Cuenca is a visually beautiful town in southern Ecuador which attracts thousands of European and American tourists, even in low season. It has a lovely climate, brilliantly dramatic skies as well as a host of great restaurants, making it a gastronomers delight. From traditional delights to cheap eats or modern cuisine we enjoyed trying a variety of restaurants here so I thought I’d share our experiences.
Most satisfying breakfast: Taita Panadería This panadería (bakery) / cafe was right next to Pachamamas Hostel where we stayed, we’d walked past 5 or 6 times before we decided to try it out for breakfast. Owned by three young guys the place has a very fresh vibe. They bake all their own bread and because the place has only been open a few months they’re invested in providing the best experience. We ate here twice and wanted to make it 3 but they’re not open on Sunday morning. Both times I ordered the Taitas breakfast which comes with a ham or vegetarian sandwich, eggs, juice and coffee. The sandwiches are epic and made with brown sour dough, the juice is just fruit and water with no added sugar and the coffee is made with a coffee machine using organic beans. We loved everything about this joint. Big ups to the 3 amigos for sourcing eco friendly ingredients and also for selling local organic beer and teas.
Address: On Calle Larga near Manuel Vega
Best vegetarian: Govindas We came here for their set lunch menu and were treated to traditional style dishes with a twist. Quinoa vege soup to start, brown rice, pea curry, salad and fried banana for the main. All served on a red McDonald’s tray and washed down with a glass of warm oat and fruit drink (which is much more delicious than it sounds). We enjoyed our lunch out on the balcony and walked away feeling full of goodness, all up the total bill was $6us
Address: Presidente Antonio Borrero, Juan Jaramillo, Cuenca 010104, Ecuador
Best cheap eats: The mercado is always the best bet for cheap local eats and Cuenca seems to have a good one! We were still full from our breakfast at Taitas when we came but they had an amazing food court with loads of hornado stands. Horno means oven, and hornado is the name for roast pig on a spit which is served with mashed potato cakes and salad. There are also loads of other options all for under $3. We ventured out again later that afternoon with the intention of getting a cheap snack from the market and stumbled across a little local place run by a girl and her grandma. They had pork rolls and coconut juice for $1.50 so we couldn’t walk past. The rolls were small but super tasty with lashings of homemade spicy tree tomato relish, washed down with a cup of sweet milky coconut juice. I had two for $3usd
Best pub grub: Inca Bar Set on the river bank I had braced myself for this place to be super expensive but Steve really wanted to watch the UFC and this seemed to be the 1st place we’d found in a while who were showing the fights. So we settled in on their big sofa with a couple of beers and ordered from their menu of typical bar type meals. I got the Inca Nachos and Steve has the gringo burger. Both were HUGE and super tasty! Our bill came to a total of $22usd including tax and tips.
Address: 3 de Noviembre
Phone: +593 7-285-0470
Spoil yourself: Goza Espresso Bar We had breakfast here and really enjoyed dining alfresco on their terrace. I had the Frutas which consisted of 2 fried eggs, a cheese toasted sandwich, a bowl of fruit salad and the 1st real latte I’d had in South America. Steve had the Holandesa which was a toasted sandwich with cheese, mushroom and spinach in it, a poached egg on top and a little swirl of holandes sauce with an Americano coffee. We’d heard Cuenca is the new retirement capital for North Americans, and this place is obviously aimed squarely at this market. We thought it was all tasty but grossly overpriced with the bill coming in at $14usd including tips
Address: Calle Larga, Cuenca, Ecuador
Phone: +593 7-283-0350
Most flamboyant decor: Monday Blue I love a bit of flair! What’s flair you ask? Well it’s the tacky souvenir type things people buy and put up on their walls, like a Bubba Gump Shrimp number plate, or a caricature you had drawn in New York. Blue Monday is 3 rooms plus an upstairs, but doesn’t have a cm of wall space left! Even the roof is covered in Mexican Fiesta style decorations. We popped in here and had couple of burritos for dinner, they were delicious and fresh and came with plenty of corn chips on the side. Their menu basically consisted of Mexican, kebabs and pizza but they’ve included loads of good vege options. Our total bill including a beer and tips was $12.50us
Address: Corner Calle Larga and Luis Cordero, Cuenca
Best craft beer: La Compañia Beer House OK so this isn’t exactly food, but the beer house has great beer at reasonable prices and makes a nice change from the same old pilsner that you find in every beer fridge in South America. Steve enjoyed the stout and I tried the roja and the golden. All were tasty and cold, just what you’d expect from any international craft beer. $3.50us for 500ml so not bad at all!
Address: Presidente Borrero