While my below list is outdated somewhat, I decided to transfer this page from my former blog site to this current website here at expatduo.com, nonetheless. When we lived in Cuenca, this page (Our Cuenca Finds page) received many hits along with a number of verbal thanks, so obviously this little guide did prove helpful to many then.
Although we no longer live in Cuenca and thus able to keep up with all of the updates on these establishments, not to mention, many many new restaurants and businesses have opened up since, some of these fine restaurants and shops, if not many, may still indeed be around–who knows!
Of course, hours of operation, prices, addresses, web addresses listed, as well as quality, may have all changed.
A place to find dates (datiles) for $4.36 per pound: Jacome y Ortiz de Comercio, Grad Torres 5-44 y Calle Largo. Thank you Brenden & Sarah from Otavalo. –(August 2015)
On a visit to Cuenca, we dined at La Esquina in downtown Cuenca. That little place was Top notch!
And here WERE some of our personal recommendations for restaurants, as well as shops, BEFORE moving out of Cuenca Sept 2, 2012:
La Parrilla de Hector Argentine Steak House
An Argentinean restaurant on the Autopista, near the Mall Del Rio. A great place for dinner where one could also enjoy a great view of Cuenca, especially at night to enjoy the city lights. We went to this place several times — twice in 2009 when we visited Cuenca, when the restaurant was off Las Americas. The beef is from grass-fed cows and if one likes meat, then one will enjoy La Parrilla de Hector, but go when hungry. We loved their pesto sauce and the hot peppers in oil that came with the bread and we could have as much as we wanted. There was this one dish — meat in a mushroom sauce with tomatoes on top (don’t recall the name) that was awesome!
— Someone from our Cuenca past, recommended a place called La Herradura Grill. The main restaurant, not the smaller ones in the food courts at the Malls (although good). In fact, if one likes Salchipapas (french fries w/hot dog(s) on top), this chain restaurant located in the food courts in most of the Malls, has thee best. At least, the hot dog itself — the best I’ve had yet here in Ecuador.
I did like the La Fornace pizza chain & restaurant and have eaten there a few times, and while delicious, I am NOT mentioning La Fornace for that reason. I personally liked their ice-cream. We’d go to one downtown and for $1.00 they gave us a gigantic single scoop on a cone.–and hopefully, it was not because we’d just happen to get a generous employee. And, out of all the chocolate ice-creams that we have tasted in this city, we personally liked their chocolate the best. For pizza, Fabiano’s was still our favorite.
But for great milkshakes and fancy ice-cream treats — Tutto Freddos! And, I must admit, I really liked their lasagnas. Tutto Freddos was everywhere in Cuenca!
Right in the Plaza San Blas, across from the white church
This attractive ice cream shop is or was owned by a Canadian, and had many unique flavors as well as the usual ones–a very large selection, many of which were flavored after mixed drinks, even beer! The shop made their own waffle cones with the edges dipped in chocolate and toppings. We often saw this place very busy.
Tiestos Restaurant — This was one of the best, if not thee best restaurant in town. We returned to Tiestos specifically to get the Curry Macadamia Nut Chicken (he made his own curry blend). Muy bueno! We ordered it for two, instead of for four (as stated on the menu then). The meals came with bread and an assortment of salsas/condiments, about six or seven, from pesto, red peppers in oil, aji, and one was a blend of pineapple, pear, hot pepper, cinnamon & cloves. Various side dishes were also included.
Fred enjoyed the espresso (it had a little sweetness to it–as it should, and I, the Americano — nice & strong. About a $30.00 meal. Without reservations it was impossible to get in, as we saw people getting turned away! Update 7/2013: Heard from a friend that their their portion sizes have decreased(?)
Some more exceptional restaurants that I wrote about in various blog entries at my former blog site–I’ll just list them here for simplicity:
–Cafe Eucalyptus, downtown
—Creta, in the Mall Del Rio
—Piedra de Agua, in the suburb of Baños — Great restaurant and hot springs resort — A MUST!
—California Kitchen — Good burgers. Live music with their Saturday only breakfast!
(They were moving to a new location: 5-65 Luis Cordero y Honorato Vasquez & were to reopen there).
Some Honorable Mentions:
—El Jardin in the La Victoria Hotel, Calle Larga Liked their Spaghetti Carbonara, great atmostphere.
—El Maiz — The place was lovely and so was the food.
A highly recommended one that we personally have not been to:
Joe’s Secret Garden, Located in Joe’s Home on Los Pinos, Some friends just toured his home and gardens and said it was just beautiful. http://www.joessecretgarden.com/ Update 9/2015: Friends just posted on FB, so yes this place is still around.
Cappucinos, corner of Padre Aguirre & Simon Bolivar — El Centro
For a decent American breakfast at the decent price of $3.50. We had what they called the Americano which included good black coffee, a medium-size glass of orange juice, 2 eggs scrambled, regular bacon, (we could also get their sandwich ham instead), 2 buttered slices of toast w/ jam. We would go there again, but for the breakfast only. When they were crowded the quality went down, which happened to us one busy Saturday. Was not gringo-owned.
La Cofradia del Monje, 10-33 President Cordova —El Centro, next to that large fun market called (?) 20 de Octubre — Been there a number of times and this was most definitely one of my favorite places for almuerzo. Besides, it was very cozy — made me feel like I was eating in an upscale restaurant. And their service was very friendly. One time they served chucks of a very tender fish and a single small shrimp in a tasty light sauce, (instead of the usual chicken, pork, or beef almuerzo), rice colored with that red achiote oil, a small bean salad, and of course, a large fresh glass of juice, a large delicious bowl of soup, popcorn, and a small dessert. Their almuerzo had gone up — $2.25.
El Carbonaz, 2 locations — more pics below
Paseo de los Cañaris y Juan Jose Flores (corner) Tel: 2804790
Gran Colombia y Tomas Ordoñez (corner) — El Centro Tel: 2835579
On Tuesdays they had a 2 for 1 on their large chicken burgers which ran about $5.50. The chicken burgers were good (not great) and came with steak fries — with that we also got as an appetizer, 2 small potatoes topped with a creamy sauce, a green salad for the table, a spicy salsa and a wonderful pesto sauce. On Mondays and Weds. they had other 2 for 1 specials. Nice atmosphere.
For the best tamales thus far — there is or was a little cafe on Avenida Loja, across from a dentist place called Dent Clinic, about two blocks before the 12th of April. (Aroma Cafe is the name of this place, as well as the place across the street–same owners–we guess?). We were going to eat at (and get the address to put into this blog) the restaurant that only sells awesome Empanadas Verde. But that restaurant was in the process of closing it’s doors to move their operation to a mobile food cart. As a result, we decided to try this recommended cafe around the corner, for tamales and humitas. Tamales in Cuenca are wrapped in a banana(?) leaf, usually filled with chicken or pork, vegetables and a chopped hard-boiled egg. Humitas (or chumales) are made with corn, wrapped in corn husks, and are a little on the sweet side (they look like the Mexican tamales back home). We like them both. In this little cafe, the chicken tamales were exceptional and they only cost .85 cents each. The humitas were .50 cents each. We got there at 11:30 am and everything was fresh.
Mi Abuelita — a very tiny restaurant on Don Bosco that a friend introduced us to. If one was in that area and happened to spot it, he could get a good tamale and real black coffee (or w/ milk and/or sugar) for only $1.00, or an humita and coffee for .90 cents. The coffee was served in a large colorful ceramic cup. The owner was extremely sweet and honest. We almost paid a tad too much, but she corrected us.
Raymipampa, Benigno Malo 859, Parque Caldaron – right next to Tutto Freddos. This place is always hopping at lunchtime. so get there around 12:15 or you may be waiting in line. It is very popular, not only with the locals but tourists as well. They have an extensive menu. We have gone many times and have enjoyed their food, from soups, tamales, to crepes, etc. But for a typical Ecuadorian meal, try the Plato Typicos — consisting of motepillo (they make it well), a llapingacho, a bean & veggie salad, slice of avocado, a large, thin slice of pork, and morcilla (a blood sausage) which you can skip & substitute with something else, like an extra llapingacho instead. It was $6.00, but large enough for two, especially if you order soup. The Almuerzo (lunch of the day) looked good and is extremely popular with the locals – was $3.00.(not on the menu)
CBC – California Burrito Company in Mall Del Rio
If one likes the giant burritos from the Chipotle Restaurant chain, then perhaps one can enjoy CBC. A place where you could choose your fillings and it all went into a gigantic tortilla. The company originated in Argentina and is or was at the Mall Del Rio. They made their own sour cream too. The burrito was about $5.00 and was, of course, huge! Ask for the punch card, after making 9 purchases, the 10th was free.
Sports Planet, The Millennium Mall
Yeah Baby! If you wanted to get a large meal American style, or just waned to feel like you were back in the States, this was it. Great food. Fred had the fajitas ($7.50), and he combined the chicken and beef — he would get that again. I had the Sports Planet burger and it was quite large, with mushrooms, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and came with a large portion of fries — good burger & fries (for around $6). We also had a bowl of baked potato soup with bacon and cheddar cheese ($5.00) — oh my good! And the coke had plenty of ice in it! Gringo cold! A friend told us that the chicken wings were excellent.
Dubai Mahal Bar, 8-84 Calle Larga — A small Pakistani Restaurant. The owner was so sweet. He lived two years in Dubai, a little in Singapore, also in Malaysia which he said was a wonderful place to live. He had family in Ecuador, so decided to give it a try. We had the Shawarma de Pollo for $2.00 — a large taco — wrapped with Arabic bread and filled with that very tender shawarma chicken meat, w/ veggies. If one of those things did not fill us up, well shoot, for 2 bucks, we could buy ourselves another one! Their other meals were more, for around $6.00.
A write-up from Gringo Tree went like this: “Based on an initial Gringo Tree recommendation for the recently opened Fabiano’s pizza place, Deke Castleman ate there a couple times and declares it “a real find.” The almuerzo is one of the best for $2 in Cuenca, as evidenced by the full house of Ecuadorians by 1 p.m. (show up at noon for one of the 50 seats). The owners, Fabian and Jackie, lived in Connecticut for 15 years, so the pizza is very close to back home’s, with a plum-tomato-based sauce, thin and crisp crust, and shakers of parmesan, oregano, and red-pepper flakes. Small pizzas start at $3, the large at $10. Fabian and Jackie, and their 17-year-old daughter Jocelyn, speak excellent English and their service is very friendly even by Cuenca standards. Fabiano’s is located on Presidente Cordova just east of Mariano Cueva; it’s open Mon., Wed., and Thurs. noon-8, Tues. noon-5, and Fri.-Sat noon-10.””
–We agreed. Starting April 16, 2012 they served their pizza at noon instead of at 3:00. And there were quite a few gringos enjoying their delicious almuerzo (the lunch of the day). We went again the following week for pizza–fantastic–and they did great with their crust, thin & crisp — $10.00 for a grande (family size) they were very reasonable!
Colombia Pizza on Don Bosco was also quite good with an excellent thin crust.
Panaderia Tradicional-Todos Santos-Horno de Lena, Calle Mariano Cueva y Calle Larga — walking from Calle Larga, it is on the left side. If we wanted our bread very fresh and hot, then this was the place to buy it. They baked the breads in a gigantic brick, wood-fired oven. It was very close to Coffee Tree.
Coffee Tree, on the corner of Calle Larga and Antonio (Presidente) Borrero You couldn’t miss it. There were or are lots of tables outside. Since the cappuccino that I had there, as well as the excellent sandwich & fries that a friend and I split, I decided to post it in my former blog then. That cappuccino ($1.56) was the best I had since leaving the States — it even had a perfect leaf on top (latte art), which is difficult to do unless the milk is steamed correctly and the shot is pulled just right. (I say that because Fred and I were in the coffee business for 9 years).
However, they were not always consistent when it came to their food. And some have complained that their coffee did not come out as hot as it should have. At times,I did agree on that one. This place was truly a gringo hangout and some of the staff spoke English–more or less. CoffeeTree is also in Quito.
Kookaburro Cafe on Calle Larga, was open Thurs. thru Sun. The mug of black coffee was pretty decent and hot. The apple pie a la mode that some friends ordered was very large. Lots of other stuff on the menu though. Nice ambiance, Was English speaking, filled with gringos, Canadian owned.
Can’t say much else complimentary, except that they also had various items, such as coconut oil, natural peanut butter, some stuff for parasites (I think, all natural), etc. And, almost forgot, they were super friendly — great service!
Negative input: The breakfast we ordered consisted of 2 sunny-side up eggs & 2 strips of bacon only. Two of those tiny breakfasts and 2 cups of coffee totaled $9.50.
Other recommended coffee shops/eateries that we had not been to:
—San Sabes Cafe, 1-94 San Sabasbian y Mariscal Sucre
—Moca Cafe, Gran Colombia y Manzaneros, between Unidad Nacional y Las Americas
—Windhorse Cafe, 6-16 Calle Larga y Hermano Miguel.
El Cafetal de Loja
Across from 10-65 Mariscal Sucre, with green wooden doors. This was where we purchased our coffee by the pound and, in our opinion, she had the best coffee by the pound in Cuenca. She ground it fresh and it cost $3.50 per pound (was $3.00). Cute coffee shop with some table and chairs where you could enjoy your coffee by the cup as well. Closed on the weekends and closed during siesta time. She received a lot of business, but if we happened to be there when she was closed, there was another roaster just down the street, on the same block, on the same side–El Tostador. He grould fresh, had a really good customer base, and sold by the pound as well.
Nectar Restaurante-vegetarian cuisine, tea house & gallery, at Benigno Malo 10-42 between Gran Colombia and Mariscal Lamar – on the second floor. Phone: 2844-118, email: NectarCuenca@vegemail.com
A very lovely, very quaint restaurant, with excellent vegetarian cooking — Andean, Hindu, Mediterranean and Thai. The owner, from Greece and his Ecuadorian wife, explained to us that their restaurant was vegan, using no milk or eggs. They made their yogurt from oat milk. The food we had there was always excellent with lots and lots of flavor. The most expensive thing on the menu was $3.00. We usually had the Menu of the Day. One time it consisted of a delicious wheat soup; always a glass of freshly made juice, the main course and a small dessert for $2.75. At another time, the lunch menu consisted of a glass of Passion Fruit, a mint-pea soup which was absolutely wonderful (he said it was actually the first time that he ever made it!), then the main course of brown rice topped with vegetables that truly made my taste buds dance. This became a regular spot for us, and we are NOT vegans or vegetarians.
(The owner told us that he only uses sal en grano–a salt that you can purchase at the markets, or small shops by the markets — we went to one by the 10 of August Market, sold by the pound (10 cents/lb.) that one must grind themselves. It is a much healthier salt.) The restaurant did not use any refined sugar, or white rice.
El Nuevo Paraiso
In Plaza San Blas (there was also one near the Soccer Stadium and at least one other downtown) where the fresh fruit drinks, large fruit/yogurt/ice-cream bowls (see pic) looked and were amazing, not to mention, their very large meals for around $1.80. They served up a very large salad that I enjoyed for $1.20. We always walked out feeling full and we only spent around $4.00 to $5.00 (for two people). We went several times to this restaurant and we loved it. It was always busy, even around 3:00 pm, but always had plenty of seating.
Fogo Grill & Bar
High on a hill overlooking the Autopista, near the Mall Del Rio. Good food and a great view of Cuenca. We could sit inside or on the balcony. The hamburgers were huge and excellent starting at $5.99. The margaritas and mixed drinks were about $4.99, but they had various happy hours and specials on certain days and times of the week. I must go back and try the Mango Margarita! The food did take a long time to come out, however, as it was pretty crowded the Sunday that we ate there, BUT all of the food for our table was served at the same time. Just a great bar and grill.
The Terrace next to the Stadium was also another great bar & grill, but pricier with burgers starting at $8.00 & $9.00, however, they were huge and came with fries.
Hermano Miguel 8-09 y Mariscal Sucre
A fantastic German bakery! Their breads and pastries were fantastic, from fig bread, a hard-crust sourdough bread, hard-crusted wheat bread, a sandwich style hard-crust pumpkin bread, bagels, great cookies and much more. We had a coconut, peach and raisin pastry that was so good, we just had to get another one. There was seating in the back to enjoy coffee with a lunch pastry. We had one — a stuffed pastry filled with chicken and veggies, served warmed and truly scrumptious. Then another time we enjoyed a pastry filled with beef seasoned with curry spices, topped with flax and sesame seeds–simply wonderful. They also had what looked like a variety of Quiches. This place was popular and sold out of certain items quickly.
The House of Spices (Casa de las Especias) —
Remigro Crespo, near the Feria Libre, by the Totem circle, right next to the Almacenes Boyaca’ store. Great place to buy nuts by the pound, macadamia nuts, pine nuts from Spain, pecans, cashews (when in stock), walnuts, almonds ($4.50/lb — the first time we went there they charged us $7.00 for the almonds.) Also found 2 kinds of Himalayan Salt, Rose and Black. They also had Cardamon, Curcuma (turmeric), dried mushrooms, chocolate, candy molds, etc. Unfortunately, you could not explore the shop at this location, as mostly everything was behind the counter, so we went with a shopping list in Spanish and handed our list over to the employee. They had at least one other location where you can go in and explore — 5-99 Elroy Alfaro, about 2 blocks off Huayna Capac.
There was also a small shop in El Centro at 6-58 Padre Aguirre, called Esafran–Especerias San Francisco We really liked this little place to purchase various nuts and seeds by the pound; spices, olives, chocolate covered nuts, mini chocolate chips, raisins, and much more. They were extremely pleasant to deal with and they always remembered us. This was a great alternative to The House of Spices near the Feria Libre, if most errands were in El Centro, plus their prices were better.
Colineal – Megatienda: Hermano Miguel 8-58 y Sucre.
A tri-level store where we found comfortable American-style furniture. They had quite a few recliners, sofas that reclined as well, dining sets, etc. We didn’t find their prices to be too bad considering. The American-style sofa that reclined (with cup-holders in between the seats), covered in a good soft fabric was a little over $1000.00. (They were also in the Mall Del Rio, however this store had a better selection). The store is also in Quito, Guayaquil, Loja, Ambato, Machala, Riobamba, Manta, Portoviejo and, of course, Cuenca.
Bed & Breakfast Place
Los Pinos 1-100 y Ordonez Lasso
A Hostal in a quiet, convenient neighborhood of Cuenca.
http://www.nuestraresidencia.4t.com/ English spoken. Her name: Blanca.
FOR OXYGEN AND C-PAP SUPPLIES, CALL JOSE AT 091825722.
Jose delivered and then picked up medical supplies to homes, for purchase or for rent. An oxygen generator cost our guest $60.00 for two weeks. He supplied top quality C-PAP supplies as well. Jose spoke excellent English and provided great service.
He even left a small oxygen bottle at no charge in case the electric went out.
Simon Bolivar 5-40 y Hermano Miguel
There we found an amazing selection of curtains, rugs, bedding. They also sold mattresses, curtain rods, blinds, etc., and there were women sewing on their sewing machines, so we took it that they did custom work there as well. The owner Tatiana spoke good English. Her sister had a shop right across the street, spoke English, and sold sheet sets, whereas Tatiana did not. Our mattress was scheduled to be delivered at 11:30 am two days after we purchased it, and it was delivered exactly on time, right at 11:30.
Av. Don Bosco 7-77 y Bartolome’ Ruiz
owner speaks English
Fred made us a dining room table because of how expensive the furniture is here. But with limited tools he could not do all the work himself, so not only did he find a good source for wood but a shop that would make certain pieces, such as the legs for our table, as well as the table top. (however, there are lots of places similar to this around Cuenca). Fred did the fine finishing. They delivered for $5.00. The owner spoke English and was pleasant to deal with. We didn’t even get a receipt for the cash we put down for the table top, Fred didn’t feel the need (not that we recommend doing this), the owner called Fred the day the piece was finished, and it was finished right on time.
La Esquina De Las Artes (a Southwest looking building)on the 12th of April in the area of the University
A beautiful complex of artisan shops with a cute cafe that served espresso drinks, sandwiches and ice cream, and there was a higher-end restaurant called Vino & Olivo.
The Natural Vitality shops for a drip IV of Vitamin C — from $24.77. A registered nurse was on hand to administer the IV, in a separate room with 4 – 5 comfortable recliners to sit back and relax in. I liked getting this dose of Vitamin C now & then, and our guests from the US received this treatment during their visit.
Comercial Solis Importaciones, Lamar 3-41 y Tomas Ordonez
This two-level store reminded me of a gigantic Tuesday Morning but with much more. They had everything for the kitchen, home decor, gifts, large stuffed animals, small electrical appliances, and much more. They gift-wrapped a large item for us for free! Many of their prices were very reasonable. What a great find! This store was a little hard to spot as it had a small, covered parking lot right in front. Do not fail to climb the stairs if still around, as there were lots of goodies up there! There stock changed all the time. Not to be confused with the shop across the street with the same name.
Example: We purchased an Oster Food Processor for ourselves — in Coral the same model cost $136, here we paid $96.00 cash ($105.00 if paid by credit card). Because we got a Factura, they guaranteed the product for one year, which was good thing because the Oster’s motor failed after two uses. They completely refunded our money.
Tecnovid, Pio Bravo 5-47 y Hermano. Miguel, Tef: 2833152
We had several things framed there. This place did excellent work and they were great to deal with, plus their prices were very reasonable. Whenever we went back to pick up our framed artwork, they remembered us and the artwork we left. But that’s Ecuador, they have exceptional memories here!
live organico, Gran Colombia 9-87 y Padre Aguirre
I don’t know about anyone else, but I was just thrilled to find coconut oil. The brand was called Oro Blanco, made in Vilcabamba — cold pressed and unrefined. Sometimes they ran out, so we checked ahead when their new shipment from Vilcabamba would come in. We also tried a couple of their health drinks for around $3.00 for a medium and they were pretty delicious. Our 7th drink was free with their punch card. They also had organic maca, organic cocoa and other organic items. and natural toothpaste. –And wouldn’t you know, when we were NOT searching for coconut oil, we spotted it in quite a few different shops, although higher in price.
For the most awesome nursery you’ll probably find in all of Cuenca, Heading South on Las Americas, just past Via Baños, right past the tunnel and bridge, the first gated community on the right, next to the creek/Eucalyptus trees — ring the bell that says Solo Plantas — walk all the way to the back of the community and on the right thru the small iron gate sat a little paradise. She, along with her hired help, sold herbs, flowers, plants (for indoor & out), cacti, etc. Her prices were extremely reasonable. and even if one doesn’t want to buy anything, her place is worth seeing. Each time we went she gave us a yapa (gift) — swisschard to eat, lettuce to plant, a fresh glass of juice. She was also very helpful with our poor Spanish!. The # 18 or 28 bus.
Venta de Garaje, 9-79 Huayna Capac – close to Plaza San Blas
There, I bought a great pair of Lee Jeans that looked brand-new, $8.00, a vinyl purse in good shape $4.00, and a like-new, lined, light-weight jacket for Fred $9.00, total $20.00 — we negotiated a little. All the used clothing seemed to be in good condition. We heard it all came from the States, and new stuff came in regularly.
Ochoa Importaciones, Manuel Vega 8-48 y Sucre (in Plaza San Blas) — A great store selling commercial and home-use appliances for more reasonable Ecuadorian prices. They had a large, heavy stainless steel soup pot for $55.00; a Turkish coffee maker for under $5.00, a Kitchen Aid mixer with a 300-watt motor for $350 — just a few examples. They also have/or had a good-looking gigantic American-style grill — price wasn’t too bad either–around $600 — higher-end than the ones at the Kywi by the airport.
The Coopera’s – This market may or may not be in business since their bank failed.
A few expats had said to us that they have not heard of the Cooperas (Co-ops), even after living here for a few years. There were a number of these co-ops around town. It was a small grocery store and operated just like one. Most of the veggies were suppose to be organic. Some of the fruits were suppose to be organic, and I believe the meats too — although not entirely convinced of that based on what others have said. But, we did like the meats there. If the harder, specialty cheeses aren’t sold out, they were excellent. Some of them were flavored with peppers and herbs.They also sold chocolate candies–the brand name was De Any’s–a very dense, hearty whole-wheat bread that we really enjoyed, along with a few other specialty items. They also prepared, hot Ecuadorian food, such as tamales, humitas, large llapingachos, etc. for take home. As well as homemade pies, desserts, jams, honey, etc.
One time we went with a couple who had a car, so we decided to load up. We bought a few different meats; 2 types of sausages; bacon; a couple of different cheeses; oils; yogurt; a jar of honey; chocolates; a pie; some already prepared foods; lots of veggies and fruits; a small jar of peppers in oil; tea; bread; pasta; some grains — a full grocery shopping -$78.00. Our friends could not believe how much less their own grocery bill was in comparison to Supermaxi.