Ecuador’s historic center in Quito remains the best-preserved colonial region in South America. With history seeping from the stones themselves, touring the plazas, churches and elegant edifices that date back to the 1500s is a must. While caught up in the magic, be sure to check out these restaurants and the heritage they reveal.
Overlooking Quito from the Itchimbía hill, Café Mosaico is worth the trip if only for the view alone. Inside you are dazzled by the bright mix of art and decor, but continue out the back and you’ll see the incredible view of Old Town and the Virgin of Panecillo (not visible from the street), making for a perfect picture-taking location. With a mix of Greek, Ecuadorian and American food the sprawling menu has something for everyone. Don’t forget the coffee, for as they say on their website, ‘Coffee is what we’re about, otherwise we wouldn’t be a café.’ Can’t fault that logic.
The Bar of La Cuchara de San Marcos | Courtesy of La Cuchara de San Marcos
This majestic building on the edge of Plaza San Francisco is both a hotel and restaurant. In a brief video, Casa Gangotena showcases the beauty of the plaza and surrounding area as well as the elegant food of this mansion-turned-hotel. But you don’t need to stay there to try this gourmet cuisine, simply come for a meal. Taking pride in their local ingredients, the restaurant crafts exquisite dishes such as Llama Spring Rolls or Red Snapper Ceviche. Well worth a visit.
For a taste of vegetarian-friendly Ecuadorian food, try La Cuchara de San Marcos. A bit removed from the main plazas of Old Town, the relaxing atmosphere of this restaurant encourages you to sit for a while, especially if it’s one of their live jazz nights. The menu includes Soy Empanadas, Quinoa Salad, a Soy Chorizo plate and a Vegetarian Locro soup. Don’t worry, omnivores, there also are several meat dishes available. The variety of coffee drinks, IPA beers and cocktails make La Cuchara anything but a typical Quito restaurant. Check out their blog for current events, cooking workshops and new additions to the menu.
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Plaza San Francisco includes two of Quito’s historic churches and convents with the same name, constructed in 1550. Café Tianguez is located beneath the church, with umbrella seating outside in the plaza. Named for the Indian marketplace that once occupied the area, Tianguez provides an array of Ecuadorian dishes. Try the Humitas or the Locro de Papa soup with coffee on the side. Afterwards, be sure to check out the fair-trade store located beside the restaurant for some of the finest artisan goods Ecuador has to offer.
Set on a high rooftop amidst the many buildings of Old Town, Vista Hermosa Café Mirador (Centro location) lives up to its name which translates to ‘Beautiful View’. From this vantage point you can see from the prominent Basilica to El Panecillo, making it memorable site to spend a romantic evening or simply a dinner amongst friends. Vista Hermosa has a large menu ranging from traditional meals to sandwiches to Italian dishes such as lasagna and spaghetti. With a dessert and drink menus equally as lengthy, you won’t want to tear yourself away until late into the evening. Vista Hermosa Café Mirador, Jose Mejía Oe4-45 y García Moren, Quito, Ecuador, +593 2 295 1401
While in Quito’s historic center there is no missing the famous Plaza Grande. With its many famous buildings including the official presidential palace and statue commemorating independence, this plaza is one of Quito’s points of pride. Here you will find Mea Culpa, a fancy restaurant worth stopping at for a warm entree.
La Ronda, one of Quito’s most historic streets, has been known as an artistic area for decades. With various artisan shops there are also several traditional restaurants such as Rincon La Ronda. Try their traditional dishes such as the oh-so-Ecuadorian Ceviche (cold soup) or the traditional soup Fanesca, typical eaten during Semana Santa (Holy Week, the week before Easter). Rincon La Ronda, Belo Horizonte E8-45 and Diego de Almagro, Quito, Ecuador, +593 2 254 0459
Off Quito’s Plaza Grande is the Hotel that shares its name. Inside is one of Quito’s most lavish restaurants, La Belle Epoque. While the food is spectacularly gourmet, what really sets La Belle Epoque apart is the live opera performed in the restaurant. During a show, guests will experience the soaring voices all the while enjoying their superb French food.
This restaurant with its stunning views, sits on the side of the grand Pichincha volcano. The atmosphere of this trendy restaurant matches the quality of the view and the food, everything is excellent! Though the setting itself is magnificent, El Ventanal still takes pains to craft delicious and creative food including Ravioli with Pumpkin Seed Pesto, Stuffed Prawns with Peanut Mayonnaise or Barrakuda Teriyaki. If you are in Quito, find this place; it won’t disappoint.
Theatrum Restaurant and Wine Bar is found on the second floor of the historic National Theater. The restaurant offers Mediterranean fare, at reasonable prices. Theatrum’s dessert menu, however, features a range of specifically Ecuadorian fruits. The restaurant prides itself on its wine bar, which, according to the website, keeps 1,000 bottles in stock with over 150 labels and even offers an oenology course.