For a small town, Antigua packs quite a punch when it comes to places to eat—but as a tourist town, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that every other door seems to lead to either a restaurant or some kind of shop. This helps to keep things fresh, though; even though there is plenty to do in Antigua, you wouldn’t want to keep eating at the same place over and over. Or maybe you would, if it was good enough—there were certainly plenty of places that made me want to go back for the following meal. We resisted, however, so we could bring you a quality list. Hopefully when you go to Antigua (and you should go to Antigua), you’ll have as good a variety of meals as we did.
Quick tip: don’t be put off by the service. The restaurant culture is basically to take your order, bring your order, and then ignore you until you flag them down for another drink or the bill. Even making eye contact isn’t enough to bring someone to your table like in the states. Some places will add on a 10% tip, but if not, that seemed to be the standard for gratuity, if anything at all.
1. Iglesia de la Merced
Yes, this is a baroque church in town that is well worth a visit when you’re not hungry, but if you’re in town on a Sunday, there is always a small farmer’s market set up with a bunch of street food vendors. Whatever you’re looking for, they’ve got it here: Guatemalan enchiladas, tortillas with delicious grilled meat, grilled corn, warm cups of atol or cool cups of juice—if you want to experience Guatemalan food, this is a great introduction. And it’s all cheap, so you can get a little bit of everything. 1a Calle Poniente & 6a Avenida Norte
2. Rincon Tipico
Our friends at These Foreign Roads recommended this stop, and it didn’t disappoint. Well, it did a little, but only because it’s mostly a lunch joint and we went for dinner, when they’re only serving half the menu. But the half we got was great, with some smoky grilled pork and some local slaw and potato salad. They were the one place I couldn’t get a Gallo (the popular local shitty lager), but I was still able to load up some delicious tortillas and did not go back to our hotel hungry. # 3, 3a Avenida Sur
3. Guate Java
Now, we didn’t get any food here, but we did get some of the best coffee of our entire trip, and it was one of the only places we stopped by twice. It’s a little out of the way if you’re hanging around the city center (meaning it’s about a five-minute walk from anywhere), but you’ll be glad you went. It’s small, but the rich smell of roasting coffee fills the place and it’s an excellent spot to hang out for a bit and enjoy some down time. They also offer a coffee roasting class, and it’s a great place to pick up some beans for a souvenir. 7a Avenida Sur & 6a Calle Poniente
4. La Tortilla Cooking School
I always take a cooking class when I go somewhere, and this one was excellent. There were seven of us total, and everyone got to participate in some way in the preparation of each aspect of the meal, which turned out to be a large one: a standard local stew called pepian was the main attraction, along with a beet salad on the side, a rice mixture, and a warm cup of atoll (prepared however you’d like: sweet or savory). We made rellenitos for dessert, which are a mixture of beans and chocolate stuffed inside mashed plantains and fried, as well as the ever-present tortillas. A very informative and filling experience. #25, 3a Calle Poniente
After traveling all day to get to Antigua and not eating much, this was our first stop, and we wanted to pile on the food. We tried their famous sky-high Guatemalan enchiladas, which were worth the price (55Q, or $7, for two), as well as a trio of guacamoles, some portabella rellenos (four portabella caps topped with vegetables and parmesan), and gallina en chicha, a chicken stew made with tomato sauce, herbs, nuts, and fresco de suchiles, a local fruit drink that is slightly fermented. This turned out to be one of the best things we ate the entire time we were there. Saberico is also worth going for its expansive back outdoor patio, though if you’re in the right spot you get a lot of noise pollution from the hostel next door. #7, 6a Avenida Sur
6. La Cuevalita de los Urquizu
La Cuevalita was at the top of my list for places to eat in Antigua, and I’m glad we made it—it turned out to be one of the best meals we had our whole trip (thanks, Andrew Zimmern!). There’s a large selection of meat stews out front, and you start by selecting one. The workers will explain them to you, but unless you know Spanish, you’re on your own. We picked based on some keywords—Kaitie got the one they described as “picante” and I chose the one where the guy pointed to his face and stomach, as if to say “this is all the face and guts.” Next, you get to pick from two side dishes that are lined up behind the stews, which helps with pointing. Finally, they throw in a tamale for good measure, you pick your drink, and you sit in the back and enjoy with the omnipresent warm tortillas. The stews were delicious (though Kaitie’s was decidedly not picante), and while mine had a nice underlying flavor of offal, it was never overpowering or off-putting. And there were so many textures. Definitely a must-try when you visit. #9D, 2a Calle Oriente
I’m serious—kinda. Even if you don’t want to eat here, be sure to swing in to check it out. Having the money they do, McDonald’s was able to but what seems like the nicest place in Antigua, with a massive and beautifully manicured courtyard, complete with fountain and a stunning volcano view. The Taco Bell across the street is pretty nice, too, if you get sick of real Latin-American food and need a quick crunchwrap. #21 4a Calle Oriente
After a volcano hike, we got back to town late and needed a quick meal. Ta’cool, right off the main square, took care of that. What clearly seems like a chain, or at the very least a slick spot aimed at tourists who need recognizable food names, the tacos were actually pretty solid, and their sauces were very tasty. They also, of course, had Gallo, which was a selling point for anywhere. While I would never drink them at home, there is always something about vacation—especially in warmer climes—that makes me crave whatever local, shitty, mass-produced lager is available. 4a Calle Oriente, between 3a & 4a Avenida Norte
Words to live by
Before our trip, I hadn’t heard much in the way of praise for Guatemalan food, but after watching Andrew Zimmern’s Delicious Destinations in Antigua, I was pumped to get there and eat. I was not disappointed. While a lot of the food was simple, we didn’t have anything that stood out as not tasting good, and their extensive use of avocado is in-line with our interests. My only complaint is there wasn’t a lot of spice to be found, but we can save that for another trip.