There are lots of things to do in Quito. But more importantly, there are lots of things to eat. Ecuadorian food offers a rich mix of flavors, ingredients, and traditions. Here are some of the tastiest typical dishes and where to find them in Ecuador’s capital city.
Ceviche is fish “cooked” in lemon juice and flavored with onions, bell pepper, and cilantro. The Ecuadorian version of the dish is different from its Peruvian cousin—here it has more liquid and is served like a soup. You can try adding toasted corn (or even popcorn) and plantain chips to your dish for a little extra crunch. Fish, shrimp, and shellfish are all delicious in this preparation.
Ceviche is a popular dish, so you will be able to find it on the menus of most restaurants that serve Ecuadorian food. Options range from the fast food Cebiches de la Rumiñahui to the upscale Segundo Muelle on Isabel la Católica.
Encocado is a coconut-based seafood stew that’s typical in Manabí and Esmeraldas, two of Ecuador’s coastal provinces. It’s usually made with fish or shrimp, but if you’re lucky (and in season) you may be able to try one prepared with lobster or prawns… Yum! Encocado is a delicious combination of sweet and spicy that will leave your mouth watering. It’s served with patacones on the side and, like most Ecuadorian dishes, with a healthy serving of rice. At El Esmeraldas Restaurante on Isabel la Católica, you can find this and other coastal dishes at a reasonable price.
Hornado is made by taking a whole pig and roasting it with spices. The tender pork is then served with llapingachos, a fried potato and cheese tortilla, avocado, and a delicious sauce called agrio. It’s a hearty, filling dish. (And if you want a vegetarian option, you can always ask to try just the llapingachos.)
The classic place to eat hornado would be an open-air market. You’ll find plenty of stands that serve this dish in Mercado Santa Clara or the Mercado Central. But if you want a more intimate experience (that’s every bit as authentic) you can also visit the Picantería Laurita on calle Junín. Located just across from the Iglesia de San Marcos, this tiny locale has been attended by generations of hornado specialists.
Seco de chivo is a goat stew that’s seasoned with onions, garlic, and cumin and served with rice and a slice of ripe avocado. This dish is typical fare in the southern region of Ecuador, the province of Loja. Goat meat might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s worth it to get a taste of these authentic flavors.
One recommendation for a place to seco de chivo is the charming Heladería San Agustín. On the corner of Guayaquil and Chile, this restaurant started off as an ice cream shop in the 19th century and is a great place to get a feel for the Old Town style.
Even if you can’t explore remote corners of the Andean highlands or visit the Pacific Coast, you can still get a taste of them through Quito’s rich culinary offerings. Don’t be shy, the world’s just a bite away.