Guatemala possesses a breathtaking landscape of volcanoes, mountains, tropical forests, and lakes, including one of the world’s most beautiful, Lago de Amatitan. The biodiverse country has earned the nickname the Land of the Eternal Spring, and it’s all easily accessible from the capital, which contains plenty of wonders of its own. Home to 22 Maya language groups such as K’iché, Q’eqchí, Kaqchikel, and Mam, as well as people of Xinca, Garifuna, and Spanish descent, Guatemala City is a mishmash of ancestral recipes, modern fine dining (including several World’s 50 Best Restaurants notables), and an energetic street food scene.
The cuisines of the Maya and Chapín (the term for Guatemala City locals) communities are united by thick, disc-like corn tortillas, tomatoes, beans, a moderate use of chiles, bitter herbs, and flowers. There are a range of tamales made with corn masa, rice flour, and even potatoes prepared in different leaves; savory recados (stews) like pepian, jocón, and ka’kik; plus tostadas, envueltos (egg-battered vegetables), shucos (Guatemalan hot dogs), deep-fried snacks, and panes (sandwiches) sold at busy antojitos tables around town. Gallo is the beer of choice, alongside Guatemalan rums.
Recent years have seen the rapid growth of upscale Guatemalan restaurants, especially in the new, hip culinary and arts district, Quatro Grados Norte, located in tourist-friendly Zona 4. Among the coworking spaces and university buildings, it’s here that you’ll find the city’s chef-driven restaurants and third-wave cafes brewing the country’s world-renowned coffee beans. At the opposite end of the spectrum is nearby Antigua, the former capital of the colonial Captaincy General of Guatemala, which is an hour outside of the city center and on everyone’s itinerary when visiting Guatemala City. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its 16th-century Spanish baroque architecture and encircled by volcanoes, Antigua also boasts regional foods and classic restaurants that are worth a tour of their own.
Bill Esparza is an LA-based, James Beard Award-winning food writer, author of LA Mexicano, and a featured journalist on Netflix’s Street Food: USA.Read More