You’ve probably heard that Central America is quite an inexpensive place to vacation and live in. But those of us who have been around Antigua for a while know that this depends very much on where you live and where you shop. Places to eat out are no exception – here, they range from the cheap and unsanitary to the expensive and pretentious. If you’re looking for Antigua Guatemala cheap eats, below are two places we recommend – by no means the only two. But first, let’s define what is a “cheap” meal here.
Many places here offer what is known as an “almuerzo ejecutivo“, or “executive lunch.” Which is a fancy way of saying the restaurant caters to locals working in the area. It’s quite aspirational to have the meal of an “executive” while trying to make ends meet at what usually is a low-paying job. It certainly feels nicer to be sitting at a restaurant, without having to break the bank, rather than eat next to a fried chicken stand at the Mercado – I speak from personal experience.
So what does an “executive lunch” cost? Typically, lunch specials will range anywhere from Q20 to Q45 ($2.50 to $6USD). They usually include a combination of appetizer (often a simple soup), the main entree with meat (chicken/pork/beef), carbs (rice/potatoes), vegetables (steamed/salad), a dessert (pudding/jello/other), and the ever-present corn tortillas. A drink, usually horchata/hibiscus/fruit-flavored water, will be served – rarely ever refillable. Some places do both, an appetizer and dessert, while others will offer one or the other.
Their menus often change daily, though the first restaurant mentioned below is the exception. This article focuses on two restaurants that are in the low-end (Q20-Q25) of the pricing spectrum. Both places offer a satisfying meal for about $3USD. Let’s get started.
Out of all the executive lunch places in Antigua, this is the biggest and most well-known. They offer the largest variety of meals, which you can find every day. It’s very popular with locals on weekends. On the menu, you’ll find pork (carne adobada), chicken (grilled or wood-fired), and beef (skirt steak). I’ve tried every single option and can tell you that their most consistent, the best-tasting dish is the wood-fired chicken (hecho con leña). The grilled chicken (different because it’s cooked before being grilled) and pork (seasoned pork) are good second options for me. The skirt steak can be hit-or-miss depending on whether you get a tender piece. More often than not, there’s also sausage on the menu as a meat option. I’ll mention here it’s one of the few places that won’t charge you extra for asking for white meat (breast) when ordering chicken.
Also worth mentioning are their corn tortillas, which are a tasty variety known as pishton. These tortillas are bigger, doughier than the typical Guatemalan tortilla. The best time to try them is when the place is busy and the tortillas are flying off the comal (wooden stove) by the front door.
The decoration of the place is interesting and features a covered courtyard with rustic tables and benches. There are often small birds flying about, though they won’t bother patrons. The place is reasonably clean, though know that they do use silverware and the wife always makes it a point to inspect it for cleanliness.
Rincon Tipico is two blocks away from Parque Central – 3ra Avenida Sur #3. Open for lunch and dinner daily. Lunch is 30Q.
La Nueva Ola
On the opposite end of the popularity spectrum is La Nueva Ola, a restaurant that tries very hard not to be found, or doesn’t care to become crowded. It’s not easy to find and for reasons unknown, doesn’t even have a sign on the outer wall, even though it’s been there for 10 years according to an employee I spoke to. They don’t even advertise their specials on their Facebook page, preferring people call instead. Whether they don’t care or are trying to grow solely by word-of-mouth, it can’t be argued that they do have good food at cheap prices.
As it stands, the place is never crowded and regulars are loyal. I’ve yet to have or see the same menu twice. I’ve had pork chops with pineapple sauce, bbq chicken and grilled chicken as main entrees. Sometimes fish is on the menu, as is steak. If you’re in the mood for a surprise, this is your place. Like Rincon Tipico, this restaurant also offers reasonably priced a la carte menu entrees.
This place is a bit hard to find, so I’ve added a small map. The easiest way to find it is to head north on 7ma Avenida Norte until you get to San Sebastian Park. Take a left and go past the park, walk across the street (Avenida El Desengano), and walk for half a block along 1ra Calle del Chajon (#24). Open from 11:30am to 9:00pm, phone number 7832-4871. Lunch is Q20 daily.
More restaurants here: https://www.okantigua.com/antigua-guatemala-restaurant/
Any other great places for cheap eats that you’d like to see featured?
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