The Missus has a weakness for tamales. And even though She'd consumed quite a bit over the Xmas holiday.....it was just not enough. She rolled out of bed one morning and told me She "needed"; yes "needed" some tamales. Specifically tamales from El Salvador Pupuseria y Restaurante. Now, based on my last visit to the place, I really wasn't into it. But there was no denying the Missus. So I figured, no pupusas for me
As with my previous visits, the women working here are quite friendly....so I just ignored the terrible curtido and the slightly stale chips this time around. And the Missus started things off with some Plantano Frito.
Nicely fried; just sweet enough, not greasy. That crema was nice and mild and paired well with the plantains. The frijoles however, were gummy and bland, not a great combination for me when it comes to beans. The Missus got one chicken and one pork tamale....She actually prefers Salvadoran Tamales; wrapped in banana leaf, or even Guatemalan Chuchitos, to the standard issue Mexican style tamales. The Missus really enjoyed the pork tamales and had me order four more to go....for later. So it must have fixed the craving!
I ordered the Yuca Frita con Chicharron. Fried yucca...fried pork....fried.....
That fried yucca was a work of art. It was just perfectly fried; crisp exterior, nice moist interior. Totally delici-yoso! The pork was not so great. It was quite lean making the meat quite dry and tough. It was also too salty. The faux curtido and the veggies really didn't do much else for the dish. Still, that yucca made me happy enough.....
If we're coming back again the next time the Missus gets a tamale itch; it'll have to be yucca frita and something else.
El Salvador Pupuseria y Restaurante 3824 University Ave San Diego, CA 92105
Boy, did Havana Grill take their sweet old time opening. I'm not sure what the roadblocks were, but I'd mentioned seeing their signage back in June. Still, I was intrigued to finally see them open about a month ago.
The shop is one of those "fast-casual" type places; you order at the counter, take number and have a seat. The restaurant was still in it's soft-opening phase when I visited, so I can understand the rather slow delivery of some of my orders and that some of the items; specifically the mojo was a bit different on my visits. I will say this; the staff is very friendly.
My adventures started with the Ropa Vieja - "old clothes", the classic Cuban shredded beef dish. Not cheap at $13.
This was probably the best version of this dish I've had in San Diego. The beef was perfectly toothsome, but not tough and overly stringy. The flavor was mellow, but the brininess of the capers and olives lifted the dish. The beef flavor was present and the sodium level low. Of all the items I had, it was the black beans that made an impression; sweet-salty-beany, cumin lurking in the background; the texture of the beans was nice, and it was neither too runny or too mushy. The really nice guy named Alex, told me that their recipe uses 17 ingredients. I bought a side order for the Missus who really enjoyed it.
The mojo had a bit too much oil and not enough citrus or garlic flavor for me.
The plantains....were plantains...... just being their sweet ol' selves.
During my meal, Alex told me that Havana Grill baked their own bread. So you know what I had to try, right?
On my next visit, I went with the El Cubano ($10), the hot pressed Cubano Sandwich. I was surprised at the amount of nicely fried plantain chips when I opened my container.
I actually enjoyed this sandwich....and the plantain chips.
The weak link to most Cubanos for me is the roast pork, which tends to be dry and tasteless....the "other white meat". The pork here had decent pork flavor. And combined with ham (salty-savory), the Swiss cheese (milky goodness), the pickles (crunch and a slight sweet-brine), and the mustard, this was pretty darn good. The bread didn't look like much, but actually had some nice flavor and held up fairly well after being pressed.
I had asked for a recommendation for my next visit when I ordered my sandwich and was told to try either the Bistec or the Havana Chicken Sandwich. I ended up getting both during my next two visits.
The Bistec ($14) is basically shredded beef and could have used a bit more of a sear to enhance the texture, it was also cold in the middle.
It was also quite mild in flavor, I'm used to Bistec Encebollado and expect some bold flavors; garlic, lime, black pepper...on pounded beef. This seemed the same cut as the ropa vieja.
The black beans were as good as on my previous visits. This time around; the mojo had some punchy garlic and perhaps a bit too much salt, but not enough citrus for my taste. Still it was needed to add some oomph to the beef.
On my most recent visit I tried the Havana Chicken Sandwich ($9).
On the good side; this wasn't a shrinking violet when it came to flavor, lots of garlic-citrus tomes and perhaps teetering on the edge of being too salty. The onions did quite well, but the sandwich also seemed a bit greasy. Also, the pounded chicken breast was a bit on the dry side. The menu said that the sandwich was dressed with watercress, but I found none. I think the crunch and slight bitter-peppery flavor would have been a nice addition to the sandwich. I like the roll, which seems simple, but reminds me of a good solid French style roll which is great for "dipping".
I enjoyed my visits to Havana Grill, the folks are very friendly, and the place seems like a work in progress. It seems that homestyle recipes are being adapted for restaurant use and systems are still being put in place. The fact that Havana Grill is close to work means that I'll keep visiting on those days when I need a change of pace. I hope they keep up the nice service and get their recipes and systems in line. There also seems to be items on the menu; the empanadas come to mind that really won't do well being cooked ahead and placed under heat lamps. Hopefully all of that will shake out in time. Oh, and I hope they dial in the mojo......
Havana Grill 5450 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117 Open Daily 11am - 9pm
You remember Pho Tu Do? I'm not why the folks there decided on changing over to a rather generic sushi joint. But they had a decent run of 8 years or so. I'm not sure if the rather unsavory named Twisted Sushi opening across the street had anything to do with things, but now the place is becoming Yakitori Ramen Kanpai Izakaya. I'm also not sure if this place is associated with Kanpai in Chula Vista, but I'm sure Eater or someone will have the scoops.
What struck me as interesting was the sign to check out Fish Attack? There's a story here somewhere.....
5430 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
Havana Grill Coming Soon:
At least that's what the sign leads you to believe.
Seems like a bit more work yet to be done.
This was the location of the ill fated Casa Medina. Which I think has relocated inside the Indian Market.
As I continue my sandwich revisits since my TMJ has calmed down.
I'd been meaning to return since my first couple of visits over a year ago. I thought the food had promise and the concept was interesting.
The place looks basically the same; the prices have edged up a notch, though are still quite reasonable.
I went with the "Midnight Calorie Bomb" the Cubano/Medianoche ($6.75).
I previously thought this a decent sandwich. It has now risen to "good". I thought the weak link previously was the pulled pork, which was very dry and ice cold in my sandwich. That has been remedied. The pork was warm, nicely seasoned, perhaps on the edge of being too salty, and was adequately moist. The ham added even more of a sodium kick and the swiss cheese provided a nice milky level of flavor. The bread was quite nice, pressed, crisp, and yeasty. And while the sandwich doesn't look very big, it's quite filling and more than enough for me.
Man, if this place was in the Gaslamp and open when the clubs got out....they'd do a killing.....
Nice to see the place is doing well.
Embargo Grill 3960 W Point Loma Blvd San Diego, CA 92110 Hours: Mon-Thurs11am - 9pm Fri-Sat 11am - 10pm Sunday 11am - 9pm
Yeah, I know, Cathy and I have done a number of posts on Bristol Farms. I'd mentioned the Tri-Tip Sandwich in a previous post. Several key things have to be in place for me to get the sandwich. There are a couple of folks, often from the deli area that I know make a good sandwich. One of the guys really takes his time, but whenever he makes my sandwich, it comes out like this:
Also, I check out the tri-tip, or the turkey to make sure it doesn't look old and tired. For the turkey sandwich; I go dark meat all the way. After having this through the years, I know how I like mine; toasted roll, horseradish sauce (on one side) in place of the BBQ sauce, grilled mushroom and onions, regular onions, tomato and lettuce. When it comes out well.....it's quite a sandwich.
Of course, one of the main reasons I was a Bristol Farms was to pick stuff up for a "light" dinner on the porch.
Bristol Farms 8510 Genessee Ave San Diego, CA 92122
I had been wondering how Antojitos Colombianos was doing. It had been a while; over a year since I last visited the place. It could be that the relatively heavy, hearty, and let's just put it straight "gut-busting" Colombian food served here is not something one eats alone. In fact, on my last visit, over a year ago, I had the good fortune of having Kirbie and DH helping me out.
Still, I was wondering how they were doing, so I managed to talk my good friends, Candice and JohnL into joining me for dinner the week before Christmas.
It was nice to see the familiar faces of the folks working here....it was even more gratifying to see that they had a steady flow of customers. The place looks a bit more spic n' span, but is still that collection of poster and other "stuffs" that first endeared the place to me.
We started with the empanadas, which were nice and light.
I do prefer them fried to a bit more of a crisp texture. The beef filling was fine, but it's all about balance for me and having it just that much more crunchy would have done it for me.....
Of course I had to order the softball sized Papa Rellena.
Stuffed with saffron rice and chicken, along with a boiled egg...I love the crisp exterior and the potato....though I need to remind myself to ask for something picante to have with it the next time.
The Lengua en Salsa is still the best item here in my opinion.
The deep beef flavor along with the tangy-acidic flavors just make this a wonderful dish. I forgot to request yucca frita instead of the stewed yucca....won't forget next time. Still, this dish is still a winner.
I also decided to order the Picada.......a fried pork and carb lover's dream.....or perhaps nightmare.
So the score on this one is four to three....four types of proteins....most of it deep fried; chorizo (Mexican), carne, chicharron, and the best item costilla....deep fried pork ribs. Three types of carbs; arepa (griddled corn cake), french fries (papas), and patacones; deep fried green plantains. In this case the green you see is really for presenation only and that tomato was carefully placed to distract you from thinking about all that other stuff.
Since JohnL got here late, I had the pleasure of ordering for him......since he's a growing boy, though these days more horizontal than vertical, I ordered the gut busting Bandeja Paisa. "Don't worry" the young lady told JohnL when he looked upon this....."we're open for two more hours, so you have lots of time" as she laughed and walked away......
I got no complaints from him...... The chorizo on this plate is the one usually served with the arepa and was really tasty.
We ended with a flan........
As we headed toward the finish line, the owner Javier came out front and thanked us for coming, shaking our hands. It's these touches that makes me want to return....I'll make sure it's sooner than a year this time.
Antojitos Colombianos 2851 Imperial Ave San Diego, CA 92102 Open Daily 11am - 7pm
I was shopping at Baron's in Point Loma a few weeks ago and noticed this shop across the street.
I thought the name to be kind of strange until I looked over the menu.
From looking over the menu and the interior, it became quite clear that this was a "fast-casual" concept with a strong Cuban-Puerto Rican - Latin American slant....thus the reference to El Bloquero, which I did find somewhat strange in a way.
The prices are pretty much in line with Chipotle and other similar places; but of course the menu seemed a hundred times more interesting.
Service was kind of lax, but the woman who took my order and brought my food out to me was very nice and friendly. I went with the Cubano ($5.95), which wasn't actually a Cubano, but really a Medianoche, literally "midnight sandwich", obviously a reference to post bar/nightclub calorie bomb, late night eats.
The big difference between Cubano's that I've had and this sandwich is the use of pulled pork, in this case quite dry, served ice cold, and bland. I did love the bread, which was crisp, light, somewhat yeasty and nicely pressed. The ham and Swiss cheese really tasted good....like well, ham and cheese! The sandwich wasn't very large, though I did save half for the Missus who enjoyed it much more than I did. What I realy found amusing was that lump of pork piled on the side like a...well, not to mock it, but it really looked like a turd garnish.
The reason I was so full was due to the side dish I ordered; the Yuca Frita ($2.75).
As you know, I just can't resist this stuff. This one however, I will resist in the future. I love the crisp, yet light as air texture of well fried yucca....this one was kind of dense and not very crisp. I think it was fried at too low a temperature. The mojo criollo lacked balance, more oil than anything, lacking the citrus acid component making this seem greasy. There was enough garlic, but this seemed very appropriate for a "medianoche meal"......totally a grease bomb.
I thought my previous meal was worth another visit, so a couple of days later I returned. Same really friendly woman at the counter. I looked over the menu a bit more and noticed the variations of salads and create your own bowls. Still, I really enjoyed the bread the last time, so I decided on one of the most expensive items on the menu; the Churrasco Steak Sandwich, on a pan medianoche ($8.95).
This was a pretty decent sandwich. The steak, which appears to be flank had obviously been prepared ahead and was on the tough side. The flavoring was decent; I personally enjoy stronger flavors, but the combination of the chimichurri and the creamy aioli was satisfying if created "not to offend". I really like the rolls here for some reason. The portion of protein was not large, but this was fine by me.
While the portion sizes aren't for big eaters, I thought this was right for me. The service, though a bit slow, was very nice and friendly. It's not a place I'd go out of my way for; but if I worked or lived in the area I'd drop by every now and then. I'll probably visit again in the future if I'm nearby....give it a shot, it's a nice change of pace from Chipotle, Baja Fresh, etc, etc, etc.....
Embargo Grill 3960 W Point Loma Blvd San Diego, CA 92110 Hours: Mon-Thurs11am - 9pm Fri-Sat 11am - 10pm Sunday 11am - 9pm
I've been trying to restore my "restaurant mojo" since returning from vacation. After some not very good meals, I wondered how those places that used to be on our rotation was doing these days. So about two weeks ago, I decided to revisit a few that I haven't been to in a while. And so "It's been a while week" is born.
Latin Chef used to be a favorite of the Missus and I, we'd often visit several times a week. I could easily have credited the place with fueling the fire to visit Peru in 2007. It held a prominent place in our rotation at one time. But our enthusiasm eventually waned when the original chef moved back to Peru. And though I've visited a couple of times in 2011 and once early last year, the food on those visits was quite uneven. Part of what was missing for me was the presence of Freddy, the owner, a friendly, gracious, gentleman, who always had time to chat a bit. I'm sure he was around, but never on our visits, and the food seemed to suffer.
Still, the recent warm weather made it seem just right for some cebiche so I headed on over to Latin Chef.
And lo' and behold, who was waving at me from the window but Freddy! I hadn't seen him in at least four years. I had a seat and we caught up on things while I placed my order. While waiting for my food, Freddy sat down and we had a chat. Over the years, the menu had expanded to include Brazilian dishes, which I'd never had. Some folks attribute the uneven food to the addition of that side of the menu. When I asked Freddy about those dishes, he told me that without te Brazilian menu, they would not have survived the last three years. Enough with business....we chatted about how Peru has changed over the couple of years. It seems that everyone there now wants to be a chef! Maybe it's time to start planning another visit, eh? Though I was also told that prices have soared as well.
As Freddy served me my Anticuchos, he had to take leave to head out and shop.
I've always enjoyed the marinated beef heart at Latin Chef and I enjoyed this. Well prepared, with a nice chew but not too tough and rubbery, flavored with a mildly spicy chili-annatto marinade with a hint of acid I thought these were nice.
My cebiche pescado wasn't quite as good. First, no chanchita? That's almost a deal breaker for me as I love those toasted kernels of corn.
As much as I enjoy the bracing flavor of a good cebiche pescado, this was way too sour for me. I wouldn't be slurping up this leche de tigre (the cebiche marinade). The fish was under marinated for my taste, a bit too tough, as if the acid in the leche de tigre didn't have enough time. As for potatoes, it was a plain camote or sweet potato. Sadly, this was a far cry from the "vintage cebiche pescado" of Latin Chef's past:
Perhaps it was an off day. I'll probably be back to (finally) try some of the Brazilian dishes on the menu and maybe the cebiche pescado again. Hopefully, it'll be back to classic form.
I'd had a couple of requests to check out Tropicafe in Chula Vista, mostly from folks who I really didn't know. So a couple of weeks back, I spoke to a co-worker AF, who lived in Colombia from the age of 8 to 18. He'd been asking me if I knew of anywhere that had Colombian food on the menu...anyplace but Tropical Star. I told him I'd heard of a place in Chula Vista called Tropicafe, but hadn't tried it out.....AF told me he'd check it out and report back. Then I didn't see him for maybe a month or so. when I finally saw him, he told me, "the food is pretty much the real deal, but not everything is great. It's worth a try, just stay away from the Mexican food, which is on the menu because they need to make a living." Asked for a recommendation, I was told, "everyone needs to have the Bandeja Paisa the first time. There's better things on the menu, but that's the national dish."
So there I was, taking the Main Street off ramp in Chula Vista and driving into one of the "garage strip malls"......and right across from Juan's Auto Repair and the Mercedes Engine Exchange was this tiny shop.
The place opens at 930 am, and I'd arrived pretty early. The restaurant is pretty small, maybe five tables....I was thrown off by the chafing dishes when I entered, but it was part of a display advertising their catering business. The drill is simple, I walked to the counter and ordered, which I'm sure is not the way, or maybe the way, since half the folks coming after me sat and ordered when the menu arrived and half just sauntered to the counter like I did. The woman in the kitchen in the back smiled and gave me the "peace sign".
Naturally, since I'm very good at following instructions, I ordered the Baneja Paisa. After having a seat, the young man told me there was a problem in the kitchen and my order would take about 20 minutes. I was asked if I wanted something else. I had nothing really to do, so I told him I'd wait, which turned out rather well for me......
As I sat and checked my text messages and emails folks started filtering in. After about ten minutes, the young man delivered a fragrant cup of soup to my table. He apologized for the wait and said 'please try the Caldo de Costilla".
A nice hot, mildly thick soup, the flavor of beef and cumin really stood out. I later read that this is Beef Rib soup and popular breakfast item. The main starch item being potatoes. It was very hearty soup which I enjoyed.
About five minutes after finishing my bowl of soup, the young man came by and dropped off a little plastic basket telling me, "your food is almost ready, but here's one of our empanadas for you to try......"
The color of the empanadas was almost a bright yellow. The out crust was quite crisp, but there was still some heft to it. The main flavor in the filling was of seasoned potatoes, which was very good. The meat really didn't have much flavor and I believe it was chicken based on that. The Aji/Salsa had a nice kick to it. I'm thinking there was some habanero in it.
Soon enough my plate arrived. The name is derived from the people of the Paisa region of Colombia, thus it is the "Paisa Platter", I'm figuring the folks of this area had historically worked some major manual labor, because the Bandeja Paisa ($10.50), along with being Colombia's National Dish, is a major calorie bomb.
If God were Vegan, I'd have spontaneously combusted on the spot....... The look on my face got laughs from the folks on the other table as I stared down this amalgamation of fat and protein. I turned to them and said, "I'm going to need a nap after this...." Which drew some good natured laughs. As for the food....
My least favorite items were the beef which was really dry and had a texture like cardboard; and strangely, the chicharon, which was nice and crisp but without much flavor
The fried egg was nice, but I noticed that they food wasn't salted. I enjoyed the patacones (tostones), basically fried green plantains, very mild and not sweet, but also nice and crunchy. The Aji added a nice punch here. The chorizo reminded me of a spicy Longanisa, it had a nice sweetness, but a little punch as well.
The one item I really enjoyed was the beans, which were seasoned well, with a nice pork flavor and a mild sweetness.
I like that the beans weren't overcooked and went real well with the rice (hiding under the egg). The menu description also mentions an Arepa, which is sort of like a pupusa, but I think I'd have been near death after that. The other table was having a few, so I think I'll save that for next time.
Yes, there will be a next time. Probably some rib soup, arepa, beans and rice. Or maybe some other soup. I really enjoyed the friendly folks working here, if not everything in the Bandeja Paisa.
The classic and for many ubiquitous Peruvian dish Lomo Saltado has a special place in my heart. It was the first "Peruvian" (the reason for the parenthesis later) dish that really drew my attention at El Rocoto Restaurant in Gardena. It made enough of an impression, that I headed off to the library (the internet really wasn't such a large part of our lives in '97) to try to find out what Peruvian cuisine was all about. There were many aspects of the dish that really resonated with me; the familiar flavors like soy sauce, cooking style, at heart the dish is a stir fry (saltado = to leap) , and yes, the carbs. Coming from Hawaii, many of my friends still say, "it ain't lunch unless it has at least two carbs!" So I found the combination of rice and papas fritas (french fries) enchanting...... Over the years I'd come to appreciate the history of the dish, a fusion of the cooking of the Chinese that settled in great numbers in Peru (Lima has the largest Chinatown in South America) Spanish (onions, garlic) and ethnic Peruvian (potatoes). Though most every version nowadays has french fries in it, I've read that the dish originally used boiled potatoes.... I've got to say that I'd probably prefer fried to boiled.
Anyway, a post comparing the lomo saltado available in San Diego has been a long time coming, so here it is:
Latin Chef ($11):
After a rather lengthy respite, I've been going back to Latin Chef quite a bit recently. So of course I was bound to have the lomo saltado again.....
Latin Chef used to have a prominent spot on our rotation, but for some reason we just kinda stopped going.
On my recent visits, it seems like the food had slipped a bit (I'll go into detail in the future post). The lomo saltado here is still my favorite in San Diego. The meat is the most tender, you can make out the soy, there's a slight tangy flavor, and the rice had always been cooked well. They seem to be depending a bit much on salt and the mild anise-mint flavor of Huacatay is missing. The papas fritas still have crunch which is a plus, as is the amount of sauce. There just seems to be something missing from this dish recently.
Latin Chef 1142 Garnet Ave San Diego, CA 92109
Nazca Grill ($10.95):
As the food at Latin Chef seems to be slipping, Nazca Grill seems to be slowly getting better:
The beef here is tougher than Latin Chef's and the main herb for flavoring seems to be cilantro. Not enough salt and lacking any tangy flavor this version still falls short for me.
Nazca Grill 4310 Genesee Ave San Diego, CA 92117
Tropical Star ($8.50):
Over the years I've come to think of Tropical Star as sort of a Latin American mom-and-pop equivalent of those diners that try to make everything. The menu is vast and not everything is really worth a try. Still, in spite of all my visits to Tropical Star, I've always stopped short of ordering the lomo saltado.... there was an inner voice that told me not to "go there". But you know that I couldn't go all these years without trying it out. So recently, I finally ordered the lomo saltado, which was the cheapest of the three..... and holy-moley, it was also the largest portion.... of grayish looking meat.....
Really tough meat, full gristle, perhaps chuck.... it gives new meaning to "2 buck chuck (steak)". My feet also started swelling up pretty quickly as I ate this. I stared at the shelves looking for some kind of packaged lomo saltado mix, since there was a powderiness to the dish as well. Funny, as I walked out, I noticed several jars of Aji-no-moto (MSG) right next to the Aji Panca on one of the shelves..... There are several items that Troplical Star does reasonably welland the prices are just as reasonable. I'd pass on the lomo saltado though.....
Tropical Star 6163 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111
Typing out this post makes me think we'll need to be heading back to Peru one of these days......
Early during our first morning on Lake Atitlan, the Missus was looking out from the balcony and decided on what She wanted to do.
Looking off to the left, She turned and said, "let's head to Santiago". At first we were going to head down the 400 steps to the Lomas de Tzununa pier, but in the end we decided to head out of the side gate and walk to the village of La Tzununa, and the pier there.
The downhill walk, and the cooler morning air made this 1 kilometer walk pleasant.
Walking down the hill we passed many of the young men and women who work at the hotel walking up the hill. We could just imagine having to make that walk everyday, rain or shine, in the summer heat! Everyone we passed gave us a pleasant "Buenos Dias". We passed two gentlemen, and asked directions to "La Tzununa muelle".......after giving us directions, one of the gentlemen asked us, "Ha-pon-nese?" I pointed to myself, and told him "si, Ha-pon-nese"....I pointed at the Missus and said, "Chee-na....uno, uno". Which for some reason cracked him up.....
Following their instructions we found our way to La Tzununa pier, and soaked up the morning sun while waiting for what the gentleman called the "barco blanco".....
And wouldn't you know it, the first boat of the day was a "white boat".
A short 10 minutes later we arrived at the San Pedro pier. To get to the boats headed to Santiago we had to walk to the pier to the Southeast of town, about a kilometer away. Not a far walk, but there's a "little" hill between the piers. The street is lined with all the gift shops, tourist restaurants, and hotels.
They don't tell you about the "little hill" in the guidebooks. Lucky for us, there was a strategically placed orange juice stand right at the top of the hill.
Ahhh, "Jugo de Naranja"......the pause that refreshes. Freshly squeezed, and the woman running the stand even filtered out the pulp (3 Quetzal - 45 cents):
Kinda sour, but it sure woke me up. From that point on, it was all down hill, literally.
While waiting for our boat to leave, another large boat arrived. It was packed with passengers....
And a ton of cargo.......
All of it was unloaded manually. This guy made at least five trips up and down the pier.
Arriving at Santiago Atitlan, we walked up the dock, past the craft stands and into Santiago. It turned out to be market day.
We were told by more than a few folks that Santiago Atitlan is considered the captial of the Tz'utujil MayanNation. In Santiago, folks still wear the traditional "Traje" (dress) with pride. The men still wear "calzoncillos" (short pants).
I'm guessing that these pants are very practical for folk who live around the water.
The women wear a colorful "Huipil" sometimes with wonderful embroidery, often featuring birds and flowers. You can read even more about the traditional dress here.
Out first stop was the Catholic Church.
If you walk up these stairs, and quietly take a seat inside, you'll notice a monument to the right rear of the church.
Father Stanley Rother was a priest who was assigned to the mission of Santiago Atitlan in 1968. The late 70's through the 80's were turbulent times for Central America, and Santiago was not spared. Because of his work, Father Rother's name appeared on the list of the "Death Squad". Upon hearing that his name appeared on this list, the Parish staff urged Rother to return to his home of Oklahoma City, which he did. Only to ask for permission to, and return to Santiago a few months later. On July 28th, 1981, he was killed in the rectory of the church by gunmen. Father Rother was flown back and buried in his home town in Oklahoma, however, at the request of his parishioners in Atitlan, his heart was brought back to Santiago Stitlan and buried under the floor of the church. This was not the end as things eventually reached a critical mass on the morning of December 2nd, 1990, you can follow the link, or read even more about it here.
Escaping from the persistent kids outside the church, we made our way back to the main intersection. I noticed groups of women walking up the stairs of one of the corner buildings. Our curiosity piqued the Missus and I walked up the stairs to find a pretty active market area.
The items I found the most interesting were the freshwater crabs, with the legs wrapped in strips of leaves to keep them from walking away.
This, of course, left me hungry. The Missus and I walked around a bit trying to decide were to eat. I finally decided based on one of my main eating rules; "when in doubt, eat where the police eat." And in this case, it was a tiny, very clean looking Cevicheria. We sat at one of the three tiny tables, on plastic stools, Vietnam style. Two police, or maybe security officers with shotguns were having an early lunch at on of the other tables. One of the officers was of particular interest to me, he had two bandoliers of shotgun shells criss-crossing his torso, just like the movies!
This was a two man operation with one doing the prep, the other putting together the ceviche.
Three items were served, Ceviche Camarones(shrimp), Pulpo (Octopus), or Mixto (mixed). and though the shrimp and octopus were "Pacifico" (from the Pacific), we thought the ingredients looked very fresh. The Missus ordered a Grande Mixto, easy on the pulpo. 30 Quetzales ($3.75). While we were waiting, the Missus decided some tortillas would go well with the Ceviche, instead of the usual crackers. So She headed across the street........and to the laies making tortillas in front of (what else) one of the Pollo Frito (Fried Chicken) joints.
The tortillas being sold were "yellow" tortillas, corn-y goodness, and the best we had on the entire trip. It was also the most expensive at 3 for 1 Quetzal (12 cents).
We ended up eating a dozen with our ceviche.
And what about that Ceviche? Well, it delicious, but very different from any Ceviche I've ever had.
The marinade was very dark, but wonderful, with a nice savory flavor as a counter-point to the refreshing citrus flavor. The tomatoes were sweet, the white onion was mild and on the sweeter side, and I could taste a light touch of mint as well. When we asked about the sauce (I thought I tasted some soy as well), I thought the very nice young man said "salsa Iglesia" and I was somewhat puzzled,"Church Sauce" just didn't make much sense. But later on I purchased a small cookbook, "Favorite Recipes from Guatemala" in the airport, I found a recipe for Ceviche de Camaron. And it became quite clear, it wasn't Salsa Iglesia, it was "Salsa Ingles", Wocestershire Sauce, along with Soy Sauce that flavored the Ceviche!
I was satisfied after the Ceviche, but the Missus couldn't resist buying a tamal from the young lady wearing the coloful huipil pictured above. It was a funny thing as, the Missus kept asking "Tamale", and kept getting negative nods, "no...no tamale". She kept pointing at the corn husk wrapped tamals, going, "tamale?" And the response would be a "no-no chuchito, chuchito, no tamale!"
Chuchitos are small masa tamal, and unlike the tamals we are used to, Guatemalan tamals are dense and waxy, and tend toward the dry side. This Chuchito, at least by our tastes and preferences, was the best we had, moist, with a nice sweet-tangy-mildly spicy sauce.
The pork was very tough, but the rest was pretty good.
We had the Chuchito and some Agua Pura, while sitting on one of the raised sidewalks.....it was perfect for people.....
And pet watching.
It was starting to get crowded, which we took as a sign to get moving along. But I just wasn't ready to leave without getting a little "something small to eat".........