Your restaurant guide in Antigua Guatemala

Good Hotel, Antigua Guatemala

September 13, 2017

For once, instead of talking about restaurants, we want to introduce you to a hotel. A somewhat special one, to be honest. In fact, it wasn’t conceived and built for commercial purposes but to a completely altruistic end.

Impossible, you’ll probably say. And yet, not only is it possible, it’s already operational. The magic formula is Profit for Non-profit. The concept seemed so ingenious to us, that we decided to look into it a little deeper for you. To learn more about the Good Hotel, located in Calle del Hermano Pedro, we met with the current director Cristina Rebner, who has followed this innovative project from the beginning.

Saberico, Antigua GuatemalaAugust 17, 2017

In the food business, there are those who follow trends and those who create them. This month, we’d like to introduce to you two entrepreneurs who chose to follow the path of innovation.

Eleven years ago Michael and Juan Carlos decided to abandon their respective professions and seek new opportunities in gastronomy. The seed was sown in a kitchen in Santa Lucía Milpas Altas and eventually grew to become one of the most charming restaurants in Antigua Guatemala. We're talking about Saberico, an icon of peace and tranquility in the middle of urban effervescence.

A decade later, Michael and JC are still ahead of the trends, constantly reinventing a niche they created themselves. We met them in the lush garden of Saberico where they shared their gastronomic adventure.

Diego Stella Ni-Fu Ni-Fa Antigua

June 8, 2017

Tango, soccer, gauchos and barbecue is what spontaneously comes to mind when we think of Argentina. Given the nature of our dining guide, we will focus on the latter in this month’s Antigua Dining news.

There are many ways to grill meat but Argentinians have no doubt taken it to another level. The first and perhaps the only option in Antigua, if the craving is of an authentic Argentine churrasco, is Ni-Fu Ni-Fa on 3rd. Calle Oriente.

For many years, this steakhouse from the far south has earned the heart of meat lovers all over Guatemala. And rightly so. Keeping the overall quality of food and service at a high level for so long is no easy task. So what’s their secret? A lot of dedication and passion for one's work. That’s how Diego Stella, long-time maitre de maison and now owner of Ni-Fu Ni-Fa, sums it up in the following interview he gave us recently.

Guat-ik Bistro, Antigua GuatemalaWho said that traditional food can not co-exist with modern interpretations of it? Guat-ik Bistro shows us that with some creativity everything is possible.

It becomes increasingly evident that even a colonial icon like Antigua can’t withstand the inexorable march of progress. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just the natural course of evolution. The challenge lays in keeping a healthy balance between tradition and modernity.

The restaurant business is where this balancing act can be observed best. Some truly amazing culinary art is created in Antigua, both by top chefs and by emerging talents that surprise with their innovative concepts. Guat-Ik Bistro, which just opened its doors on 4th Avenida Norte, perfectly represents this vibrant category. With original interpretations and fusions of traditional Guatemalan dishes, Guat-ik aims at foodies who love culinary experiments.

Curious? Read the interview Antigua Dining did with Patty and Carmen Soto, the minds behind a promising attack on the taste buds.

kenny aldana el convento antiguaApril 19, 2017

The culinary talent we’re featuring this month is Hotel El Convento’s executive chef Kenny Aldana. Flipping through his menu awakens your appetite and listening to Kenny describe his creations makes your mouth water.

In this edition of the Antigua Dining Newsletter we’re also going to take a look at the training of chefs in Guatemala. Many excellent gastronomers in this country graduate from the Technical Training Institute, also known as INTECAP. This academy is based on dual education, the same system that has forged highly specialized professionals in Switzerland and other European countries for decades. The great advantage of dual education is that it allows students to learn their profession by assisting experienced chefs in real-life conditions of a hotel or a restaurant.

Read on to hear what Kenny tells us about his work at Hotel El Convento and the professional formation of chefs in Guatemala.

bianco e nero italian restaurant antigua guatemalaAugust 9, 2016

Bianco e Nero is the latest ambassador of authentic Italian cuisine in Antigua. Although, their extensive menu of pasta, pizza and other delights from the Bel Paese may not be entirely new to some of our readers.

After countless conversations and interviews with owners and chefs, we know for a fact that at the nexus of a restaurant there is always a dream. Now, once you have opened four of them, it becomes a little hard to explain that drive with the fulfilment of a dream. This is the case of the gentleman we're featuring this month, with his new sanctuary of Italian cuisine on 6th Avenida Norte.

Listening to Giancarlo Biagioni talk about his new restaurant Bianco e Nero, makes you inevitably come to the conclusion that for people like him there's more to gastronomy.  It's an irresistible blend of obsession and pure love of cooking.

Team of Fusion, restaurant in Antigua GuatemalaDecember 22, 2016

Guatemalan cuisine not only competes with the best in the world, but also lends itself to all kinds of fusions thanks to its versatility.

In our constant search of novelties, we are guided by our personal taste and other, more general criteria. Now, if we knew the winning recipe that determines whether a restaurant makes it on people's radar, we'd be writing this column from a comfortable hammock in our luxury villa by the sea.

While we're not there yet, one thing we can do, even without being gastronomic prophets, is discover Antigua's culinary jewels for you. Instead of presenting them from our imaginary beach villa, we'll do it, in the usual manner, from our office overlooking Agua Volcano. Not the worst option either.

Let's move on to our suggestion of the month that we have chosen for its excellent combination of ambiance, service and cuisine. The restaurant is called Fusion, it's located a few steps from Central Park on 4th. Calle Oriente and has recently changed ownership. The new manager is a friendly and very dynamic young lady that goes by the exotic name Jaminie.

Read on and find out why this new gourmet eatery should find a permanent place on your radar too.

René, restaurante Las Palmas AntiguaNovember 16, 2016

The magic formula to success does exist indeed, but every individual has to find his own.

What are the special ingredients that transform a nice evening into a truly great one? Pleasant company, friendly atmosphere, a nice dinner, good music ... ? All these elements can be found in many places, but to find the right combination in Antigua one must search a little deeper.

Among our favorites, one stands out in particular: Restaurant Las Palmas on 6th. Avenue, behind Central Park. The service is friendly, the food is tasty and then there's always René and his friends or some cheerful Salsa group that never fail to get across the joy of life and good vibes with their excellent live music performance.

As René tells us, it took more than he's willing to admit to come up with the perfect recipe. But there's no doubt that since he's found it Las Palmas is flying high.

Centro Naturista, JocotenangoOctober 5, 2016

Mundo Natural is a vegetarian restaurant who promotes healthy nutricion with inexpensive yet delicious dishes and menus.

The extremely dynamic restaurant business in Antigua contributes significantly to the vibrant character of this city and is a magnet that attracts tourists and local visitors year round.

However, the constant evolution of the town's gastronomy can also be a little confusing and one tends to lose one's bearings at times. In those cases it's good to have some elements of continuity for better orientation. That's why a few months ago we launched a series of articles on, let's call them "pioneer establishments" of Antigua, with the restaurants Welten, Wiener and Rainbow, that have withstood the inclemency of the market for decades. There's a sense of solidity in these companies that instills confidence, as they have proven over the years, that they know what they're doing.

One of those towers of strength is the Centro Naturista on the outskirts of Antigua. Although they ventured into the food business only a few years ago, they used the same expertise they have employed since the early seventies, focusing on their passion for human health.

We met Auri, the current manager of this health center on Jocotenango's Calle Real, to find out more about an altruistic restaurant that was born to promote healthy and sustainable nutrition.

roots restaurant antigua guatemalaJune 14, 2016

More than 2000 years ago the ancient Romans already knew that a healthy mind requires a healthy body. Well then, how about starting with a healthy meal?

Among the various relevant culinary inventions of the last centuries, one stands out for its simplicity and ease of preparation: The sandwich. Allegedly invented in the 18th century by an aristocrat by the name of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, it is considered - ironically or not - Britain's most important contribution to gastronomy.

The invention soon conquered the world but for some reason, it was in Italy where it was taken to a more sophisticated level. That's why nowadays it is more chic to call the sandwich panino, or panini from its plural form.

And the plural is more than appropriate, given the almost infinite variety of this popular dish that covers the entire culinary spectrum from rustic to gourmet. The difference lays in the ingredients, as evidenced on one extreme by the ubiquitous fast food chains and on the other by "real" restaurants dedicated to quality cooking.

One of those, that also aims at a health-conscious audience with a great variety of smoothies, juices and salads, just recently opened its doors on 4th Calle Oriente, two blocks from Central Park. It's founder Paola, a friendly young chef full of enthusiasm and good intentions, named it Roots, and not without reason. Read the following interview to find out.

Read more about Roots >>

DA: Tell us about yourself, Paola.

roots antigua vegetarian sandwichPaola: I am a passionate cook, ever since I was a kid I liked everything about food. Very often, I was the one who cooked for the family or when we had events.

In my teens I started studying nutrition at Landivar University. I thought that was the perfect career for me as it would teach me a lot about food, healthy food in particular. Unfortunately I didn't like it much as everything was rather scientific. So I started looking for a career that's more closely related to cooking. I found it at the Culinary Academy of Guatemala, where I graduated as Chef de Cuisine.

DA: Is that when the dream of your own restaurant was born?

Paola: It's the dream of every chef and it was no different for me. In my case, I've always been fascinated by healthy cooking, fresh ingredients, inventing new things and that's how I started to shape the idea of a restaurant.

What I learned about nutrition was very useful when I designed the menu. I also like to research, experiment and read about what's new in the world of gastronomy. All that has been incorporated into the concept.

roots restaurante antigua patioDA: Did you open the restaurant immediately after your graduation?

Paola: No, I worked as manager at a large coffee shop chain in Guatemala City for two years. It was a very useful experience that made me see the restaurant business from a different angle. It taught me to manage an establishment and interact with employees and suppliers, which is very important, as is customer service. I enjoyed it, but my place is in the kitchen.

Last year I stayed six months with my cousins in San Diego. They are also chefs and own a vegetarian restaurant with catering services called The Secret Table. They cater many events for an exclusive clientele and only cook organic and healthy food. For me, that was a great experience that taught me a lot about the latest culinary trends.

DA: You are from Guatemala City. What brought you to Antigua?

Paola: I'm in love with Antigua, like everyone else, I guess. I have always liked this city, it's magical.

We were looking for an opportunity to open a business here and finally found this place. There were many options but they were never central enough. We found this location in late January and opened just in time for the Easter business.

roots antigua guatemalaDA: Did you already have a menu when you found these premises?

Paola: I had a general idea of the dishes but not a set menu. Initially, my family and I wanted to open a catering business rather than a formal restaurant. When my dad found this place he motivated me to create the menu. So we started planning and testing with different people, to get their feedback. It is a small menu but it still took a month to develop it. We didn't want too many dishes as the kitchen is small and there's not much storage space.

Besides the sandwiches, we ended up with a good selection of smoothies, fresh vegetable and fruit juices, all very healthy and prepared from scratch. Customers may have to wait a little at times, but it's worth it.

DA: I take it this was a family project from the beginning?

Paola: And it still is. My mom helps me every day in the restaurant and dad joins us on Sundays. We just hired a person for the kitchen so I can devote more time to management and customer service.

DA: What are your future plans for the menu?

roots antigua kitchenPaola: There's time for that. At the moment we are getting to know the market and the market is learning about us.

Obviously, the plan is to adapt the menu at some point, so that customers do not get bored. We're soon going to have a dish of the day, just as we now have the soup of the day. I would like to open for breakfast and maybe soon open a branch in Guatemala City. We'll see.

DA: Where does the name Roots come from?

Paola: When looking for names, I made ??a list of all I liked. There's a phrase that I read one day and I liked a lot: Get back to your roots. I related to that as it describes the way I prepare my food. So I chose this name.

DA: What acceptance have you had so far?

Paola: We opened almost three months ago and the response has been very good. The comments of our customers are very positive, which shows us that we're on the right track and motivates us to continue.

 

[ See the menu of Roots ]

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Antigua Gastronomy FestivalJuly 1, 2016

The most anticipated culinary event of the year is approaching. On Sunday, July 17 over 100 participants will compete to to determine the best dishes of Sacatepequez.

In recent years, gastronomy has become one of the most important economic and cultural pillars of Antigua, Guatemala. The number of restaurants significantly increased and important culinary events have emerged as well. It all started with the Night of The Chefs, organized by Degustantigua, that inspired a whole series of food related activities. The most relevant of which is undoubtedly the Festival Gastronómico de Sacatépequez, whose seventh edition will be held on July 17 at the Spanish Cooperation on 6th Avenida.

In a recent interview, the organizing committee composed of, Luis Reyna, Suzanne Brichaux, Elena Camajá , Gloria Godinez and Edwin Bejarano shared some interesting details about the origins and the challenges of this important folkloristic culinary event.

Personajes Pub Antigua GuatemalaMay 12, 2016

A new gem has rised from the ashes of what once used to be Personajes on 6th. Avenida. It's called Personajes Pub and it's got all the potential to become the next big thing in Antigua.

Beer, one of the oldest beverages known to mankind and synonymous with a good time in good company. There must be a reason why people say "let's go have a beer" instead of "let's go have a mineral water". Now here's a question for you: what came first, beer or places where people consume it? While you could write your PhD thesis trying to come up with a historically well-supported answer, the undisputed fact is that beer and bars, or pubs for that matter, go together like salt and pepper.

Case in point is Personajes Pub at London Bridge, no doubt Antigua's soon to be new hip place. The name was deliberately chosen a little on the long side to make sure people understand that this is a new establishment rebuilt from the ground up. In fact, the only thing it has in common with the old Personajes is the location on 6th Avenida Norte no. 6. Let's see what Daryl and Jorge, respectively co-owner and manager, have to say about arguably one of the most elegant bars in town that sports well over fifty different types of beer in every possible color and flavor.

Read more about Pesonajes Pub>>

DA: There isn't necessarily a shortage of pubs and bars in Antigua. What moved you to open yet another one?

Personajes Pub at London Bridge, Antigua GuatemalaDaryl: There are different reasons for that. First off, I own the hotel next door and, for the well being of my guests, I always wanted to control what's going on here. So, when this location became available I took the opportunity. Now that I have it, I had to decide what to do with it. Due to the size and the potential of this space, a British style pub seemed an obvious choice. What's more, like many others I like beer, especially Mynor's craft beer. Mynor was looking for a location at the time and I liked the idea of providing him with that space so he could sell his products (and I wouldn't have to walk too far to get them).

DA: So this is a beer place then?

Daryl: Yes it is. To start with we have draft beer, Gallo and Moza for now, and we'll soon be serving Modelo on draft too. As for bottled beer, there are imported brands like Guinness, Leffe and many more. And finally we have a selection of Mynor's craft beer that's made here in Guatemala. That makes for 50 different beers, give or take, right from the start.

DA: When you first mentioned that you wanted to open this place a while back, it was going to be a British pub called The London Bridge. I see the logo says otherwise now.

Draft beer at Personajes Pub AntiguaDaryl: That was the original plan. But Personajes in its different iterations had been around for over 15 years and it already had a strong recognition. So, why throw that away? Many people from Guatemala City know the brand from their visits to Antigua. That's the crowd we're aiming at and we want them to know that Personajes is back with a completely new and much improved concept. That's why it's now called Personajes Pub at London Bridge, that's what the LB in the logo stands for.

DA: So the main focus is on the bar and the music?

Daryl: This is a beer and a live music place. We're one of two establishments in Antigua that actually have a live music license. We're also one of a handful of places that have a "1 am bar license". Most other places only have an "11 pm restaurant license".

Jorge: Apart from our huge beer variety, another major selling point is the cozy ambiance. We have a very classy main bar and we're the only place in town that has a proper elbow row or bull's nose as it's known in the US.

DA: Who designed this?

Daryl: I'd say my partner and I. But what you see is not the original design. We changed it several times until we both were completely satisfied with the look and feel.

DA: You mentioned live music as a crucial element?

120 inch screen at Personajes Pub AntiguaJorge: Live music is our biggest magnet from Thursday through Saturday. We have a dedicated and well equipped stage for that purpose. On top of that, we have a huge collection of music from across the last five decades. That way we can target any audience and organize whatever theme night we feel like. We are aware that you can't please everyone when it comes to music but having a large selection certainly helps.

Daryl: We also have a 120 inch TV screen on which we can display music videos, sports or any type of live events from around the world.

DA: We've talked about beer and music. What about food?

Jorge: This being a pub, you'll find your standard fish'n chips, chicken fingers, hand-sliced sweet potato fries, mozzarella sticks and much more pub food. Speaking of fish'n chips, here at Personajes Pub we follow the original British recipe and use cod. It's a small detail but it makes all the difference. Apart from the traditional pub menu, we'll be soon be adding a selection of pizza as well.

DA: What would you say sets Personajes apart compared to other pubs or bars in Antigua?

Daryl: Apart from the live music license I mentioned, we have a much larger capacity, seating is 150 and standing is over 400 people. What's more, we have three bars here. There's the main bar, Mynor's craft beer bar and we'll be opening a separate wine bar by the time you publish this.

DA: You've mentioned Mynor's craft beer so many times, now I'm curious to find out more about it.

Mynor's Underground Bar, AntiguaDaryl: Mynor is an experienced beer brewer that has worked in the US for many years. Now he's brewing his own craft beer in Guatemala. We have five of his beers here at the bar at any given time. These will be changing on a regular basis. We've got a dark beer, an IPA, an amber, a fruity beer like, say, a blueberry ale or a raspberry ale. For instance, there will always be a dark beer, this month it may be a Black Porter, next month it could be a stout, then maybe an American Porter and so on. And we have them all on draft.

DA: So is Mynor's bar in the back part of Personajes or is he independent?

Jorge: This is a win-win situation. We're targeting our own crowd to which we sell a selection of his craft beers, among others, while he can still have his own place and sell all of his 35 or 40 beers to people who want to try something different. His bar is called Underground and it's already got its own regulars.

Daryl: There's another thing I'd like to point out. A lot of potential customers already know Personajes, as I mentioned. And the memory they have is probably not one of a particularly pretty place. We addressed that with a total make over. We basically tore everything down and rebuilt it from scratch. We expanded and replaced the bathrooms with modern ones, we have a professional kitchen, we have a fully equipped stage for live performances and we've created an exceptionally cozy ambiance. Not to mention that the concept has been completely turned upside down. People that have visited this place over the last 15 years will not recognize it.

I'm not saying this because I'm a co-owner, but the result is definitely one of the classiest bars in Antigua. And the best part is that we have the most affordable prices in spite of that. What else can you ask for than spending the night in a gorgeous place, having fun and getting the best bang for the buck in town?

DA: Amen.

 

[ See the menu of Personajes Pub ]

O'Tapas Antigua Guatemala

March 7, 2016

Antigua's 6th. Calle has recently been enriched with a new gastronomic option. The restaurant is called O'Tapas and offers Spanish and international specialties in an elegant and cozy atmosphere.

Ever since the world's been turning, eating has always been a social activity. In Spain, for example, people have developed the tapas culture, a wonderful opportunity to gather with friends or family and spend many hours in good company. And a few bottles of fine wine on the table doesn't hurt the feast either.

Although the concept is not unknown in Guatemala, restaurants offering tapas are rather rare. In Antigua, that's a niche that O'Tapas on 6th. Calle Oriente discovered and occupied just recently. Despite the name, Marcelo Ovalle, one of the founders, emphasizes that O'Tapas does not qualify as a Spanish restaurant, as the tapas on the menu are rather international.

Spanish or not, the approach is very interesting, the food is high quality and the restaurant is one cozy gem. And there you have it, the perfect excuse to finally invite your friends to have the gathering you've so long been talking about.

Curious to find out more about O'Tapas? Read our interview with Marcelo Ovalle.

Fernando's Kaffee, Antigua GuatemalaApril 13, 2016

Pssst, something strange is going on on 7th Avenida Norte no. 43D. They call It "Dinners of Drugs" and it's ... totally legal.

Are you looking for an exceptional coffee in Antigua? Or maybe you're craving some artisanal  chocolate made with Guatemala's finest cocoa? Chances are that in both cases Fernando's Kaffee is one of the first names that pops into your mind.

If this establishment isn't your first choice when planning an exclusive dinner to celebrate your birthday or a class reunion, we can't blame you. But that has changed. In fact, there's a good reason now why Fenando's should appear on your radar for that type of occasion. It's called "Dinners of Drugs". Relax, there's no reason to alarm law enforcement just yet. The only illegal thing here is the name, as chef Alejandro Gramajo explains in the following interview.

Restaurant Wiener, Antigua GuatemalaDecember 5, 2015

It seems hard to believe but just 20 or 25 years ago Antigua was a pretty sleepy town. One must have visited it back then to understand, how much it has has developed over the years.

That's why it's always fascinating to listen to the stories of the "pioneer expats", the romanticism of their tales, the circumstances under which they were stranded in Antigua and the reasons why they eventually got stuck in this town. Interestingly, one thing many of them have in common is that they were "really just passing through" on the way to who knows where.

Austrian born Wolfgang Graf is one of those expats. In the early nineties he and his family went on a journey from Vienna to Argentina but they never made it passed Antigua. Meanwhile he's been "in transit" in this city for over two decades, which is the same about of time his restaurant, Wiener on Calzada Santa Lucía, has been on Antigua's culinary map. Originally, Wiener was conceived as a small project to help his underprivileged Spanish teacher generate a decent income. But fate had other plans.

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