Quito’s food and restaurant scene is a curious mix of traditional Ecuadorian food, hidden hot spots for relaxing that offer panoramic views of distant valleys, and a robust collection of international restaurants that are great places to sample some new twists on classic dishes. Keep reading for an insider’s guide to eating in Quito like a true foodie, with suggestions on local favorite spots for great meals in good company.
Located in Guapulo- a low-key neighborhood straddling Quito and the twinkling valleys of Cumbaya and Tumbaco- Ananke is a hip, funky, long-time favorite of expats and Ecuadorians.
On the small menu are pizza and lasagna dishes, big salad plates, sandwiches, baked camembert with apples, and one of the house specialties-Papas Guapuleñas. The dish combines fried potatoes with mozzarella and a choice of beef, chicken, steak, or veggies. Ananke has a small, curated wine list and a selection of local craft beer.
The restaurant is in a converted house-guests mix and mingles in a series of brightly decorated rooms with a larger space for groups on the first floor near the bar, and a big room on the second with comfy cushions for a more intimate meal.
The outdoor terrace on the second floor overlooks the Guapulo church; lit up in the hills below and one of the first built by the Spanish centuries ago. It’s the neighborhood spot to enjoy a hot canelazo, a drink with an Ecuadorian spirit-aguardiente, mixed with juices, cinnamon, cloves, and sometimes ginger and orange.
Ananke has lively music on the weekends, hosting local musicians from the neighborhood and around Quito. This is the place to get away from the fray and relax with local artists, teachers, musicians, and hipsters who come to the bohemian area for respite from the busy club scene of the Mariscal neighborhood.
Another favorite of travelers, Ecuadorians, and expats-Cosa Nostra is an inviting hangout where groups of friends gather weekly for Italian food that makes the grade. Located in the Mariscal area of the city-it’s the place to go for fun nights with others in search of a good meal in warm surroundings.
The traditional menu has a healthy mix of pizza, calzones, salads, and pasta that were created by an Italian man on loan from Naples, Italy. In addition to the normal menu, there are weekly specials that showcase the depth and skill of the kitchen.
The staff and owners of Cosa Nostra are a friendly lot, helping with recommendations, making sure that glasses are never empty, and going out of their way to make people feel comfortable. They are also more than happy to call taxis at the end of the meal.
What makes Cosa Nostra stand out is the ingredients that they use in their dishes. Hard to find cheeses and meats, and market- fresh produce make the pizzas, and pasta mouth-watering, while the Creme Brulee and chocolate mousse, take dessert to another level. Be warned, nights on the covered terrace often find guests staying late and shutting down the place over wine, expresso, and winding conversation.
Tucked away on the quiet street of Coruna Ave, a short ride from the New Town is Voila-many people’s favorite pick for the best fondue restaurant in the city.
Most nights it is a one-man show. The owner and manager greet and seat each party with a hot welcome drink and a basket of fresh bread.
The traditional European menu features meat, chicken, seafood, and cheese fondue that hit the right notes. The meal is served at the table-a burner in the center provides the heat for simmering pots of hot, spiced oil, and delicious, flavorful cheese. The owner gives you a lesson of how to combine the ingredients, and then stands by until satisfied that you have it right. Bottles of wine are reasonably priced, and the charm of the old school owner adds an element of class to the night.
This is the hidden-in-plain-sight spot for a casual, elegant evening in good company while taking a break from the fast-paced world at large. The covered, open-air dining room is spacious enough that tables can have private conversations, but also has a warm, social vibe which takes the night away to the romantic far off streets of Paris.
While this is a short list intentionally, one word on traditional Ecuadorian food. The term somewhat betrays its purpose-the country has welcomed people from all over the world who have brought their culinary dishes with them.
There are traditional Ecuadorian restaurants almost anywhere, you glance. Small places offer set lunches with soups, meat and chicken dishes that always include rice, beans, and sometimes potatoes. Places like Pims-a longtime Ecuadorian chain of restaurants-offer traditional soups and main courses that stay true to the originals.
For the more adventurous, Leña Quiteña- in the La Ronda neighborhood of the historic centers offers Cuy, or slow roasted guinea pig.
If you are looking to go all out, try Theatrum, located off of the Plaza de Teatro in the historic center. In addition to having new twists on seco de chivo(a traditional goat stew), and shrimp, fish, and octopus ceviches-the restaurant offers an elaborate tasting menu that highlights the chefs talents and the locally sourced ingredients he uses.