I'd readily admit that I did almost no research on where to eat before our trip to Guatemala. Work and other commitments kept those efforts to a minimum. In the end we had to depend on guidebooks, and other info to guide our eating. There was one restaurant that seemed to always be on the radar on all the Antigua websites and in all the guidebooks; La Fonda de la Calle Real....simply known as La Fonda. La Fonda serves upscale "Comida Tipica"......upscale enough for Bill Clinton to eat there during his visit, and is an institution in Antigua with three locations.
We chose the location on 5 Avenida Norte, because.....well, we were in the area, and two, we were starving after our morning tour of a few of the surrounding villages. There's quite a bit of ample seating in the large restaurant, and we were taken to a table in the bright and sunny courtyard area. In the rear is a kitchen and grill area which the Missus headed off to.....and proceeded to have every pot opened...asking a zillion questions...all of which was answered with good humor.
After placing our orders....in which I made a faux pas of ordering the same dish twice (ok, since it was pretty good), a plate of garnishes and seasonings was placed at our table.
It included a chili powder, oregano, lime, and cilantro and onions. We ended up using all of the cilantro and onions and lime.
We also used up all the green "Salsa Picante" to the amazement of the staff, who warned us beforehand, "muy picante, muy picante..." We even had a refill.
This was nice and tangy, and mildly hot. We found the food we ate in Guatemala to be fairly mild in the heat department.
The bowl of oregano was also a nice touch, as it came in handy with a few of the "Caldos".
We started with an order of Tamalitos de Chipilín (16Q - $2):
This proved be very dense rectangles of masa, and in spite of the menu saying it was flavored with Chipilin, black beans, and cheese, quite bland and dry. The salsa ranchera was a bit watery for our tastes, and on the mild side.
I had ordered a bowl of Kac-Ik ("Cack-ik", "Caquik"), a turkey soup that is from the city of Cobán in Central Guatemala (54Q - $6.75).
The soup was accompanied by mixed rice and a tamal. The broth was thin, but had a pleasant hint of onion and garlic. The addition of lime brought some of the background flavors out....I detected what I believe was mint and perhaps clove in the soup. I also added the onion and cilnatro for some bite. In spite of the color, the soup was mild in the heat department, with whatever combination of chilies used added a mild smokiness to the broth. I really enjoyed the turkey meat, it was gamey, and didn't look at all like "Western" turkey. In fact, the Missus didn't believe it was turkey.....She thought it to be lamb. I had to grab one of the Servers to explain to the Missus that this was indeed turkey!
We also ordered the Frijoles Volteados (31Q - $4), your basic Guatemalan refried black beans:
To my amusement, this was the Missus's favorite dish of the meal. This is where Her love affair with Frijoles Volteados began. I'm not quite sure what it is, but the Missus, an avowed frijoles hater just loves this. The hand made tortillas provided were grilled over an open flame, making them crisp.....on the menu it said it was "tortilla chips", but this was way better.
So much of a treat that the Missus's main course, Estofado de Cordero (79Q - $10), went unheralded.
And yet, it was very good! This stew from the region of Tecpán, had a nice tomato tangy richness, and the "cordero" had a good "flavor of the pasture."
I selected the El Comal de los Recados (76Q - $9.50), which was a sampler. I neglected to notice that Kac-Ik was included in this as well. But since we enjoyed it, that wasn't a problem.
In addition to the Kac-Ik, the rice, and tamal, this sampler included Revolcado de Pollo, a thin stew of sorts. There was a mild chili flavor, with hints of garlic and onions, and you could tell that offal played a big role in the making of this stew. It was a bit too strong in flavor for the Missus (I didn't tell Her about the offal until later - when I displayed the small minced livers).
Also included was a dish I really wanted to try, Pollo de Pepian, a dish that I've read about.
The base of the stew is a seasoning mix that includes "Pepitoria" (pumpkin seeds) and a variety of chilies. Every version of this I ate was different, so it's hard to really get my bearing on this dish. The only thing in common was the use of pepitoria and a tomato base. This version was much milder than I thought it would be, though the chicken was nice and tender.
There was something quite deceptive about this meal....it was very heavy.....major food coma heavy. A group of women on the table next to us, ordered in a similar fashion, each got an appetizer, a main (which they polished off), and they even each got a dessert, which they demolished. We, on the other hand were totally finished off. La Fonda is not cheap, in fact it was the most expnsive meal of our trip coming it at close to $40. But we managed to learn a bit about eating in Guatemala (and even Honduras), meals are leisurely, and very hearty. We headed back to our room and passed out!
Later that evening we decided to take a stroll.......and found an interesting mixture of people. Youngsters heading home from school and workers headed West toward the buses. Tourists were wandering about, looking for a place to eat, perhaps a hostel, or in search of liquid refreshment.
And even at night Antigua is very photogenic.
We headed to Parque Central, where we found rows of people with their camera gear out....tripods, remote flashes....you name it. All cameras were aimed at the beautifully illuminated Cathedral of San Jose:
After for a while sitting and watching people set-up, line-up, adjust, set-up, line-up, check settings.....set-up, line-up, it seemed that very few photos were actually taken......we headed back to our room. We were still feeling a bit sluggish from lunch, and settled for two pieces of chicken and a few tortillas for dinner.