Almuerzo (Lunch)

Almuerzo is basically lunch, and the biggest meal of the day for many Ecuadoreans. Some go home to eat their lunch, but some also eat out at restaurants or markets depending on their circumstance (job, location, etc). In my neighborhood in Quito, some traditional Ecuadorean food serving restaurants open only to serve breakfast (desayuno) and almuerzo and close thereafter.

Almuerzo times at these places generally range from 12-3pm, or when the food runs out. So if the menu of the day consists of 3 types of meals, don’t be surprised if by 2:30 it’s down to only one.

This thread is for members to share some places they eat at, and so we are not comparing apples to oranges, it would be helpful to include:  city/town, name of restaurant/market, cost and description of the meal.

In Quito I’ve seen almuerzo prices range from $2-$6.50, and the $2 was only once. Unfortunately, people blog online only about the cheaper end prices and however unintentional it is misleading because it only reflects the lower end prices, at least in Quito. There is also this misconception that Ecuadorean restaurants that charge $4+ are mainly for expats or tourists, and that’s also misleading because some Ecuadoreans can afford a $4-$6 lunch.

Which brings me to my first review of Su Lunch on the corner of Suiza and Republica del Salvador in Quito. I had a nice lunch there today for $4.50.There wasn’t an expat in sight nor tourist and as a matter of fact a couple of Zona Azul people were having lunch there as well. Zona Azul people (blue zone) are street parking attendants that oversee street parking spaces and whom you have to pay.

Anyway, this place is popular with the office crowd and also nurses and staff from medical facilities down the block near Eloy Alfaro. It’s a clean restaurant and only open Monday –Friday and only for breakfast and lunch.

So what does one get for $4.50?

For today, their menu consisted of:

1.)    Locro de Zapallo (Squash Stew) or Cordon Blue (basically a panne) or Pastel de Carne
2.)    Beef or Chicken Soup
3.)    Rice and small side of cooked salad (carrots, peas, potatoes)
4.)    Apricot Juice
5.)    Slice of watermelon

I ordered the “Cordon Blue” which I liked, and the only complaint was that the portion was on the smaller side, and I’m not a big eater.

With the exception of the Zona Azul folk, this place mainly caters to middle class.

Bouquet Garni
6 de diciembre, up the block from Mega-Maxi on same side and towards the stadium.

This place is a gem and you won’t be disappointed. It’s actually a restaurant and bar so if you pass by it, you probably won’t notice it as an almuerzo place. But that’s exactly what it is for lunch, Monday thru Friday, as they serve delicious food, cafeteria style. They often have three main dishes consisting of meat, chicken, and seafood, but the seafood often runs out quick whether it’s a seafood main dish or soup. This is also true for Chivo (goat) when it’s on the menu. Because it’s cafeteria style you can mix up your meal so you can choose rice or potatoes for example, and ask them to put sauce on rice if you want. You also have the option of three types of fresh juices which you help yourself to at the counter via a juice dispenser, and usually they’ll have watermelon, coconut and tamarind juice. As for salad, and greens there’s a choice of regular lettuce and tomato, broccoli, carrots and beans, etc. You also have a couple of dessert choices usually something fruity like a dish of sliced pineapple, papaya, and thin slice of kiwi or small slice of pie or cake. After paying $3.50, go and take a seat, if you choose upstairs like I always do you’ll be welcomed by posters of rock legends like Johnny Cash, big screen TVs, and a pool table. It is a restaurant bar after all that transforms to almuerzo joint during lunch hours, as for other times they also have good deals on drinks.

Seco de Chivo (goat stew) at Mercado Iñaquito for $3.50

I don’t even think it’s goat (chivo), maybe it’s lamb (borrego), because it’s so tender, if it's goat how they get it so tender?

It’s a mercado so you’re going to share a table. It’s all good because all you’ll hear is “buen provecho” as others sit at your table, which basically translates to bon appetit (or enjoy your meal).

The courtesy is to say gracias when you hear it, and to say buen provecho after your meal and leaving the table.

The meat portions here are good, but there are many vendors, some better than others, the ones with higher price are justifiably better.

Oh Chivo when cooked as a second falls off the bone. Its the combo of spices and slow cooking that does it. Served with yellow rice and fried ripe plantain. One of my favorites. I had it first in Quito and order it often.

How can you eat a $25 lunch for less than $10 in Quito?

One option is Strada which is an authentic Italian restaurant in the heart of the financial district across the street from the Sheraton and just a bit south on República del Salvador. Today for $9.60 (which includes tax and service charge) I enjoyed a lovely three course meal.

They start you off with delicious soup of the day which was tomato soup today sprinkled with grated mozzarella cheese that is accompanied with herb seasoned bread. Then comes the spaghetti and meatballs or if you prefer you can opt for the Carbonara. Last comes dessert or blackberry creme made from fresh blackberries, and of course a glass of fresh lemonade.

You won't be disappointed whether you're paying for menu prices or taking advantage of the promo I posted about. 

Buen provecho.

$25 for LUNCH???


Say dude, I need a loan...

My typical lunch costs $3
A fancy dinner? Filet Mignon... $10

$25 is dinner for 2 with cocktails! And a hookah... And people watching!

Oh let me counter...

Shrimp bisque with three large shrimp
Two pieces of fried corvina, patacones, mixed salad and rice
Spaghetti carbonara

Large glass of Limeade


No dessert but easily cured with a stroll to the bakery and a slice of guava pie for $1

Visit Montañita :-D

Comparing the capital of the country to a coastal town is like comparing apples and oranges, but there’s something for everyone in terms of lunch options in the capital. Lunch prices can vary from $2.25 at local Ecuadorian/Colombian restaurants to $25+ for international cuisine. But what I'm noticing is that more and more international restaurants are offering lunch deals even if limited. TGIF for example has a lunch menu for $12.99. I also noticed Tony Roma's also has a $12.99 set lunch. There's something for everyone, and for all budgets, and that's what nice about Quito. It's developing quite nicely and rapidly in the food and beverage sector especially in the financial sector and around Isabel La Católica area.

Well if you were comparing say Guayaquil with say ... Monte Verde or Quito with say Santo Domingo sure!

But Montanita is a resort town. In fact in certain areas the prices are inflated.

What I'm pointing out is, there are huge differences in costs verses value in locations that may not be more than just the choice of where you eat, style of eating (fine China, better silver wear, linens, crystal). You'll find that the world over. This is how I've found it here. Just my observation and most definitely not for everyone.

I did appreciate Susan's comparison, Montanita being part of Ecuador. Unless the thread becomes Almuerzo in Quito... 
To me, a good almuerzo is that little peruvian restaurant in Montanita, 3$ for the complete meal with drink like Susan said.

This thread is indeed about lunch in general in Ecuador and personally I appreciate Susan’s Montañita posts because they shed light about life there. I hope others will also contribute to give a diversified perspective.

But let’s be objective. Value is relative but to be objective in doing a comparison between say X and Y then both X and Y should be experienced. There’s pizza and then there’s pizza, and in terms of taste and value it’s completely relative. To compare a $3 Italian lunch in a coastal town to an $9.60 or $25 lunch at Strada restaurant on República del Salvador is futile unless both are experienced and objectively compared.

I can confidently compare Romolo e Remo (popular with expats and btw my favorite Italian restaurant) to Strada and even the Italian fast food chain IL Cappo, and it’s possible because I’ve experienced all three.

If there are comparisons we have to do it objectively or otherwise it’s baseless, this is my point.

In Quito as I previously mentioned there is something for everyone's budget. This is what I had today for $3.50 at Bouquet Garni. I initially reviewed the same place on this thread back in October.

They had three main choices today, roasted chicken, fried chicken and pasta. I chose the roasted chicken because I've been eating so much pasta lately and if I had anymore, I'd be singing like Pavarotti.

Okay you get 2 choices of soup, the offering was beef potato soup and minestrone. You also get to choose from three different juices and for salad there are also three choices as well, and the same for dessert, there's cake, chocolate pudding and my choice was fruit.

Chicken,rice, lentils, zucchini and lemon, potato soup with tiny bits of beef, carrot and beans, small plate of fruit and orange juice(not natural).

Ok you guys can brag about the almuerzo, and you can call me a snob.  I've tried to eat it, can't.  To me it's like unclean street food, and yes I'm talking about Quito, in the major hospital district, where everyone said it was the best.  My husband got back from Quito recently, due to dr appts in Quito.  I couldn't go because I can't trust anyone to keep my dogs for extended stay, and yes I have done it multiple times, but it's not worth the aftermath.  He kept texting me the great almuerzo deals he was getting, only to get home and he sick for weeks. After 2 weeks of being majorly sick upon his return, and parasite meds, it has now returned. Normally, you wouldn't be concerned but he has an organ transplant, and with no children, after 2 weeks I'm over the doing everything and nursing him back to normalcy.  Every time we think it's gone his sickness returns and only after the consumption of the "cheap" lunches he brags about.  Funny how he makes fun of me for not eating that crap, but I'm not the sick one, just the one left to clean up all the mess for weeks.  And the jokes in who?  That's why my biggest expense here is food.

The only time I got sick from eating in a restaurant, it was Chili's, in Guayaquil at Mall de Sol.

That's about as far as you can get from street food.

All things being equal, and with almost 9 years under the bridge, I'll continue to enjoy my papipollo from Mrs Tomala, corviche from Juan Carlos, empanadas from Don Pedro and his brother Don Tomas, wanton soup from Mrs Xiangs, and my burgers from LuisFelipe from Uruguay right downstairs. My neighbors are marvelous cooks in their own rights and my town is a moveable feast I enjoy every day.

As with all things in Ecuador, your mileage may vary, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear, and sometimes it's just not a good fit for everyone. That's okay. It's not a competition.

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