Food & Cuisine in Quito
Quito is quite simply a gastronome's delight. International chains of the highest repute rub shoulders with the thoroughly local street fare, making the gastronomical expedition a rather adventurous affair! You can treat yourself to a sumptuous meal of chicken and rice for as little as US$1.50 or, if your purse will permit it, dine at a high-end restaurant.
Quito allows you to whet your appetite with a large variety of dishes from across the world.
Our Quito Restaurant Guide below highlights some of the best things about the food and cuisine in Quito, as well as a number of restaurants where you can get a great local meal. Many are located near some of the fantastic markets and shops in Quito and are ideal for taking a break from finding that perfect souvenir. Check out our Ecuador Restaurant Guide for even more information on Ecuador cuisine and dining out across the country.
Food & Cuisine in Quito
What to Eat: Specialities in Quito
Shawarma: Originally from the Middle East, an Ecuadorian shawarma is a meaty chicken sandwich served hot on a pita.
Empanada: The empanada, an established Quito favourite, is widely regarded as the ‘king of the fast snacks.' It is basically dough filled with a combination of chicken, beef, cheese or vegetables, before being folded over and baked.
Mote con chicharrón: This quaint snack consists of two main ingredients: mote (a kind of soggy white corn) and chicharrón (salty pork rind).
Papas con Cuero: At first glance, this seems rather unappetizing. It is a favourite with Ecuadorians though, and is found in local markets and on special occasions like soccer games. It consists of small potatoes floating in a stew of pork skin and bits of meat.
Cebiche/Ceviche: Considered a signature dish of Ecuador, ceviche is Ecuador's answer to sushi! Invariably served with popcorn, ceviche is made of fish, clams, shrimp, squid, shellfish or all of the above, marinated in lemon, onions and spices.
Aji: Aji is essentially hot sauce that accompanies many Ecuadorian dishes. Often, the ‘picante' or intensity tends to vary across restaurants, so make sure that you sample it before slathering it over your food!
Soups are often an essential part of the Ecuadorian meal. While the ingredients may seem rather unusual, these are definitely recommended for those seeking savoury adventures. Some of the more popular soups are locro (a tasty concoction of cheese, potato and avocado), chupe de pescado (fish and vegetable soup of coastal origins), yaguarlocro (potato soup sprinkled with blood), tronquito (bull penis soup) and caldo de pata (broth of boiled cow hooves).
Some other dishes that you may want to try are patacones (made with green plantains), chaulafan (fried-rice), llapingachos (pan-seared potato balls), seco de chivo (goat stew served with rice), encebollado (a marinade of fish, onions and other regional seasonings), encocados (seafood dish in coconut milk), roasted cuy (guinea pig), seco de pollo (chicken stew served with rice and avocado), lomo salteado (thin slices of beef steak served with onions and tomatoes), tallarin (noodle dish mixed with chicken and/or beef) and tortillas de maiz (corn pancakes).
Pilsner-style beers are widely available. The local rum is an excellent and cheap option. You may also want to sample the local Aguardiente - a potent and cheap option.
Teetotalers can try the chicha, a traditional drink made from rice, maize or yuca (manioc). Take care though; chicha made in rural parts are fermented with human saliva. A more hygienic option would be the canelazo or canelito made of boiled water, sugar, lemon, sugar cane alcohol and cinnamon.
Where to Eat
A good area to head out to for local fare is the Plaza Foch, located in the Mariscal district at Avenida Mariscal Foch y Reina Victoria. There are any numbers of eateries and Quito restaurants here to choose from.
La Floresta, situated just up the hill from the Mariscal, also offers excellent Quito restaurants. After 5:00 pm the traffic circle/park here transforms itself into an evening market; the most popular dish is tripa mishqui (grilled beef or pork intestines).