Hotel Atitlan at Panajachel
Don and I spent 2 weeks in Guatemala and we did not expect any cloth napkin meals. Most of our meals were cooked on a wood-burning stove by our home-stay host. But our lunch at this lovely hotel was a surprise treat!
We had taken the shuttle boat from San Pedro to visit the village of Panajachel for the day. At the dock we flagged down a tuc-tuc and mentioned something about "Hotel Atitlan" thinking it was just an area we wanted to visit.
A Lovely Hotel
Our little 3-wheeler had to stop at a gate to enter the hotel grounds which included botanical gardens. We had to pay a fee, but were told it would be reimbursed if we dined at the hotel. This wasn't at all where we thought we were going, but the lush growth surrounding this lovely "hacienda" was hard to pass up. Even the lobby was a treat with all the beams and colorful walls and tile-work.
Through the Bar
The bar was empty at lunch on a Monday, but the daylight made it easy to see the colorful decor and curious bar and fireplace.
The hostess walked us through a large and intriguing dining room with cages of macaws and small flittering birds. There were spacious tables near windows overlooking gardens, but we were drawn to the patio seating with all the colorful napkins and cushioned chairs. (In 2 weeks, we never adjusted to the flat wooden chairs in every home and restaurant)
For most of our lunch we had the patio to ourselves.
We had a view of both the luxuriously empty pool and Lake Atitlan.
There was another glorious view with clay birdhouses hanging above a colorful assortment of flowers and a hazy mountain background!
Then There Was Lunch
Our waiter arrived with a white shirt and bow-tie and handed us menus, covered in Guatemalan woven fabric. I was feeling unworthy in my "camp clothes", but our waiter made us feel more than welcome. Luckily Don's Spanish was good enough to communicate our wishes, since English speaking guests are not the norm.
Our food arrived, looking as festive as the hotel gardens. Don's salad was full of surprises tucked into avocado halves, which were surrounded with tropical fruits. My chicken empanadas came with a fresh chopped salad and black bean soup on the side. We enjoyed the "just enough" sized lunch with a little wine and some bread and butter. That was a real treat since I'd been served corn tortillas with every meal since arrival.
And then we wandered through the gardens where we found lovely stone paths, benches, large cages of tropical birds, and an island with a tiny rooster house and flowers and flowers and flowers!
We headed back up from the gardens, passing the patio where we'd eaten. I took a look at the distant hotel accommodations and made mental notes. Someday?
You've got to love a restaurant that doesn't bother with a cutesy name. 1 point there! This little spot in a strip shopping center on Hillcroft even gives you pictures on the window, so there's no question about what you're getting into.
My main push for finding some Guatemalan food, was to enjoy a little of the culture that half my family had experienced for 2.5 weeks. Don and Scott had just returned from living with a Guatemalan family while practicing their Spanish. Not only could they translate for us at this restaurant, but they had a good idea of what and what not to order!
I photographed Scott viewing the menu while trying to capture some of the colorful walls nearby. The menu was in Spanish, but they did have some English translations. As the restaurant filled minutes later, I believe I was the only one who needed the English.
We started off with some interesting drinks which Don and Scott recommended. Mine was a hot corn drink that Scott was fond of. It was thick and warm, kind of like a sweetened creamed corn in a glass. I would have loved a shot glass full, but I struggled to finish what seemed to be a gallon of beverage. (number one rule in dining adventure...try your best not to insult owners or servers)
Don and Scott both ordered Pepian de Pollos, but I ordered Chaomein. This noodley (is that a word?) dish was one they had been served by their host family a number of times. I don't think the restaurant spent 6 hours over a wood burning stove (like in Guatemala) but it was still good. None of the food was hot enough to need the decorative fire extinguisher on the wall, but all in all the food was a decent 3+ rating. Maybe I'll add another + for the table cloth. (as seen under the vinyl) I learned a lot about women's dress in the "pueblos" of Guatemala. The women in these villages wear skirts of colorful woven material, which is often recycled for other use...like purses or table cloths! With the extra +, let's say 4 points for food!
For people and atmosphere this restaurant gets 7 bonus points! Having an option to shop for gifts of fabric or colorful sashes or even framed Guatemalan money, made me feel like I was on vacation! But most memorable was my enjoyable chat with Jackie, Carolina and Estelle. Estelle is the only one actually from Guatemala. Since my translators were back at the table we had a very silly time trying to converse, but their enthusiasm and willingness to pose added to my over all " good feel" experience!
GUATEMALA RESTAURANT GETS A TOTAL OF 12 POINTS!!!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.