The Coffee Tree: Pavement seating
When we first arrived in Cuenca it was about 9.00 am. We had been up since 5.00 and not had breakfast (only a drink was served on our flight), so that was the first thing we looked for – and the first likely place we saw was this European-style café on a street corner just a few metres from our hotel. It was a bright sunny morning, warmer than we had been having in Quito, and the pavement tables and chairs looked very inviting. We managed to secure one of these spots and were soon checking the menu for breakfast options.
Favorite Dish: Chris decided to try a local dish that our transfer driver, Claudia, had mentioned – bolon. This is a ball of mashed plantain shaped around a cheesy filling and fried, here served with a cappuccino as a breakfast. I stuck to the more conventional muesli, which in fact was granola served with fresh fruit (pineapple, strawberry, kiwi and melon), yoghurt and honey – a very large portion and delicious. I also had a double espresso and the total bill was $12 with service.
Later in our visit to Cuenca we returned here a couple of times, once just for drinks (mora juice for Chris, while I sampled the traditional Day of the Dead drink, colada moradas - $4 for both) and on our last day for lunch. On that occasion I had a spinach and cheese crepe, and Chris the “pitta Arabe” topped with chicken, olives, peppers and cheese. With his sparkling water and my delicious passion-fruit juice the bill was $16, again including service. It was the Saturday of the holiday weekend so we were lucky to again get an outside table and enjoy the buzz on the street and the live music playing nearby. This isn’t the cheapest place in Cuenca, but the large outside space does make it an attractive option in good weather.
Next tip: we start our sightseeing next-door to the café at the church of La Merced
Raymipampo: Great local food, great location
You might expect a restaurant situated in this prime location on the west side of Parque Calderón , right next to the new cathedral, to be a tourist rip-off, but Raymipampo is anything but! We came here twice and on both occasions found it busy and bustling, with a really mixed clientele – local families enjoying a meal together while attending the holiday weekend festivities, young women in town on a shopping spree, tourists of all ages, and even a group of young men and women in army uniform who had I think been taking part in a parade.
The décor here is eclectic and in places eye-catching – in how many restaurants are pieces of old cutlery and broken crockery used to make light-fittings as in my third photo?! More conventionally, there are some interesting historic photos of Cuenca on the walls, and the building itself is old and full of character.
You may wait to get a table here at busy times, but we found the short queue we encountered on our second visit moved quickly and tables were efficiently allocated by the helpful staff – and it’s worth the wait.
Favorite Dish: On our first visit here, on the morning of our first day in Cuenca, we were just looking for a cold drink, having been standing in the sun watching a procession wind its way round the Parque Calderón. There were lots of fruit juices to choose from, and I opted for pineapple while Chris had a tart tree tomato. Both were very refreshing and cost just $1.50 each for a large glass. We had been given a table by the window so could watch the holiday crowds outside as we drank, and despite the fact that it was very busy and we weren’t eating a meal, we didn’t feel hurried but could relax and enjoy our drinks.
On our second visit it was Saturday lunchtime and even busier. We had a short wait for a table, but only a matter of minutes. I had the traditional soup, locra de papa, which was very good (one of the best I had on the trip) and a sparkling water, while Chris had a toasted cheese sandwich and a Coke. Our bill was $6.85 without service, which had been friendly despite the crowds. Definitely recommended!
Next tip: exploring beyond the Parque Calderón, the Plazoleta del Carmen
La Parola: More bar than lunch spot?
On our first day in Cuenca we had to return to our hotel, the Victoria, at midday to check in, having arrived too early to do so immediately. Once we had done that, settled into our room and unpacked, we were ready for lunch and looked for somewhere nearby on the Calle Larga. La Parola caught my eye because it had an upstairs terrace which seemed an attraction on this warm sunny day and which we thought might offer views over the Rio Tomebamba. However when we got up there we found that it was largely glassed in and rather hot. However we managed to get a table by a window, which the waiter helpfully opened, so we decided to stay, prompted by a tempting menu.
This is really more bar than café and I am sure is very lively at night, mainly attracting a non-local crowd (and one rather younger than we are, I suspect). But it was a quiet relaxing spot for lunch, though a bit pricy by Ecuadorean standards.
I had a delicious pitta bread stuffed with various vegetables – tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, onions, olives, and with cheese. There were skewers of grapes and more olives too. Chris had a huge sandwich with different meats and cheese, accompanied by very good chips. We both drank sparkling water. The bill came to $14 – definitely more than we had got used to paying for lunch in Ecuador, but also a rather bigger lunch than we would normally have.
Next tip: the cosy Café Austria
Café Austria: A corner of old Europe
I usually like to eat and drink mainly local treats when travelling, but I can’t resist a good cup of coffee, so the presence in Cuenca of a supposedly Viennese-style coffee-house was enough to tempt me to break that admittedly very flexible rule! When we got to the Café Austria I felt that it was in practice more like a French bistro in style than an Austrian coffee-house, but it was no less pleasant for that, and the coffee was as good as I’d hoped.
This is the sort of place you can sit over a drink or a snack for a while. The décor is pleasant, there are newspapers to read from around the world, and free wifi. I have read mixed reviews of the food (though people around us were tucking into late breakfasts very happily) but the coffee is widely praised and with good reason. I really enjoyed my Eiskaffee and Chris his cappuccino, and we thought the $4.75 we paid for the two drinks was reasonable. The service was perhaps a little slow, but this probably isn’t somewhere you would come if in a hurry.
Next tip: dinner at Tiesto’s
Tiesto’s: Best in town?
Our friends in Quito had told us that Cuenca was the place to eat the best food in the country, and I had read that Tiesto’s did the best food in Cuenca, so it seemed that this was a place we should try! As we only had two evenings here, and as we were equally impressed with our dinner on the second of these, I’m not in a position to vouch for this being the best – but I can say that it was very good food indeed, although we did have a few issues with the service.
We had popped in while passing earlier in the day and reserved a table, and it was just as well that we had, because the restaurant, split over two small rooms, was packed. Even with a reservation we had to wait five minutes for our table. But the food was worth the wait.
Favorite Dish: On seating we were brought a basket of baguette slices and eight (!) little bowls containing a variety of chilli sauces which were named and described so quickly by the waitress that we didn’t really take in what she said – though I do know one sauce contained pineapple and another apple, while one was very hot indeed!
We were still enjoying these when our mains (we had wisely opted not to have starters) arrived – rather too quickly really. These were both delicious. Chris had chicken in a sauce made with blue cheese (En salsa de queso azul), while my chicken was cooked in sauce of tomatoes, peppers and onions (El Tiesto en su salsa). The latter was an especially large portion so Chris had some of that too. More, slightly larger, bowls appeared with a variety of accompaniments including boiled potatoes, rice, salad, white corn, a semolina salad and marocho (a variety of maize and my favourite, though Chris was less keen).
You could spend quite a lot of money here (a tasting menu for two costs $62, for instance) but our bill, with two Club beers, was a very reasonable $29. The only sour note (apart from the over-speedy serving of the main course) was that we were short changed, and although this was corrected as soon as we pointed it out, there was no apology.
But plus points for the cosy atmosphere, lovely old building and gregarious chef, who makes a point of visiting each table to check that you are enjoying his food. Definitely worth a visit, for both the experience and the quality of the meals. So despite the small qibbles with the service I've rated this as four star, though they did make me pause and consider just three for a moment!
Next tip: another dinner, at Las Monjas
Las Monjas: Excellent fusion cuisine
So on our first evening in Cuenca we had eaten at the restaurant rated number one here on Trip Advisor, and the only way to follow that seemed to be to try the one rated as number two, :as Monjas. And to be honest, based on just one visit to each, I would give this one the edge. The only surprising thing is that it isn’t busier. We came on a Friday evening and were amazed to find only two other tables taken as we had worried that we might not get in, having not got round to making a reservation. This really deserves to be better known!
In contrast to the traditional décor of Tiesto’s, the atmosphere here is cool and modern. It looks expensive, but while you can certainly eat more cheaply in Ecuador, the prices here are not really much higher than many a less-good restaurant and we thought it was excellent value for the quality of the food.
The name, by the way, means The Nuns, and is derived from its location opposite a convent.
Favorite Dish: They describe the cooking here as “New Andean” – a kind of Andes/European fusion. That may sound odd, but judging by what we ate, it works! The cover (which like everywhere we went in Ecuador was complimentary) was garlic bread with four delicious sauces – two with chilli and two we couldn’t identify. We then shared a mixed starter platter (one of two on the menu) which consisted of my favourite Ecuadorean treat of llapingachos (cheese-filled potato patties), cheesy empanadas (sprinkled with sugar as is quite common here), a stuffed green chilli and slice of pork in an apple sauce.
My main dish certainly reflected the fusion theme - corvina (sea bass) in a quinoa crust with an olive sauce, served on a bed of nicely al dente fettuccini. Chris chose one of several chicken dishes which had pieces of chicken, peppers and other vegetables in a sauce flavoured with tree tomato and accompanied with rice. We had no room for dessert despite a rather tempting menu. With two Club beers our bill was just under $30. Highly recommended!
Next tip: the wonderful Wunderbar!
- Food and Dining
After visiting Museo del Banco Central Pumapungo I had planed to eat lunch at El Maíz, which is a recommended restaurant nearby. But on the way I passed Pumapungo, which had a sign outside advertising lunches for $2.00 (July 2011). So I decided to go inside and have a look. The restaurant is on the other side of a small courtyard and I decided to eat there. For $2 you get a soup, a main plate, a desert and a juice. The first time I ate here I also got a bowl of Mote de Maíz and the second time I had lunch here (yes, I came back another day) I got a bowl of popcorn.
Many of the lunch costumers seem to be people working in the neighbourhood, and there were no tourist at all, which I liked. Even though there are many lunch guests it is a quiet place.
- Budget Travel
I came here to have a good coffee and sit down reading for a while. The cappuccino I ordered was good and the atmosphere was relaxed. I also had a fruit salad with yoghurt. It is not a cheap place and I paid $5.25 for the cappuccino and fruit salad (July 2011).
At Café Austria you can have breakfast, lunch, dinner, sandwiches and cakes, different coffees, teas, juices and also alcoholic drinks in the evening. There are newspaper and magazines to read and there is also free wi-fi. There is a mix of tourist and locals at the café.
Raymipampa Café and Restaurant
Raymipampa is a popular café and restaurant on the west side of Parque Calderon. It opens at 8.30 in the morning and stays open until late every evening. When I was here I had Locro de Papa (a typical Ecuadorian soup with potatoes, cheese and avocado) and a small beer to drink. The soup was good and was also served with two pieces of fresh bread. Soup, beer and IVA was $3.49 (July 2011).
Other meals on the menu are among other things ceviche, crepes, humitas, meat and fish dishes.
Heladeria Tutto Freddo
In the north western corner of Parque Calderon there is a very popular ice cream place, Tutto Freddo. All tables always seemed to be occupied when I passed so I decided to try it as well. I ordered a big Copa Mokka for $3.50 (July 2011). Usually I like ice cream and could easily eat one as big as this one, but this time it was just too much and the sauce was too strong, so I didn’t finish it. I should have taken a plain, smaller ice cream instead.
At Tutto Freddo you can also by coffee, cake, milkshake and pizza.
It was already dark when I arrived to Cuenca. I was very hungry and didn’t want to go too far from the hotel. I walked along Gran Colombia and turned right at Benigno Malo, towards Parque Calderón. I soon passed Zona Refrescante and it seemed to be a place where I could get a quick meal.
I ordered a papaya juice and a recommended plate called Tablita de la Zona de Res. It turned out to be a lot of meet and a big portion. Besides the meet there were also French fries, plantains and a salad. It was a lot, but I almost ate everything and it tasted good.
For the food and juice I paid $7.90 (July 2011).
Mangiare Bene: The best Italian Food
Mangiare Bene Is a little Italian restaurant with the best italian food in Ecuador is an Argentinian and Italian Convined the food is great and the place is lovely if you visit Cuenca dont forget visit mangiare the owners are soo frendly and you gone a pass a great moment
Favorite Dish: All the dishes are great but the espesiality raviolon is asome but you have other choises that are great too if you visit this pleace you never forget.
- Food and Dining
- Wine Tasting
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Trattoria Novecento: Fine Dining Italian style
This restaurant is found inside the Hotel Santa Lucia on Borrero and has two dining rooms: a more casual cafe with windows looking onto the street, or the more elegant, romantic courtyard of the hotel. The menu is the same.
There is also a bar/lounge opposite the cafe part of the trattoria with very comfortable couches etc for relaxing and socializing with drinks. Would be very fun but it was empty when we were there (everything is VERY quiet on Sunday evenings in Cuenca)
Favorite Dish: The prices are very reasonable at $5-8 for dishes whether they be a main, salad, entree or pasta. We had two each: the Mediterranean salad was a rainbow of crisply cooked vegetables in a balsamic reduction; the three-cheese gnocchi and fettuccine alfredo were heaven; and the chicken was pretty good. The desserts were only $2.50 each and the tiramisu was divine. Also have a very large list of wines from reasonably priced to very expensive. Service was excellent.
Rancho Chileno 1: The best empanadas in Cuenca !!!
Just next to the airport there is a very good restaurant. The quality of the food, the informal atmosphere, the rustic decoration and the tables in the space outside makes it worthy of a visit. Use it before or after the flight. Visit it even if you have arrived or are leaving by bus, as it is just 2 blocks from the main bus station on Avenida Espana. Have a meal, a drink or just a delicious “empanada” very typical in Ecuador. The international and traditional dishes are well cooked. The ceviches and prawn dishes are very tasty. Prices are between 1$ (for natural juices) and 6$ for the main dishes. The special beef dish costs 7$ and is really delicious.
There is also a second large space inside more formally decorated for special events.
The best is sitting outside on a sunny day munching the savoury food and watching the planes come and go...
The small street in front is called Elia Liut.
The owner Mayra Blandin L. will welcome you with a smile...
Click on the photo to see the empanadas...
Junto al aeropuerto un restaurante excellente con comida deliciosa y mesas afuera para disfrutar las mejores empanadas in Cuenca!
- Food and Dining
Rancho Chileno 2: for a romantic evening...
This is a very elegant restaurant with very good food and a romantic ambient. Candle lit tables, soft music and formal, delicate decoration makes it the perfect place for an unforgettable dinner with your sweetheart or a relaxed chat with your friends. Food is carefully cooked and involves international and local savours. Service is excellent and prices are surprisingly low for what it is. They are the same prices as its “brother” Ranch Chileno 1 near the airport. That is, main dishes around 6$, including both beef and seafood dishes, ceviches, prawns, shrimps, “lomo” and much more.
It's been recently renovated and has a huge upper floor hall for group dinners and special events.
It is also near the airport , just 80 meters further on Avenida Espana, on the same side of the street.
It's part of the traditional house of a respectable family of Cuenca.
Click on the photo.
Un restaurante con comida excelente, servicio impecable, ambiente formal y romantico. El mejor lugar para pasar un tarde inolvidable. Sala grande al segundo piso para eventos especiales.
- Food and Dining
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