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Eating like a Local in Antigua, Guatemala

Say no to the expensive restaurants for tourists, you’ve got the same back home anyways. Enjoy the typical food instead.

By the force of things I’ve learned to live without good baguettes, cheeses, and wines. But I’m french, and there’s some limits that I cannot cross.

I love my food and I’m picky about it. I won’t just eat anything, it needs to be cooked with a minimum of love, to be relatively healthy, and to mainly benefit the locals rather than multinational corporations.

Since I’m not cooking much myself, it means that there needs to be some good places to eat in town or else I won’t enjoy myself. Exception made if going through the jungle, of course.

And obviously, I’m not travelling around the world to eat everyday the same pizzas that I could have back home. Or even worse, to end up in a freakkin’ McDonald’s which I’ve happily been boycotting with other crappy places for almost 10 years now. That being said, I’ve got to admit that Antigua has the most beautiful McDonald’s that I’ve ever seen. It even has a lovely garden with a fountain. A good way to remember where the money goes to, when the locals around are struggling to survive.

I’m not talking about fancy gastronomic restaurants either. No, I simply want to experience the local popular cuisine. I want to eat in the same humble places where locals actually go to have their meal.

That’s why after touring for 2 weeks around Guatemala I came back to Antigua. To enjoy a larger choice of good food. And to get stuffed with my favourite banana bread.

How to Spot Them

I won’t teach you anything by saying that Antigua is a touristic city. And that, as such, it is crawling with restaurants targetting this specific clientele.

The price of a meal in one of these restaurants equals the average daily wage of a Guatemalan. And I’m not even talking about neither the truly poor locals here nor the even fancier restaurants.

But that’s good this way. Let them be. It makes it simpler to spot the places that are affordable and hence courted by the locals. If it’s cheap—around 15–20 quetzales—, then we’re on the right direction!

And you’ll be wrong to think that paying more will necessarily give you access to a better food quality. Instead, it’ll most probably be a case where you’ll just be another milk cow following the herd driven by prejudices and irrational fears of unsafe food. Chances are that you’ll more likely be eating in a tourist trap—I mean, how can you justify to spend more money on a hot chocolate in some places than on a proper meal elsewhere?

So let me guide you—you’ll thank me later—and start by clicking on the map below to get to the actual Google Map for the location of each place.

Rincón Típico

I’m starting with my favourite lunch place here. Forget about the chicken which was a bit disappointing when I tried it—probably I wasn’t lucky that day since it was a bit dry due to the cooking—, and order instead the pork—“cerdo” in Spanish—like everyone else. That’s all you will see grilling on the barbecue at the entrance anyways.

check all those beautiful pieces of pork grilling!
check all those beautiful pieces of pork grilling!

Your plate will be well garnished with whatever tasty side of the day and you’ll be filled with one of their fresh drink. The limonade juice will make the unaminity but the pineapple with real big chunks and others more typical rice or corn based drinks are not any less delicious.

grilled pork, sides, tortillas, pineapple juice and insecticide
grilled pork, sides, tortillas, pineapple juice and insecticide

No, but seriously, they’ve even managed to make me like radishes!

All this costs only 20 quetzales at lunch time! It’s also open for breakfast but this won’t get you close to any pork.

The only thing that I regret is the pink coloured insecticide for flies that they put on each table. A few seconds after giving it a go, the flies will start to have their limbs straightening up and will keep slowly losing control before going for their last desperate flight in an attempt to escape the inevitable.

What a terrible way to punish some innocent living creatures for getting into a place where we decided that they wouldn’t be allowed. No prevention, no attempt at repelling them. Just death. I felt like if I was having lunch in a concentration camp for flies. But who will mind that except me, right?

El Porton

I was heading once again for Rincón Típico when I passed by this one. I stopped. Froze for an instant. Cheap price. Tourist–proof with its thick layer of barbecue smoke running through the entrance hall. All the signs were reunited.

chiles de rellenos
chiles de rellenos

So I went for it and I did well. Indeed I couldn’t see any gringos, only locals. The chiles rellanos were yummy and spicy as promised! A family joined my table and their meals also looked quite appetizing.

The chicken grilling outside looked very tempting and I had to go there another time to try it out with their pepián de pollo. Win.

Taqueria Doña Lupita

I hated myself for staying just in front of that place for that long and not having noticed it earlier. But in my defense, there’s no much clues from the outside that you can eat in there.

If you’re hungry, one serving definitely won’t be enough, so get yourself some gringas and tacos, try out the different sauces, and enjoy. The guy knows his tacos, they are most likely the best in town.

tacos in front, gringas behind
tacos in front, gringas behind

Tipico Antigueño

My Spanish teacher recommended me this one. It’s apparently a popular place amongst Guatemalans but it was relatively empty the two times that I went there for dinner. Maybe I should have tried for lunch instead.

In any cases, it definitely had all the authentic cuisine for 30—35 quetzales a meal. Nothing too special but it fills the belly.

hilachas
hilachas

Rony’s Tacos

Another taco place. You get your taco and you load it with whatever is available in front of you. So I went for everything. Mixing black beans with tomato sauce, grated cheese, and... pineapple! It was good!

Despite of the slightly more expensive price of 30 quetzales, it wasn’t very fullfilling. Maybe did I pay the gringo price?

El Mercador

Here you go, the food market. That’s the most typically authentic experience that you can get with the street food. In the heart of the maze that is the market, there is a food court where the crowd of Guatemalans head to for lunch.

You know you’re there when you see a bunch of boxes delimited by yellow walls and when the ladies try to get you in their shop, sometimes by grabbing you by the arm.

I didn’t appreciate this behavior at first but started to accept it after chatting with my Spanish teacher. She said that these ladies are earning around 20–30 quetzales a day and are being pushed by their boss to act this way. They’re already having an hard time so let’s not make it worse.

All the shops serve pretty much the same meals, so picking one is a matter of sitting in a busy place. Once you’ve picked your shop, notice the peoples all around that are staring and laughing at you. They’re wondering what a tourist like you is doing in a such place but are glad that you made it.

The food is simple but enjoyable. And it’s cheap—15 quetzales for a meal with a drink.

pepián de pollo—nope, it’s not oily at all
pepián de pollo—nope, it’s not oily at all

Street Food

Possibly even cheaper than the food market, it ranges from 4 to 10 quetzales per serving. If you’re happy to eat light for dinner, you won’t need to spend more than 10–15 quetzales total.

My favourite spot being on the North side of Antigua, on the park in front of the church La Merced.

The most popular choice are the tostadas on top of which you can put a ton of things, like avocado sauce—not guacamole—, hashed meat mixed with various stuff, salads of vegetables, persley, sauce, cheese, and so on.

tostada
tostada

Also recommended are the chuchitos which are made of corn dough filled with chicken and a sauce. It is not being sold in every stand, and it’s larger in some than others, so try them all! Or at least the ones in the North area. The common point is the price: 4 quetzales each.

If you fancy a dessert, the rellenitos are a premium choice. It’s basically some sweet beans with chocolate wrapped into a thick layer of mashed banana which is then grilled. Super yummy!

rellenito
rellenito

To keep you warm on the way back to your hostel, don’t forget to pick up a rice with milk—arroz con leche in Spanish—drink.

But seriously, don’t rush back and stay just a little bit longer to take the time to talk to these peoples. They are lovely.

Doña Luisa Xicotencatl

Let’s just call it “the banana bread place”. But not just any banana bread. The best one that I’ve found since Australia!

It’s simple, when I passed by the shop in the street for the first time, my nose ordered me to stop. And it started to sniff. It told me that it smelled banana. Good, tasty, banana. So I got inside and felt like I was in heaven. It was everywhere! The banana bread! And it just got out of the oven!

Officially it’s not where you’ll be having your meals. But if you’re like me, you might suddenly turn lazy in the sole goal to replace them with this new addiction. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. I tried it all and it did work well for me in every case. And it only costs 13.5 quetzales for the half of a bread.

As good things never come alone, literally next door there’s a museum of chocolate. Ok, it’s definitely a touristic place BUT all you need here is to buy a yummy tab of chocolate and sit on a table from the relaxing inner yard.

Some locals go there to exhibit a vast choice of fabrics but don’t pay attention to this just now. Relax. Focus on the banana bread and the chocolate. Banana bread... chocolate. Just a row of it. Make a sandwich. Eat. Enjoy life!

Bonus points if you go for the 80% dark chocolate with salt.

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Maya Azteca

We’re leaving the typical cheap food for a slightly more expensive Mexican place but, if you’re craving for a burrito, this is what you need.

You’d better be hungry because the guy is really lovely and friendly but he’s not kidding with the size of his burritos. I went there for a small breakfast and left with a food baby that lasted me until dinner.

intimidating Mexican burrito
intimidating Mexican burrito

McDonald’s

Nah, just kidding.

Random Facts

Funningly, just when writing this article in the relaxing lounge of the hostel I was staying at, I’ve heard someone proudly saying that he found a pizza place quite cheap—probably 5 times more expensive than the actual cheapest full meals that you can find—and he then emphasized on the fact that it was empty, like if it was a good thing. I didn’t join them.

Comments (30)

  1. #1

    Hmm cant believe theres no comment on this post. Every single photo looks so yummy and living, and your writting explains your photos very well. I did not think the food looked good, the first time I skimmed the post. But after reading it carefully, everything seems really tasty. *drooling*. And its interesting to see rice over there is somehow always yellow.

    • by Girlinblue
  2. #2

    For Christ sake, how many meals did you have in this country !?
    No I'm not jealous! No, that's not right!

    Ok maybe a little bit. Thanks for sharing your experience ;)
    Oh, and if you ever go to Kathmandu, there is an amazing place where you can eat like a king for nothing - makes it a great place after a 2 weeks trek. However you need to be ready to accept the cockroach visiting your table from time to time. But the food is great ;))

    • by
  3. #3

    Haha, you know... coackroaches can be a nice addition of proteins to a meal! :)

    Thanks guys!

  4. #4

    Thank you for this great post. I'm in Antigua right now and will check your recommendations.

    All the best!

    • by
  5. #5

    Cheers Karim, let me now how it goes.
    Nice photos btw. I hope you'll have a good light, enjoy your stay!

  6. #6

    Great info. Great photos. Entertaining text. thanks. I'm also in Antigua right now and about to head out to eat.
    I was wondering , since you clearly have good taste, and an economical approach, could you tell us which hostal you stayed in, and if you would recommend it?

    • by DR
  7. #7

    Glad it's being helpful!

    Most of the places listed here are open only for lunch so you might not have as much choice. Rincón Típico should definitely be on the top of your list for tomorrow's lunch though!

    As for the hostel, I've tried a few and ended up staying the longest at Zoola, on 7a Calle Poniente #15. It has some comfy beds, spacious dorms, fairly good internet for Guatemala, it's clean and amongst the cheapest in town. The only small inconvenient is that it can get a bit noisy by night, but usually it stops early enough (~12-1 am). And nothing that a good pair of earplugs can't stop :)

    Enjoy!

  8. #8

    Hey Christopher! Thanks for sharing such useful information! I'm glad I saw these article before leaving Antigua!

    • by ludmila
  9. #9

    Cheers! I'm quite missing the meals from Rincon Tipico, I hope you've had a go at them!

  10. #10

    This is a very interesting article. This is my 5th trip to Antigua & I will try at least one place on your list. We have always gone to fancy places for dinner with our big group after our medical mission. I like to try Chinese food in different countries and i didn't enjoy the one in Antigua. I did it for giggles & laughs.

    • by Sokhoeun Chau
  11. #11

    I've been running so much away from touristic places that I didn't even know there was a Chinese restaurant in Antigua!

    If you've got to pick a single place, then I suggest you to give a go at Rincon Tipico for a lunch! Not sure if it will fit big groups though.

  12. #12

    Thanks for this great post! I'll be there soon, and I look forward to checking out all these places... I'm fairly intrepid, but is there anything I need to know about food safety in eating local food while there?

    • by Zain Khandwala
  13. #13

    None that I can think of! I don't believe that any of them has the intention to poison their customers, so I usually assume that it's safe. When in doubt, just eat things which are cooked. And do not drink tap water as it's not drinkable. Cheers!

  14. #14

    Christopher, thank you for this excellent post. We have already tried out three places that you've recommended here and the food was invariably exquisite. Million times better than Tripadvisor. You're a legend! x

    • by Evangelina
  15. #16

    Thanks for sharing these great tips, Chris. Our first day in Anitgua (and our first day in Central America) is off to a fantastic start thanks to your recommendation of Rincòn Típico. We can't wait to try the next one!

    • by Clare
  16. #17

    Hah, cheers Clare! I'm thinking of turning off the comments on this post, it's painful to be reminded of Rincon Tipico while being so far away! :) Enjoy!

  17. #18

    Hola!!
    Soy guatemalteca y vivo a 1 hr de la ciudad de Antigua, y me ha alegrado saber que te ha gustado nuestra comida! Encontré tu blog ya que buscaba lugares para comer en Antigua y me has ayudado mucho! Todavía hay lugares que no he visitado :( pero trataré de hacerlo.
    Muchas gracias,
    -You are always welcome back!!

    • by débora
  18. #19

    Jajaja, gracias por tu mensaje Débora! A menudo extraño la comida de Antigua y especialmente de Rincón Típico! Tienes suerte de vivir cerca de allí, disfrutarte!

  19. #20

    Muchísimas gracias por tus recomendaciones serán de mucha ayuda. Estaremos viajando a Guatemala en agosto y definitivamente visitaremos esto lugares.

    • by Diana
  20. #21

    Thank you for this fantastic post! I came across it while planning my travels to Guatemala for later this year.

    I love finding hidden locals gems like these restaurants and am looking forward to trying some of their food!

    Would you be able to share the locations of these places as well? That would be so helpful.

    Brittany

  21. #22

    Hey Brittany! All the places listed in this post are already included in the map linked towards the top, are you having a problem accessing it?

  22. #23

    Just ate at Rincon Tipico today after finding this site. Thanks for the suggestions. Being Easter Sunday, there were a few gringos there, but it was mostly packed with Guatemalans. The price was 30Q for the pollo, but it was definitely worth it. I'll check out some more of these places while I'm in town, and maybe even go back for the pork.

    • by
  23. #24

    Thanks, mate, for this perfect list: it just made my day, everyday :) Being french too, I'm in the same mood (picky on food), and the places are just what I was looking for.

    Note that Maya Azteca no longer exists (or at least, I wasn't able to find it).

    I'll keep going on the list, though..

    • by chilladx
  24. #25

    If Maya Azteca indeed no longer exists, that'd be a big loss. Their burritos were really top notch... on the other hand I don't remember seeing anyone around when I went there so the outcome kinda makes sense.

    Glad you like it so far, enjoy your stay!

  25. #26

    It has been 9 years and I still dream of Dona Luisa banana bread. Best I've ever had.

    • by Michelle
  26. #27

    Thank you so much for this great post! I have been on a quest for the best banana bread for a year now without any success. I LOVE banana bread and that would be an understatement for sure. I am going to antigua in a couple of weeks and I can't wait to try your recommendation!

    • by Jb
  27. #28

    Duuude thanks for this article! I'm in Antigua right now and I've been eating cheap and delicious thanks to you! :D

    • by Angi
  28. #29

    Papazitos is anothe great option, best ingredients at good price. They have menus from Tuesday to Friday at Q45, salad, pizza, pasta and paninkis.

  29. #30

    Thanks so much for this awesome post. I just arrived in Antigua yesterday and was a bit shocked at the prices I saw at the touristy looking restaurants around town. I knew there must be some better options and you've provided many that I'm excited to try!

    • by Aaron

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