When it comes to food, Guatemala seems eclipsed by its neighbor, Mexico. It's an unfair oversight, though: there are plenty of delicious dishes unique to the country. As most top-end restaurants specialize in European or American fare, you'll have to look to cheaper places (including markets and street vendors) for truly Guatemalan flavors. See our Flavors of Guatemala feature at the front of the book to learn more about regional specialties.
Guatemalans don't eat huge quantities of meat, but a little shredded chicken, ground beef, chorizo, or ham seems to make its way into just about every dish, so vegetarian options can be limited. In big cities Chinese and Italian restaurants abound, and are a good way for veggie lovers to stop feeling "beaned out." All the same, ensalada de aguacate (avocado salad), pan de banana (banana bread), and flan (a crème caramel dessert) never get dull.
Only the most expensive restaurants in Guatemala accept credit cards. The restaurants that we list (all of which are indicated by a symbol) are the cream of the crop in each price category. By law, all dining establishments are no-smoking, including any restaurant outdoor seating areas.
Meals and Mealtimes
Lunch (comida or almuerzo) is the main meal and runs from noon to 2 or 3. Many restaurants do set-price meals of two or three courses at lunchtime. For Guatemalans, dinner is less important and often is just a light snack not long after sundown. Restaurants in major tourist areas offer more substantial fare and stay open later, but most places are all but deserted by 9.
Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed in this guide are open daily for lunch and dinner.
In restaurants with waiter service, you pay the check (la cuenta) at the end of the meal. At street-food stands and in markets, you pay upfront. Credit cards are accepted in more expensive restaurants, but it's always a good idea to check before you order, especially as some establishments only accept one kind of credit card.
Wines, Beer, and Spirits
Alcohol is available in just about every restaurant in Guatemala, though cheaper places have more limited choices. Beer is the local alcoholic drink of choice. Lager is the most popular style, usually served ice-cold. Good local brands include Gallo, Dorada, Brahva, and Cabro. Gallo also brews a dark beer called Moza.
Guatemala has no real wine market to speak of, but restaurants catering to tourists often have imported bottles from Chile and Argentina, and, less often, the United States. Imported liquor is easy to find in supermarkets; ron (rum) and aguardiente ("firewater" distilled from sugarcane) are favorite local tipples.
The official drinking age in Guatemala is 18, but this is rarely enforced.