The restaurant scene in Guatemala City has really burgeoned in the last few years as a wave of young and talented Guatemalan chefs has decided to dig into their roots creating modern Guatemalan cuisine that draws inspiration from rich traditional dishes and local ingredients. Even local restaurants that had been doing the same thing for decades have realized the potential and are experimenting with more creative dishes inspired in local flavors and Mayan cuisine traditions.
Flor de Lis takes foodies on journey to explore Guatemalan flavors in a whole new way. You can choose from two tasting menus, one with 7 dishes and the other one with 13 dishes and an optional wine pairing for both of these.
Offering unique and creative dishes that blend Mayan elements and cooking methods with modern techniques Chefs Diego Telles and Rodrigo Salva bring together old and new combining tradition and innovation. Using ingredients that cannot be found anywhere else in the world like black salt from Sacapulas Quiché or tziquimché mushrooms from Petén while combining flavors and textures in an almost magical way, the food is both hyper-local and very international.
What I loved the most about Flor de Lis is that while many of the flavors and techniques where familiar to me these where being used in ways I had never seen before: corn croquettes smoked in myrrh, the scent of incense transporting your senses to dimly lit churches and Semana Santa processions; tomatoes prepared using a traditional method for cooking candied figs and dark Guatemalan beer balancing the sweetness of a chocolate mousse.
I have lived in Guatemala for most of my life and consider myself a foodie but with just one visit to Flor de Lis I was introduced to many local ingredients I had never had before proving that there is still so much to be discovered when it comes to Guatemalan cuisine.
Flor de Lis is one of those places that every foodie visiting Guatemala should visit once. It’s not the type of restaurant to go to with families, it does not offer traditional Guatemalan dishes but if you are looking for a unique culinary adventure that is bold, delicious and exciting Flor de Lis is the restaurant to visit!
Gracia Cocina De Autor
I’ve eaten in Gracia Cocina de Autor quite a few times and every time I return to Guatemala it’s one of the places I want to go back to. This small restaurant located in Guatemala City’s Zona Viva area is a real gem. Executive Chef and owner Pablo Novales offers a small and ever changing menu of original and creative dishes. His food is inspired by his travels around the world but always draws from Guatemalan culinary tradition and flavors by using local ingredients in new and inventive ways to create dishes which make Gracia one of the best choices for fine dining in Guatemala City.
One of the best dishes I’ve had at Gracia was a entree of giant river shrimp au gratin with lorocos and anacates reminiscent of a one of my favorite Guatemalan traditional dishes: chicken with a creamy loroco (edible flower buds) and anacate (a type of wild Chanterelle mushroom) sauce this dish was truly outstanding and I loved how it was creatively plated.
I love the ambiance and the friendly service that is always welcoming and knoledgable. The restaurant’s interior design brings together modern elements and a cozy atmosphere that makes you feel right at home. The restaurant’s interior design is the work of the award wining Guatemalan architecture firm of Solis Colomer & Asociados.
La Hacienda Real
A local favorite for decades La Hacienda Real is the place to go if you are looking for a great steakhouse. There are various locations in Guatemala City but my favorite, and the original one, is the restaurant located in La Zona Viva (zone 10). With a warm and inviting atmosphere reminiscent of a Mexican hacienda the restaurant offers indoor seating and as well as tables out in a covered patio with a central fountain. My memories of eating here go far back and it has become a tradition to eat at La Hacienda Real every time I travel to Guatemala, usually more than once.
Although the restaurant is best known for it’s excellent stakes, my favorite cut being the entraña there are also international dishes along with some traditional local offerings like carne adobada and jocón. On my last visit I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had added a new menu filled with dishes that combined their delicious cuts with traditional Guatemalan ingredients like a steak with chipilín sauce as well as new interpretations of traditional dishes like a pastel de rellenito a modern take on the popular rellenitos dessert made with plantain and black beans. At Hacienda Real is a favorite with the locals and there are very few tourists which means you will also get a taste of Guatemala City life.
Make sure to try one of their cocktails made with Quetzalteca Especial locally referred to as “Indita”. This hard liquor, similar in taste to grappa, has for a long time been the inexpensive drink of choice in small town cantinas and ferias. In the last decade or so Quetzalteca has changed their marketing approach and Quetzalteca Especial is now offered in restaurants and bars along with new flavor infused versions; my two favorite ones being tamarind Quetzalteca and hibiscus Quetzalteca.
If you want to sample traditional Guatemalan dishes Kacao is the place to visit. The restaurant, located in Guatemala city’s Zona Viva area is close to hotels and nightlife. It provides an interesting ambiance filled with elements of the Guatemalan culture from the tables coverd in traditional and colorful güipiles and the high roof made of wood and palm leaves to the sawdust carpet at the entrance and the marimba music that plays in the background.
Although Kacao caters mostly to tourists and Guatemalans only eat there when they are taking someone who is visiting it is the best option if you are looking for traditional Guatemalan food in an elegant setting. They have a great variety of local dishes from different areas of the country.
I visited with my family and tried tapado for the first time: a seafood stew with plantain this dish is eaten in Gautemala’s Caribbean coast. I also indulged in my favorite traditional dessert: buñuelos which tasted as good as if I had bought them at the Mercado or feria.
La Cocina De La Señora Pu
Located in a back street in Guatemala City’s historic district La Cocina de La Señora Pu is easy to miss. The tiny restaurant sits less than 20 people with most of the seats on a bar around an open kitchen where La Señora Pu dressed in traditional mayan garb cooks the meals in a 4 burner stove. The menu is written on a chalkboard on the wall and the dishes all have Mayan names like Jok’om ixim / Duck to the taste of king Kaib’il B’alam, Jok’om sikil / Chicken in sikil, Porom / Pigeon porom and Q’ab’arel / Rooster b’oj.
At La Cocina de La Señora Pu you will not find the traditional Guatemalan dishes, instead you will be treated to a unique gastronomic experience of ancestral origins. After doing an investigation about the Mayan cuisine Rosa Pu, who is an anthropologist, set out to recuperate 6 Mayan dishes and created 21 new dishes that according to the restaurant’s website “have an indisputable Mayan identity.” I would describe the food as a fusion of authentic Mayan ingredients and flavors with an international infusion which can be attributed to Rosa Pu spending some time living in Paris. I ordered the Duck in k’axob‘ and my dad ordered a rabbit dish. I was taken aback by the duck’s fantastic sauce which blended sweet and tangy flavors with a smooth and velvety texture.
Eating at La Cocina de La Señora Pu was a unique foodie experience but I have to warn you that La Señora Pu is quite a character who guards her recipes with a fierceness that borders on paranoia. Don’t bother inquiring about any of the dishes as you will probably get a response like: it’s a delicious chicken dish (no mention of any of the ingredients, not even to say it has a tomato based sauce or it’s a sweet and sour sauce). When asked the difference between two duck dishes she only replied “they are both good” which made it quite hard to pick a dish as the Mayan names do not even hint to any of the ingredients so we ended up just letting her surprise us. I made the mistake to take a picture of my food and the waiter almost sprinted to our table and told us that photos where not permitted and then he stood behind us for the entire meal to make sure I did not take another picture; for a moment I thought he was going to grab my phone and confiscate it. Nowhere did it say that photos where not permitted and the way in which the incident was treated made us feel quite uncomfortable and took away from the experience but I would certainly return and keep my phone in my purse. Plan to eat lunch here as this is not the best area to go to at night; reservations are recommended due to the limited number of seats.