I just got back from a 2 week trip to Ecuador. Our itinerary avoided all major cities, and included: Latacunga --> Quilotoa --> Riobamba --> Baños --> Tena --> Archidona --> Papallacta --> Yaruquí
On this trip to Ecuador, I ate more street food than I ever had before, and most restaurant meals were at very casual set-meal places. We had almost no meals that cost more than $6 per person.
Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip
Now, for some more details:
Latacunga: We were only in the city for about 2 hours, at breakfast time. We ate chicken soup and chicken with rice at a place on Av 5 de Junio, which was crowded with locals. Very satisfying after an overnight flight. After this, we got some bread a nearby bakery before heading up to Chugchilán and Quilotoa. In Chugchilán, we stayed at the Black Sheep Inn, which has excellent food (both Ecuadoran and North American recipes) and awesome banana bread and cookies.
Riobamba: Returned to the famous helados de paila, on Eugenio Espejo about two blocks west of Parque Maldonado. Guanabana (soursop) and mora (blackberry) were my favorite flavors, but they have seasonal ones too so not every flavor is always available. Also tasted taxo (similar to passionfruit, but different flavor), coconut, guava, strawberry and chocolate. We went on Saturday to the Mercado de San Alfonso, which is a huge produce market. Had amazing roast pork (lechón) there (see picture). Also had a dinner at el Rey del Burrito, where we had a giant burrito. Not as good as burritos in San Francisco, but a nice change of pace from Ecuadorian food. This meal was a bit more expensive than others we ate, but still very reasonable.
Baños: Had one touristy dinner at Casa Hood, which seemed to be where every gringo was eating. Again, nice to have some non-Ecuadoran food. But the highlight for us in Baños was a lunch in the market, where we had great barley soup, llapingachos, and stewed ribs as part of the lunch of the day. We chose the stand that seemed most busy (people were waiting to sit there), but other stands looked about the same. We also had a coastal-style lunch in Baños at a place near the center (just north of the main plaza). Decent arroz con camarones and shrimp encocado, and very nice sweet plantains. We also got chochos with pig skin and chicharron and tostada from a stand in the plaza. Very tasty, although I would prefer it without the pig skin.
Tena: We had two different meals at the stalls that are set up close to the bus station, across the street from the Tia supermarket. I definitely recommend these. Had awesome grilled chicken here (served with beans). We also were able to track down a pan de yuca cart on this corner, which sold really fresh (and hot) pan de yuca with both cheese and dulce de guayaba filling.
Archidona: Had a couple of different meals here too. There seemed to be a decent amount of people from Coastal Ecuador in Archidona these days, which I didn't remember from previous visits (all 2006 or earlier). The result is some nice food, including guatitas and encocados (which we didn't try) and good grilled meat with rice. We also had two meals at small restaurants, where we had the meal of the day. While many places in the sierra include a juice with the set meal, many places in Archidona and Tena serve guayusa, which is a tea-like drink made from leaves from a local tree. Guayusa was also served at the large comida tipica complex in Archidona, which might be of interest to food enthusiasts. All of the stands here seemed to have the same stuff: maito (meats or fish wrapped in leaves and grilled) and chonta curo (larvae from the chonta palm, which are skewered and grilled). We tried all of these typical Kichwa dishes, and found them interesting though not our favorite flavor-wise. But still cool to see this place.
Papallacta: We took advice from our taxi driver and ate lunch outside of the gates of the Termas and had great llapingachos and chicken soup. The hot springs complex remains one of my favorite places in Ecuador, and some of the best hot springs I've been to. I hear the restaurant is good (especially for trout), but all we ended up eating there were potato chips and the coconut candy we had bought from a man on the bus.
Yaruquí: In lieu of staying in Quito, we spent our last night outside of the city, about 10 mins from the airport. Nice quiet town with a variety of eating options, but we chose a stall right on the main road at the bottom of the hill. Good guatita (although I don't love tripe, but I do like the sauce) and grilled beef. Sat on little stools under a tent, and luckily it wasn't too cold out.
Throughout the trip, we tried our best to avoid fresh veggies like lettuce, and took probiotic pills every day, and we had zero gastrointestinal problems the entire trip! Hope this post will help someone enjoy local Ecuadoran food someday!
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