‘The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the discovery of a star.’ – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, author of the first gastronomy treaty.
We all enjoy food. Alone or in company. It doesn’t matter the time of the day, if it is in the morning, in the afternoon or evening; if it’s a formal food or just a snack product of an unexpected craving; if we stick to the traditional meal times, (breakfast, lunch and dinner) or we let ourselves be creative and experiment with the new culinary trends like the ‘brunch’, the ‘brinner’, or even the peculiar ‘drunch’, which until recently was knew just as ‘after work’. It’s the same, we all have a fascination for gastronomy that has surpassed our biological need to feed ourselves.
It’s for this reason that I decided to write an article about gastronomy in La Antigua. Because Guatemala is a multicultural country, and La Antigua, a city in which you can appreciate that cultural diversity in a really singular way. This is because in addition to our indigenous and mestizo roots, we also share with cultures that come from different corners of world. So, the city is a perfect place for people who love great food, but, what to eat?
Oh, the question that has caused so much polemic in the couples’ night outs. Even if you’re taking a walk alone through the city any Thursday night, one asks oneself which would be the best option to delight the palate. Sometimes the decision will depend on our tempers, maybe one morning we just want a smoothie to elevate the spirit before work; or a different day we need to evaluate our budget first because we invited all the family out to dinner; or maybe an inexplicable impulse of spontaneity arises in us and we just want to try something new, something unique, sometimes we just want to coddle our sense of taste.
Well, it doesn’t matter which is our motivation, in the Colonial City we can find what we were looking for, and even what we were not looking for might surprise us. If suddenly one goes out for a walk without any specific course, can end up finding restaurants in almost every block in the city. And they offer an endless number of varieties to their diners.
Antigua is a city of contrast. Between the most classical restaurants in the city, we can find for example, La Fonda de la Calle Real, the most antique restaurant in the city between the restaurants that are not in hotels. Their menu is based in our gastronomy, with recipes from different regions of Guatemala, like the Kak’ik from Cobán, a red soup with turkey on it that is served with rice, which name is from Mayan origins and means ‘red and chili’; the subanik from San Martín Jilotepeque, an spicy recado which preparation is characterized by the fact that it’s all cooked inside maxán lifts; and of course, the traditional pepián of Antigua, with chicken or three meets, a stew with pre-hispanic origins that can be black or red and that was accustomed to be served in the Mayan religious ceremonies. They also serve stakes cooked Guatemalan style, ‘churrascos’, and melted cheese. But its best known dish is caldo real, the house’s special, a chicken stock that is served with rice, shredded chicken, coriander and onion, the avocado is optional. Ideal for those times in which you want a dish that is not so complex but succulent.
It’s fair to mention that the beauty of La Antigua relapses as well in the diversity of its community. And for fifteen years, the garden and restaurant Saberico had incurred in the preparation of healthy homemade food. They serve dished based in comfort food, and support the communitarian farmers that offer organic crops, since it’s their concern that their food can be free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. The restaurant has been praised by The New York Times, and with a lot of reason, since their garden and cozy environment are the perfect complement to enjoy their new menu. Either with ‘Enchiladas chapinas’, that had little to do with the Mexican or the Swizz ones; a Green Shashuka from Middle East, with poached eggs but with a variant of green sauce; or salmon with seeds crust and coriander sauce, accompanied with vegetables; all their dishes are based in the valorization of the identity of comfort food.
But these are just two examples, if we go to the restaurant area in our site we can find many options. And if we type ‘restaurants in Antigua’ in Google maps, we’re going to find a diverse range, from the local classics, the international contemporaries, the bistro restaurants, the new innovative concepts like the organic vegetarian restaurants, to the ones that combine the restaurant with its own pastry like Doña Luisa de Xicotencatl, which started to bake in 1978, including elements like banana bread and carrot bread, which are still the favorites of their visitors, they also combine dishes from north American culture like their delicious integral bread burgers, with dishes that are proper of our country, like the typical breakfasts with eggs, beans and fried plantains, accompanied by the restaurant’s delicious bread.
There are also the capital city’s food chains, and the fast food ones that can’t be missing in this list since they come handy when someone is in a rush. There’s street food, designer food, gourmet food, Asian, European, South American, conceptual bars, coffees. What is missing is an excuse to adventure yourself in Antigua´s gastronomy, and be captivated by the magic of the flavors.