:00 a.m. on Sundays, providing an appealing high-ceilinged tavern with different bar areas to lounge in. If in Granada head to Roadhouse Sports Bar (‘La Calzada’, Granada) or Zoom Bar (‘La Calzada’, Granada) for the best bars in town, open from 12:00 p.m. until midnight daily. There are also a few other bars located on the same street.
For thrilling beach nightlife, head to San Jan del Sur, on the southwest coast. The best bars are Iguana, Marie’s Bar, or Tsunami (all located on the beachfront. San Juan del Sur). Otherwise Crazy Crab north end of the beach, San Juan del Sur), is the town’s only year-round nightclub, open Thursday to Sunday nights. If you are in close by Rivas, which is only a stone’s through away from the Pacific coast by Lake Nicaragua, the best bar is Pipi’s Bar (Main street, Rivas), open every day from 5:00 p.m. The best dancing venue in town is Restaurante y Disco El Principe Numero Dos (located on the main highway, southbound, Rivas), which is open late on weekends, and is especially lively on Saturdays.
Dining and Cuisine in Nicaragua
Granada is where most visitors begin their trip to Nicaragua, and so most likely where they first will sample some of the cuisine on offer. The widest choice of restaurants is down Calle La Calzada, which can be reached by walking from the center of town towards the lake. Imagine Café is a good choice because of the quality of their ingredients and the dishes they prepare, which are often organic, and certainly always locally produced. The El Arcangel restaurant is another good option in Granada, known for its fusion food using local and international cuisine, open at 7:00 a.m. for breakfast, and then through until 10:00 p.m. for lunch and dinner.
The city of Leon has recently grown in reputation for offering good food, and is now a great place to dine. Restaurante Taquezal (Central Park, Leon) is known for its pleasant atmosphere and varied menu, including local specialties. CocinArte (La Iglesia el Laborío, Leon) has a great choice of traditional dishes, to be enjoyed in a relaxed atmosphere. San Juan del Sur on the southwest coast is a great place to try some locally caught seafood; go to the much loved El Timon (beachside, San Juan del Sur), serving an array of a shrimp and lobster dishes. Another favorite in town is Josseline’s (beachside, San Juan del Sur), which is open until 10:00 p.m. daily.
The capital city of Managua has a cluster of restaurants in the Zona Hippos. For classic Nicaraguan food you can go to El Garabato (Zona Hippos, Managua). Another great restaurant to try in Managua is La Marseillaise (‘Calle Principal Los Robos, Managua), which is a well-established restaurant serving classic French fare to international standards. It is one of the oldest restaurants in Managua, also one of the most expensive. La Plancha (Semáforos Plaza del Café, Managua) is the best place to go for grilled meat in the city, or Marea Alta (Hotel Seminole Plaza, Managua) is one of the best places for seafood in Managua.