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During a recent trip to Guatemala for a PeaceJam conference, some members of the TPG team were able to check out the coolest dining and drinking spots in Guatemala City and Antigua. Here’s a look at some of our favorite spots.
In Guatemala City
The one must-see neighborhood in Guatemala City is Zona 4, known for its colorful street art and eclectic restaurant scene. The team was dying to check it out, so we visited the hip Tres Elefantes restaurant for dinner. We’d been chowing down on delicious Guatemalan food for a few days already, so we were excited by the prospect of trying something a little different this time around: Asian fusion.
Colorful wall murals and trendy elephant-themed decor set the scene, and after chatting with the well-traveled owner about the concept of the restaurant — bringing his love for Asian food to Guatemala — we couldn’t wait to try the dishes. The menu is small, but that just made it easier for us to decide. We got one of almost everything to share and after a few ginger mojitos and a mint lemonade, we devoured the specialty chicken wings, Thai-inspired papaya salad with pork and fried corn balls, which were all amazing. Another favorite was the tikka masala, which was the perfect level of spicy; we also enjoyed the pad thai, which had just the right amount of peanuts.
If it’s traditional Guatemalan food you’re after, visit Casa Chapina over in Zona 10. A welcoming spot with an unpretentious feel, it showcases one of the country’s most famous dishes, pepián, a thick stew of meat, vegetables and the pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, that lend the dish its name. We paired our order with Gallo beer, a Guatemalan staple. Later, we enjoyed seriously delicious meat at Montanos Steak House, also located in Zona 10. The restaurant cooks meat on lava rocks excavated from the country’s many volcanoes. I nearly died of happiness when I saw the waiter approaching with a giant pile of chorizo sizzling on black volcanic slab — it was just as good to eat as it looked.
Antigua is about an hour from Guatemala City, and we ended up spending most of what little free time we had there. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 16th-century town is crisscrossed with picturesque cobblestone streets and quaint, pastel-colored buildings. It also happens to have great restaurants and bars.
For all the beer lovers out there, it’s absolutely essential that you check out Antigua’s first craft brewery, aptly named Antigua Cerveza. The bitter Sin Novia — which translates to “Without a Girlfriend” — IPA was one of our favorites, vying with the stout, Cucurucho, which had hints of coffee and chocolate. Watch out for this one, it’s 8% alcohol. The brewery’s not giving public tours just yet, but if you email Jorge at email@example.com, he’ll hook you up, especially if you say you heard about the brewery from TPG.
We fell in love with Antigua beer and wanted to keep sipping it alongside food, so we headed to the Cactus Taco Bar, a small but inviting lunch spot that was perfect for a hearty burrito topped with fresh guacamole. We paired our tacos and burritos with strong margaritas and ice-cold Antigua beers. Snag a window seat so you can people-watch while eating, or come by in the evening and enjoy live music.
Another highlight of visiting Antigua was the dinner we had on the outdoor patio at beautiful Como Como. Sitting outside in the hidden courtyard was a peaceful experience, even with a rowdy group enjoying too much wine (guilty as charged).
With an owner experienced in creating delicate European cuisine — he studied in Europe — as well as hearty Guatemalan recipes, the result was magical and beautifully crafted dishes bursting with flavor. We adored the escargot smothered in a buttery sauce, as well as the many tartare options.
For evening drinks, a visit to Café No Sé was the ultimate dive-bar experience. We snuck through the old refrigerator door to the Mezcal bar in the back and ordered Ilegal Mezcal. Don’t worry, it’s not actually illegal, just the name of the brand the bar serves.
Where are some of your favorite spots to dine and drink in Guatemala City and Antigua? Tell us about them, below.
All images by the author except where otherwise noted.
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