Restaurants and Gourmet Markets in La Antigua, Guatemala
Antigua is filled with restaurants and there are always new ones opening up. Below is a short list of my favorite places to eat in this colonial treasure of a town:
Epicure is best described as three places in one: a charcticurie, gourmet market/ delicatessen, and restaurant. Located just a few blocks from the central Plaza, Epicure has their own farm with pigs, lambs, sheep and other animals to supply the store with fresh cuts of meat, sausage, and take out foods. Although Epicure does not appear large, behind the store walls are a huge bakery and series of kitchens where their products are made. The store also sells delicious bacon, yogurt, fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, crackers, snacks, spices, nuts, and a vast array of fresh and frozen foods.
Epicure makes their own ice cream, sausages, cured meats, cheeses, chapata, baguettes, and the most scrumptious apple tarts, croissants, and pan de chocolate. The best palmeras I’ve ever tasted are made at Epicure: buttery, crunchy, and addicting. For take out or a picnic lunch, Epicure offers a wide variety of delicious choices and is a nice alternative to eating another meal out.
Behind the shop is the restaurant that has both indoor and outdoor dining in the garden with shade provided by a natural vine roof over the tables. The menu offers a variety of salads, grilled meats, fish, and vegetarian pasta dishes.
Epicure even offers a bacon cheeseburger with great french fries but my favorite dish is a mildly spicy pasta bowl that has grilled zucchini and corn in a light tomato sauce (as pictured at right). My husband loves the British styled Fish and Chips served with a vinegar sauce. Other favorites include grilled fish with mashed potatoes and asparagus (as pictured in the feature photo).
Most of the entrees are between $8 – $10 and are a deal. Often times, food in Guatemala will be cooked with lard or vegetable oil but Epicure uses olive oil and butter making the quality easily detectable. Open from 10:00 am – 10:00 pm serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
00 502 7 832 55 45
Tartines is the local French restaurant located a half a block from the Central Parque. The restaurant is laid out over two floors with the street entrance looking like a take-out place but to the right of the entrance is a winding staircase that takes patrons upstairs to the rooftop where dinner is served either under a roofed seating area or under the stars.
Tartines is my husband’s favorite place for steak and french fries and my sister-in-law enjoys the vegetarian lasagna. Open Monday and Wednesday from 11:00 – 7:00 pm, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11:00 am – 10:00 pm, and on Sunday from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm.
00 502 7 882 46 06
Mesón Panza Verde is considered one of the best restaurants in Antigua and I’ve never been disappointed by a meal there. The ambiance in the main dining room by the fire-place makes for a lovely meal or a table under one of the arches is lovely. The menu is not extensive but there is always a selection of fish, poultry and various cuts of pork and beef. My preference has always been for their fish while my husband has enjoyed both their pork and meat entrees.
The entrees are typically around $20 although there are special menus for holidays that have higher prices. There is an extensive wine list. Open nightly for dinner from 7:00 – 10:00 pm for dinner, and for lunch on Tuesday – Sunday from 12:00 noon – 3:00 pm. On Sunday, Panza Verde is open for brunch from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm.
Santo Domingo has the most popular Sunday brunch in town so make reservations. The hotel offers a selection of fresh squeezed juices – mango, papaya, orange, grapefruit – and fresh tortillas which can be topped with cheese, onions, tomatoes, or filled with pork. Omelettes – whole egg or egg white made to order with a dozen choices of fillings, bacon (which was really crisp and delicious), sausages, plantains, pancakes, waffles, cooked beans, cereals with all the toppings – nuts, grains, and fresh sliced kiwi, mangos, papayas, oranges are all on the buffet tables. Ask for a table on the terrace (with an umbrella) when the sun is shining (which is almost always).
Café Condesa is also known around Antigua as “Las Tres Condesas” and is a casual local place well-known for their breakfasts, snacks, salads, and coffee. The story behind the cafe is very interesting. For years, the place sat empty because locals said the building was haunted. Seems there was a Count or very important man who used to live in the building with his wife but when he left on a trip, the wife took up with another man and had a love child. Rumor is that when the husband returned, he killed his wife, her lover, and the child in a fit of rage.
In the early 1990’s, two American women joined with a Guatemalan woman to buy the building and renovate it into a restaurant. The renovations were moving along fine until the time came to do the back room. The workers complained their tools were being moved or disappeared by strange forces. Desperate to get the renovations done, the new owners hired a “cleanser” to come in and exorcise the building. My sister-in-law happened to be invited to the “cleansing” by one of the owners and she still talks about that day whenever someone wants to hear the story.
The “cleanser” – a woman of small stature – came to the building with her basket of concoctions and herbs. She went from room to room until she came to the back area where she shook her head and commented that the room didn’t feel right. She voiced her spells, sprinkled special potions and herbs all over the room and announced it cleansed. The next day the workers agreed to come back and work on the room only to find 3 skeletons behind one of the walls by the old bathroom. There was much discussion and then a decision to leave the remains alone and plaster over the burial site, which they did. A few days later, the workers found another skeleton in the floor leading into another back room. Not wanting to disturb these remains either, the workers built two steps up into the room which are still there today.
Café Condesa is inside La Casa del Conde (The House of the Count) on the west side of the Parque Central. Open Sunday – Thursday from 7:00 am – 8:00 pm, Friday – Saturday from 7:00 am – 9:00 pm and on Sunday from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm, Cafe Condesa has an extensive menu to satisfy most and a take-out section. The bread is homemade, the guacamole is really good and my daughter loves the pancakes.
00 502 7 832 00 38
Doña Luisa’s is the most well-known local bakery in town specializing in hot cross buns, english muffins, and fresh breads. The bakery makes their goods through the night and the smell from the ovens on the street is like a magnet. Impossible to ignore so follow your nose to Doña Luisa’s on a Saturday or Sunday morning (the only days hot cross buns are made) and buy a 6-pack and enjoy them while they are fresh.
00 502 7 832 25 78
On weekends, there is usually a line out the door for the “typical sweets” of Guatemala: marzipan, milk-based treats, and candied fruit all displayed in a long glass counter that runs the width of the store.
00 502 7 832 04 03
Organica is the place to go buy organic food and is surprisingly well stocked with current products normally seen in Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or Fresh Market. Located about a block from the Central Parque, Organica is a small store that is stocked floor to ceiling with organic, gluten-free, low sodium, natural, and frozen foods. My daughter who was craving a chocolate cake found a Pamela’s chocolate cake and chocolate frosting mix recently which was quickly whipped up and devoured by everyone at my sister-in-law’s home.