Quito has a long tradition of serving great local food, called comida típica. The phrase poorly translates in English to “typical food,” although it is anything but average. The best traditional dishes are often found at lunchtime, when Ecuadorians eat their largest meal of the day. To help you find the best fit for your budget, this list of great traditional restaurants runs the gamut from fine dining to casual fast-food.
La Casa Los Geranios
Restaurant, South American, Central American, $$$
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La Casa Los Geranios, located in the cobblestoned historic district of La Ronda, serves traditional Ecuadorian dishes with flair. Executive chef Juan Carlos Córdova uses only the freshest ingredients to prepare typical dishes like locro de papa, fritada, and llapingachos. Fresh fruit juices, like babaco and naranjilla, are prepared on site. The beautifully apportioned, modern dining room is warm and welcoming.
While it may look like a tourist trap at first glance, the Restaurant Leña Quiteña offers delicious traditional foods at a great price. The best seats in the house are upstairs on the outdoor porch with a view of the cobblestone streets below. Indoor seating is highly prized on the nights with live music. Budget-conscious travelers should visit at lunchtime and ask for the menu of the day.
While Pims has many locations in Quito, the best is at Parque Itchimbia. The menu is typically Ecuadorian with popular dishes like locro de papa and seco de chivo. This restaurant is beloved by local Ecuadorians for providing consistently good food with an excellent view of historic Quito.
Restaurant, South American, Spanish, Vegetarian, $$$
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Located just outside of Quito in San Rafael, and two locations a little further out in Machachi and Cumbaya, Café de la Vaca is famous for breakfast. Their cheese and fresh cream comes straight from their own dairy. For lovers of the famous potato soup, locro de papa, Café de La Vaca offers five different versions, including the iconic yaguarlocro, which includes the addition of sheep’s blood. They also offer a large selection of local fruit juices, delicious milkshakes, and great burgers.
While located in the trendy Mariscal district, Fried Bananas is hidden from the hustle and bustle of Plaza Foch. They serve an international menu with a few excellent Ecuadorian options, like oven-roasted trout with fried plantains, fried yucca, rice, and salad, or arroz con cameron, a fried rice dish loaded with shrimp. For dessert, don’t miss the fried bananas!
CAMARONES AL ESTILO FRIED BANANA / FRIED BANANA SHRIMPS Preparación secreta de camarón, champiñones y vodkaSpecial shrimps with mushrooms in fried banana style
If you truly want to feel local, head over to Palacio de la Fritada in Cumbaya. This restaurant is consistently packed with Ecuadorians ordering some of the best fritada in town, complete with choclo, mote, sweet plantain, and fried potato pancakes. Grandmas who long for a great caldo de patas but don’t have time to make it at home, order it here. Just remember, this is a lunch only establishment.
Vaco y Vaca, located in just about every shopping mall in Ecuador, is a go-to favorite for families celebrating birthdays. This very popular restaurant serves the most basic of Ecuadorian food—chicken, pork, or beef, sliced thin and pan fried, served with french fries and a side of beans called a menestra. If you want to order criollo-style, your meat will come topped with fried onions and a fried egg.
If you want to try traditional Ecuadorian food, one of the best places to head to is the market at Iñaquitos. The food court inside the market is comfort food heaven. Vendors selling sliced pork from an entire roasted pig are lined up along one wall; next come the fritada vendors selling chunks of fried pork with all the fixings; a few vendors sell secos—stewed meat served with a side of rice and fried, sweet plantains. The staff works hard to keep the communal dining area neat and clean. This is fast-food at its finest.