There is no shortage of superb dining options in Cuenca, Ecuador. In fact, if you want to go out to eat your only dilemma might just be which of the many excellent dining options you want to choose from on any given day. The following are just a few of our personal favorites, and I should mention that you can look these restaurants up on the Internet or Facebook to find out more about their menus and prices.
El Jardin (Inside Hotel Victoria)
When we first arrived in Cuenca, we stayed at the Victoria Hotel and had breakfast and dinner almost every night at El Jardin located within the hotel. The menu is rich with options and the staff are friendly and professional and strive to make your experience unique and memorable. We enjoy chardonnay and were delighted to sample many excellent offerings from Chili and Argentina. We have since gone back for an occasional lunch or dinner and have never been disappointed.
One of our two go-to restaurants in Cuenca is El Mercado. Owner Roberto Mora has a real gem in this restaurant. Excellent beef, chicken, pork and seafood entrees are available accompanied by a variety of vegetable options. We have yet to be disappointed in anything we have tried, and we have tried just about everything on the menu. They also have a wide selection of fine wine to go along with dinner, and their dessert options are off-the-charts. They are also open for lunch and we highly recommend the hamburger and fries, which, in our opinion is the best in Cuenca. Special kudos go to waiter, Angel and chef, Edwin. If you haven’t been to El Mercado, but would like to go, we recommend going a little earlier and ask for a window table which offers incredible views of Cuenca.
Le Petit Jardin (French cuisine)
Our other “go-to” restaurant is the hidden gem Le Petit Jardin featuring exquisite French cuisine. I say hidden because it’s a little tricky to get to, but if you make the effort, you will be rewarded by an outstanding dining experience. Restaurant owner and master chef, Giovanni is simply an artist. He worked in the restaurant business in Baltimore for 15 years, and he puts together a fabulous dining experience every time. His beautiful wife, Marie Eliza and two amazing sons Alejandro and David truly make you feel like you are part of their family. Their menu varies but is always posted on Facebook and when we look at it, our mouths water. The food is always outstanding, but the presentation always rivals any that you find in any fine dining establishment in the U.S. It really is top notch and at very affordable prices too.
Another fine upscale restaurant is Mansion Alcazar. We were invited to go to here with two friends of ours for St. Patrick’s Day. After you walk through the door at Mansion Alcazar from the busy street outside you are immediately struck by how quiet it is inside versus the hustle and bustle of the noisy street you just left behind. The interior lobby is elegant and well appointed. The “Mansion” is also a hotel with excellent rooms. They also hold periodic events there such as the Kentucky Derby and a Thanksgiving dinner to name a few. The food and service are superb and it is definitely an experience worth your time.
La Enfrijolada (Mexican Fare)
We both love Mexican food, and we recently stumbled upon an excellent Mexican restaurant called La Enfrijolada, billed as “Authentic Sazon Mexicana.” We have tried several entrees on the menu, and have never been disappointed. Owner Leonardo has a real winner in this restaurant. It’s a little more expensive than other Mexican restaurants in town, but to us, it’s well worth the price. Note: The salsa is so good, we always order some to go.
Another popular restaurant in Cuenca is Fabiano’s Pizzeria. They not only offer excellent pizza but a wide range of other Italian entrees as well. If you are on a budget this place is also very affordable. For example, four of us went to dinner there recently, and the couple we were with ordered a small meat-lovers pizza to take home to their son and the entire bill was around $36.00 including drinks.
Café de Nucallacta
Café de Nucallacta is a very small café in El Centro. Owner “Rumy,” hostess Gabriela and chef Jonathon always welcome you with a smile. They offer both a breakfast and lunch menu. When we stop by for lunch, Stacey loves the chicken quesadilla and I prefer the steak tacos. But, one of the main reasons we stop into Nucallacta is the coffee. We always buy a few bags of Ecuadorian coffee that we take home with us because it is the best coffee we have found in Cuenca. Oh, did I mention they always have a very tempting array of desserts and pastries as well.
One thing that really surprised us, was the fact that the long arm of the American fast food industry has found its way to Cuenca, Ecuador. We were surprised to see McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominos and even a Subway located here. In all honesty, we are not consumers of fast food, so we have only been in one of these places and that’s because we invited two of our Ecuadorian friends out to dinner and gave them the choice of where to go. Their choice? Pizza Hut! So, your options include fast food to fine dining and everything in between.
In summary, there are many outstanding restaurants in Cuenca serving almost any type of food you are looking for and at prices to fit any budget. The ones we shared with you above are restaurants we have visited frequently and can personally recommend but there are still many others waiting for us to discover.