I hadn’t seen many places around the hostel for eating and didn’t want to go too far for an early dinner. In my guidebook I saw that Hotel Rodelu with the Restaurant and Cafeteria Rodelu was only a block away. The restaurant was closed when I visited, but the cafeteria was open.
I ordered a small pizza with chicken and a lemon juice. It all tasted good and I paid $3.40 (July 2011). I came back to have the same kind of pizza after a week of hiking in the Quilotoa area, and now I ordered a big one. It was too big for me, but I ate as much as I could. The big pizza with a papaya juice was $9.80.
Besides wood oven pizzas there are sandwiches, salads, , hamburgers, ice cream, different coffees and juices available at the cafeteria.
Update 2012: When visiting Latacunga in 2012 I stayed at Hotel Rosim, which is just next to Hotel Rodelu, and the cafeteria and restaurant (the exit is actually in the reception of Hotel Rodelu). So I ate breakfast at Rodelu every morning and because I got a terrible cold with temperature I also ate many of my meals here. Most times I ate in the restaurant and only once in the cafeteria.
This is what I ate in July 2012:
Breakfast (coffee, bread, butter, juice and eggs): $3.25 (without eggs it was $3.10)
Small chicken pizza: $2.80
Batido (fruit juice made with milk): $2.20
Pizza, asparagus soup, juice: $6.90
Vegetarian salad and batido: $6.70
Lunch menu (almuerzo): $3.20
Dinner (only set menu on Sunday evenings): $4.20
The last day in Latacunga I wanted to eat dinner before it got dark, and not too far from the hostel. I found Llermat, a fast-food restaurant advertising they have the best chicken in Latacunga. I ordered Pollo a la Plancha and a Sprite to drink. Maybe not the best chicken, but it was not bad, and I was happy it was not only chicken and French fries on the plate, but also rice and a salad. For the meal and drink I paid $4.75 (August 2011).
Update 2012: Also in July 2012 I ate Pollo a la Plancha at Llermat once. This time I didn't eat much. Instead of French fries some dry potato balls were served and on the salad there was a dressing I didn't like and the rice was coloured in two different colours and didn't taste good either. Well, I had a cold and didn't have any appetite so that was also a reason why I didn't eat much. Pollo a la Planch and a small water bottle was $5.10.
El Copihue Rojo is mentioned in my guide book as a local recommendation, so that is where I went to have lunch on my first day in Latacunga. First I didn’t find the entrance as it is through a passage and small courtyard. Away from the street makes it a quiet place.
I asked for un almuerzo, the set lunch of the day. Before the soup a small starter was served. Then I got the soup and the main course. The main course was rice, chicken and some vegetables. For dessert there was a small piece of canned fruit. It was a good set lunch and absolutely worth the money.
I usually keep notes of my expenses just to see how much money I spend during the holiday (and it is also good when writing tips on VT). But this lunch I have forgotten to write down. I can’t remember how much it was, but it was not more than $3 (July 2011).
El Copihue Rojo is open both for lunch and for dinner.
Update 2012: I ate lunch here once in July 2012. It was good and the set lunch menu (almuerzo) was $3.
Nice Cream is an ice cream café on the corner of Guayáquil and Oreland (there is another one nearby on Orellana). I bought one of the smallest ice creams, a Choco-nice, for $1.25 (July 2011). There is a big variety of bigger ice creams and milkshakes. I took my ice cream and sat by one of the tables upstairs and I was the only one there. Another day when I passed by I thought of buying another ice cream, but that day (I think it was a Sunday afternoon) the line was very long so I passed.
Also in July 2012 a Choco-nice was $1.25.
Cevicheria El Sol de Manta
I passed by El Sol de Manta at lunchtime on a Sunday and it was very busy. As it seemed to be a popular restaurant I thought they must have good food. A table just became available so I went inside. I ordered a shrimp and fish ceviche, avocado and a lemonade to drink. Besides the things I had ordered I also got a bowl of popcorn. The meal tasted very good and everything was fresh. It was $9.20 (July 2011).
Coming back from Cotopaxi two days later I went here again at lunchtime and once again the restaurant was full of people. This time I ordered a Bandera, which is a meal with rice, different ceviches (shrimp, fish and concha) and guatita, a stew made of tripe (cow stomach). It was served with avocado. To drink I had orange juice and as last time I got a bowl of popcorn. The price was $8.50 (August 2011). While eating I had a nice conversation with a man and woman from Latacunga, which I shared table with.
Chifa is the word for Chinese restaurants in Ecuador. I ate once at Chifa Dragon while in Latacunga and I ordered Lomita a la Plancha and an orange juice. I got a very big portion with a mix of meat, fried potatoes and vegetables (but the vegetables were almost only onion). The juice was $0.90 and the meal $5.50 (July 2011). There was nothing special about the meal, but it was filling and I couldn’t eat everything.
This was perhaps our favorite fruit drink establishment of the whole trip to Ecuador. We found it by accident while walking to find the chugchucaras restaurants south of the old town center so we would not have found it if we hadn't ventured a bit off the beaten path. The friendly owner does it all, greets, seats, makes the shakes, and serves you. Well, sometimes his young daughter seems to help out. We went here every day we were in town sometimes twice! There is only one table downstairs but head up the small staircase to find three or four more.
Favorite Dish: The fruit shakes were the best we had on the trip to Ecuador and though not the cheapest they were certainly the largest! Our favorites were borojo (reported to increase blood flow to the old mojo) and taxo (a tart fruit that goes well with milk).
Chugchucaras is not only the delicacy of Latacunga but it is perhaps the main reason to visit the city whose only other real claim to fame is its having been destroyed by Cotopaxi’s eruptions numerous times. The area that specializes in this meat laden specialty is just south of the downtown area but one you are not likely to just happen across unless you are seeking out this culinary delight. It’s an interesting walk in itself that brings you face to face with everyday Ecuadorian life. You pass some typical street side eateries, many of which I would have loved to explore with more time and if not for having heard about this particularly noted chugchucaras establishment I would have stopped at any one of them. From the outside it seems fancy and again if not having read about it I would have likely passed it by. Once inside you are overwhelmed with an ornate testament to Art Nouveau that would stand out just about anywhere but particularly so in this small Andean city. It was not lost on anyone that entered as we sat to enjoy our lengthy meal. It seemed a bit of an Ecuadorian tourist attraction and certainly a must splurge meal for them.
Favorite Dish: This isn’t a place for vegetarians and it would be silly to come this far and not try chugchucaras. I had read it was an artery clogging affair so was a bit disappointed when a smallish plate of hominy (big white corn kernels boiled) topped with crunchy fried pork bits was place in front of us. It was tasty especially with the aji (hot sauce made of cilantro, tomato, onions, and hot peppers) brought out in generous style. We gobbled it off in no time and settled into our beer figuring it was good but not what we expected. We were pleasantly surprised when the second course came out. Big chunks of fritada (pork chunks), fried plantains, cheese empanadas, roast potatoes, popcorn, totatada (not quite popped roasted corn) filled a good sized plate and it was all topped with a big piece of fried pork rind. We hunkered down over this plate for about an hour, savoring it with a nice Ecuadorian Pilsner. The kid serving us couldn’t have been much older than ten and was obviously the owner’s son but was without a doubt the best server we had on our whole trip to Ecuador! With such an atmospheric setting and large great quality portions I expected a hefty bill and was quite surprised to find that it was only $12.20 for both of us! The meals were under $10 and we had had two large beers.
El Sol de Manta is a fast food chain that specializes in ceviche and encebollado. It might sound strange but actually these two dishes lend themselves well to the fast food concept and from the size of the crowds that always seem to pack them they are doing a great job. We hadn’t had a chance to have encebollado so this seemed like a good opportunity. It’s a nice clean place and the service is very friendly and efficient. You’re literally eating within five minutes of your order and they give you some fried plantain chips and popcorn while you wait.
Favorite Dish: Encebollado is a spicy fish soup which you garnish with fresh squeezed lime and eat along with your chips and popcorn. It might sound odd but it was all very good together and though my wife was not excited about the concept of fish soup she was delighted with the meal once we had it. It was unfortunate we never had a chance to try it again especially since two bowls of the stuff (mine had shrimp as well or it would have been even cheaper) set us back a total of $3.70!
One thing the returning visitor to the Andes is bound to recognize is that the chickens in this part of the world are huge. They are plump and juicy like no other that I have come across anywhere. They are particularly good at roasting them on a rotisserie and the small local restaurants serving them are very popular and crowded. This one was no different and was perhaps the best of the entire trip. It was packed, not only with people eating in the restaurant but with those waiting for take out. You sat next to the big rotisserie with seven or eight big birds turning. There wasn’t any question that they and many more would be served that night! The waiter was very friendly and helpful with a few gringos stopping in for a meal.
Favorite Dish: This is not the cheapest meal in Ecuador. In fact, it is double what some meals cost but it is much bigger and by western standards still very cheap. You are given a complimentary bowl of chicken soup which is a meal in itself. It was packed with white chicken breast and vegetables. It had some cilantro and was very tasty. You get a quarter of a chicken which in this case is quite enough due to the size of the birds. It comes with rice AND fries as well as a generous salad. The whole thing runs $2.50 Big beers of Ecuador's Pilsner are probably the cheapest in town, about 80 cents apiece, go very well with the succulent and nicely spiced chicken.