Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Restaurants in Panajachel

I love food and especially trying new dishes, flavors, ways of preparing. The truth is I've been a little disappointed in the restaurants in Panajachel. It's a tourist area, thousands flock to the community every year for Semana Santa (Easter week, Spring break), so one would think the restaurants would be the best of the best.

You've got to really pay attention, ask around and seek out the best places. Fancy environment doesn't necessarily mean great food. More like overpriced and mediocre menu, unfortunately. Traditional fare is chicken, black beans, rice, tortillas and a little vegetable. I posted about that earlier under C for Chicken, and I can't resist posting another delicious plate from The Last Resort, our personal favorite.

What's so charming about this family-owned restaurant, is despite having amazing food at exceptionally reasonable prices, and a clean tidy environment, it's all prepared fresh. You'll see one of the little boys, a son of the chef and proprietor, run out to the corner tienda to get something specifically for the dish you've just ordered.

There is other traditional fare like pupusas, gringas, tostadas, tamales, empanadas, arroz con leche. The street vendors often have the best items, like the ladies grilling corn on the cob over hot coals, then serving it rubbed with lime and salt.

And for a snack, you won't want to miss frequent stops at the fruit carts for fresh papaya, pineapple, mango, watermelon or whatever is in season.

The larger restaurants will serve fish and shrimp and fancy drinks. Be sure to specify if you want your fish with head on or off.

When you visit Panajachel, ask at your hotel for restaurant recommendations. Or you can pop into Hotel Casa Colonial and talk to Bruce Gowen, who will be happy to tell you where to find the best food in town.

Besides traditional Guatemalan restaurants, he can direct you to a wonderful cafe that serves authentic Spanish seafood paella, a huge bowl for the table accompanied with fresh rolls and herb butter. One of my favorite places right near the hotel is the Tuscany, with bruschetta as good as any in Italy (according to my well-traveled sister who's been to Italy many times). Or if you just like basic American food, there's the best hot dogs ever at a stand that sets up on Santander after 8 p.m.

Bruce and I have been exploring and experimenting with the restaurants and street vendors for over a year now, and we have our own code for the ones we like:

Taco Kid
Tostada Lady
Chicken Soup at the Mercado
Pana Rock Nachos
2 for 1 Pizza at Pollo Campero
Fried Chicken at That Place We Like
Pie Lady
Hot Dogs on Santander
Grilled Chicken Guy
Pupusa Ladies
Gringa Place
Smokin' Joes

Buen provecho!


  1. Looks very yummy! I do know what you mean - it is impossible to get a good meal in Goose Bay (the closest town). All over priced and crappy. Once in awhile we will pay the lovely woman who owns a B & B in our village (Red Wine B&B) to make a five course meal for four. It is a bit pricey but worth every cent. I feel like I'm in New York.

  2. Hi Karen - I'm sure all the food is good .. it looks good from here ... but it's good to have some inside knowledge .. cheers Hilary

  3. Looks like comfort food to me. :)

    I've become more food-adventurous in my old age, but I still prefer the food I was raised on.

  4. Hi, Karen,

    I am not surprised that the splashy and expensive, tourist restaurants are not the best in their menu... I was always told, when traveling, ALWAYS look for where the locals eat. they always have the most flavorful food at the best prices!

    Thanks for sharing your intake on the local fanfare....

  5. Bet you had a lot of fun preparing to write this post, Karen. I would also imagine the costs of dining out are more reasonable than where I am.

  6. Colorful!
    Fish sans head, please.
    Often it is the small hole-in-the-wall places that have the best food.

  7. MMMMMMMMMM-This looks delicious!! What kind of fish is that? I love everything I see on your pics. I know, whenever we travel to stay away from the touristy spots. When i have gone to Europe, I have eaten in some tourist places and the food was crumby and over-priced. All one has to do is start walking and you will find great food and good prices. I love the hotel lobby-Love the colours on the wall!