Grubbing in Guatemala

I must’ve been a gypsy in a past life or rolled with some sort of nomadic tribe, because if it were up to me, I’d roam the earth and live out of a suitcase.

If I had the right kind of job, or the right kind of bank account, I would probably do just that but since I don’t, whenever I do get the chance to travel and go somewhere different, somewhere new, somewhere far, every particle of my being revels in it.

And in what will be surprising to pretty much no one, one of my favorite aspects of traveling is eating. Even in a city like New York, where the cuisines of the world are available to me, still nothing beats eating local.


I’m always happy to go.

When a good friend decided to get married in Antigua, Guatemala, a Central American country I’d never been to, I was just as excited about being a part of his big day as I was about exploring and eating my way around town.

There was lots of good food involved over the course of the long weekend I was there, everything from junk food like Doritos with funny names and peanuty snacks called Double Nuts to elegant and delicious wedding rehearsal and reception dinners to some pretty serious drinks, like the hilarious-to-say Cuchurucho, a cocktail of tequila, rum, vodka, triple sec, gin, red wine and hibiscus liqueur. (The Guatemalan Black Out, if you will.)

But my favorite meal of the trip, due to price, ambiance, and most importantly food, was a casual lunch at Rincon Tipico.


Chicken, potatos, and guac with a cup of horchata? Si por favor.

While most places took credit cards and dollars, this place only took local currency, the Guatemalan quetzal. A little inconvenient since no one in our group had any, but I took it as a good sign anyway.  Instead of a menu, the waiter rattled of  in Spanish the only three or four options. (Another good sign if you ask me.) The place itself just looked like the real deal. It was homey and colorful, hot under the midday sun and only slightly breezy from ceiling-rigged fans. A no-nonsense looking woman pounded away at fresh corn flour, grilling it into tortillas on a large flat top that was so hot I don’t know how she didn’t melt standing over it.

And when our food arrived, with baskets of warm, fresh tortillas and plastic cups of cool creamy, cinnamony horchata (all you can drink, by the way), I was smitten.

I went with the chicken option, partly because I could see a giant wall of splayed out  chickens roasting in the open kitchen, the fiery heat contributing to the temperature at the tables, and the smell was wafting around me and making my stomach growl. And when it came out, served in a sturdy, no frills, terracotta like plate, the giant chunk of chicken was roasted to a perfect golden crisp, the meat underneath plump and delicious. With it, a generous plop of fresh ground guacamole and juicy, roasted potatoes.

It was simple food and it was great, nothing wildly inventive or groundbreaking, but deliciously satisfying, comforting and filling. And with the bottomless horchata included, it also came in at just about $4.

Even in New York, I don’t know where I would have found that. So maybe I did have to travel 2,000 miles to properly enjoy it and I’m more than happy to keep doing it as often as I can.

Mission: perfect burrito

I’m not sure how I’m ever supposed to eat burritos again, not after the absolute-perfection-in-burrito-form I had for lunch today.

All other burritos will live in the shadow of the delicious one I had at Danny Bowien’s California style taqueria, Mission Cantina, in the Lower East Side, not far from his short-lived (but hopefully soon to be resurrected) Mission Chinese Food.

write something here

Mission Cantina’s carne asada burrito

Before bringing his restaurants to New York, Danny Bowien was a big deal in San Francisco, where phenomenal tacos and burritos are easy to find, and clearly he picked up a thing or two and brought it to the east coast, cause the burrito I had today was a 10 clear across the board.

write something here

So much awesome in just one handful

For starters, instead of being filled with tons of gut-filling rice, sad wilted lettuce and mushy tomatoes, this bad boy (easily shareable between two people if you don’t have a the bottomless pit of a stomach that I do) was stuffed, generously and evenly throughout, with  carne asada, beans, guacamole, crema, queso blanco and salsa fresca. The carne asada, which I went with on the server’s recommendation (other choices were lamb, carnitas, fried skate, veggie, chicken and al pastor) was oh-so-soft and juicy, tender and full of flavor. The guacamole lent a creamy freshness to balance the hearty, rich beans, and the cheese did what it always does, made everything better. It was a wonderfully messy, saucy affair with juices running down my hands and my cloth napkin working overtime, and I loved every minute of it.

write something here

Even the chips are delicious!

The tortilla which let’s be honest, no one ever cares about was more than just a vessel for burrito goodness. Tortillas are made in house, and it shows, because instead of being bland and rubbery, this one actually tasted like something you’d want to finish, or to use as a sponge for all of the burrito juice run off. And to really push itself into the realm of greatness, the tortilla had a slight golden crisp to it, from where the burrito had been lightly seared for a perfect finish.The burrito alone was enough to make me an instant fan but Mission Cantina really sealed the deal with its accompanying tortilla chips. Usually an afterthought or distraction, these were anything but. Each one was thick and crunchy, fried in house and dusted in a punchy, colorful blend of spices that made it impossible not to each every last crumb of them. Two salsas, a tangy, avocado filled green sauce and a thicker, smoky red one were served with them, but almost not necessary because of how good they were on their own.

Burritos of New York, I’m not sure things will ever be the between us. Mission Cantina, I’m all yours.

Mission Cantina on Urbanspoon

Guacamole greatness

Every now and then I meet someone who doesn’t like guacamole and it really just blows my mind. Unless you’re allergic, how could you not love guacamole?

Were you pelted by bullies with unripened avocados? Were your parents killed by a truck carrying a shipment of avocados? Does the green make you think of the time you were posessed and had the messy incident with the green vommit and the spinning head? What HAPPENED?

The best guacamole I've ever had

I love guacamole and would be perfectly happy eating it at least once a week from now until, well, always. Cause I just love it so. Which is why I was beside myself with gluttonous joy when we had the delicious heap of guac pictured above at a small, beachy cafe in Playa del Carmen called Caiman Tugurio. Flaneur and I were there for a couple of afternoon margaritas after spending the day lounging on the beach (God, I miss being on vacation) and decided to get something to munch on while we drank. Little did we know the guacamole at this unassuming, laid back bar would be the best I have possibly ever had.

It was chunky and thick with hunks of tomato and little sprigs of cilantro, yet creamy and smooth on the tongue. Whoever made it must have used a perfectly ripened, soft avocado because it had the wonderful, buttery taste of an avocado that just screams to be eaten. They also didn’t hold back on the lime juice which was a good thing because it madethe guacamole just tangy and zesty enough to almost demand being enjoyed with a margarita.

I’m pretty sure that this guacamole could make a believer out of anyone, even those random people out there who say they don’t like it.

( ::Sigh:: I’ll never understand you people.)

And finally, a burrito

Starting off the weekend with a burrito and a beer

In California, or more specifically as it relates to my story, in San Francisco, there’s a lot of talk of amazing Mexican food.  The word best gets used pretty frequently. The best burrito, the best taqueria, the best this, the best that.

So naturally, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. After consulting a few food blogs and other websites, some SF locals, and my handy dandy Lonely Planet guidebook, the name I kept getting was La Taqueria. Other places popped up here and there but none with the same frequency or hardcore following as La Taqueria.

“Best Mexican in the Mission!”

“Their burritos are incredible!”

“Ohmygod my favorite!”

When a friend from New York came into town for the weekend and suggested burritos, La Taqueria was an obvious choice since she’d also heard it was a must on the San Francisco food circuit. Continue reading