One of the things that I was not looking forward to after leaving Mexico was my perceived lack of good food. Previous experience in Central America had shown me that regional cuisine tends to leave a lot to be desired. Then again, one of the best meals I have had in my life was in Granada, Nicaragua. At any rate, as we crossed the border into Guatemala I had already accepted that rice, beans and chicken were going to be the bulk of our dining experience probably for a good long while. Lake Atitlan proved me wrong.
I really didn’t know much about Lake Atitlan prior to arriving there. The little I did know came from other overlander’s blogs and a few entries that had I read on the iOverlander app. The common theme seemed to be something along the lines of “I planned on staying for two nights, ended up here for 12 weeks”. I’m willing to bet that anyone who hasn’t got a firm timeline and arrives at Lake Atitlan ends up staying longer than they had initially planned. That is mostly because the place can easily be described as paradise. Beautiful scenery, great weather and an interesting cross-section of humanity are all fixtures at Lake Atitlan.
I don’t know why I had never heard about Guatemalan beef before. Perhaps it’s because steak in general doesn’t really get talked about. Perhaps it’s because barbecue is usually considered low-brow. I can tell you that amongst the many yoga studios, vegan restaurants and patchouli wafting in the air, there are some great places to get a perfectly cooked hunk of meat around Lake Atitlan.
On Sundays, in the village of San Pedro you can enjoy fantastic barbecue at Smokin’ Joes. They offer a veritable smorgasbord of delicious, delicious meat. My first time through I opted for a bacon-wrapped filet mignon and it was a fantastic steak if not a bit underdone. The BBQ plate also comes with (nearly) unlimited sides from the buffet. They do only offer one very generous portion of mac n’ cheese. It’s very good, apparently so good that the “unlimited” bit had to be removed due to abuse. The barbecue was so good that we returned the following Sunday, this time opting for the pulled pork which was heavenly. The same folks also do a Saturday BBQ in Panajachel. If you’re in the area, and you like to eat meat, this is an event that you won’t want to miss out on.
Fine Dining in a Hostel. What?
OK, not really fine dining but the steak at the restaurant in Hostel Fe in San Marcos La Laguna was seriously one of the best I’ve had and certainly the best outside of a steakhouse. I rarely order steak. I’ve had too many bad experiences so it always seems a bit risky. Cate, on the other hand, will take that risk more often than not. Our first trip to restaurant Fe, she took that chance and I braced myself for a huge dissapointment. The disappointment didn’t happen. Her filet was seasoned and cooked perfectly. She graciously offered me a bite and I instantly regretted not taking the same risk that she had. My meal was good, but having missed out on a steak like this was a bit of a bummer. No worries though, we made a return trip and I had a steak of my own.
I’m no foodie by any means but after having spent just over three weeks on the shores of Lake Atitlan, I found myself again not wanting to leave a place for fear of bad food in the next place we would go. This fear hasn’t come to fruition yet as we have also found many great pieces of meat in Antigua.
Guatemalan beef (and pork), it’s what’s for dinner.