Sizing up the Guatemalan scene in Stamford

I’m not really sure if it’s a function of an ever growing immigrant population from Guatemala, an increased confidence in the commercial viability of their home cuisine or a combination of the two, but Stamford has become home to a significant number of Guatemalan restaurants over the past few years.

By my count, there are at least four full Guatemalan restaurants in Stamford now:

  • Antojitos Chapines – 210 West Main
  • Quetzal Cafe – 262 Hope St.
  • Maya Restaurant – 166 Stillwater Ave.
  • Delicias Guatemaltecas – 163 Cove Rd.

By my count, that means there are now more authentic Guatemalan restaurants than there are authentic Mexican restaurants in Stamford (“authentic” being the operative word). That’s as much of a statement about the poor Mexican options as it is about the significance of the Guatemalan scene in Stamford. Regardless, it’s worth taking a closer look at the burgeoning local scene.

Antojitos Chapines was the first of the bunch, opening in early 2005 in the space of the then recently closed Trinidadian restaurant International Roti. Though it has now been two years since I last ate there, I always found it to be good and consistent. Of the four, it still offers the widest range of local foods from small dishes – as the restaurant name suggests – to full entrees and meals despite its tiny size.

Quetzal Cafe opened soon after Antojitos Chapines in 2005. It is smaller than Antojitos Chapines and only offers a small sampling of food. I have to confess it’s been three years since I was last there. When I was last at Quetzal they still didn’t have a kitchen of their own, requiring them to cook off premise and reheat the food on site. That necessarily limited both their selection and the freshness of the food, but it was satisfying nonetheless. However, I am long overdue for a revisit to see how Quetzal Cafe is doing these days.

Maya Restaurant only opened last month. At first, I was giddy at the proposition of what I thought was going to be a southern Mexican restaurant, focusing on Yucatecan food. I even went there on its opening day but was turned back because they weren’t quite ready. When I asked about the menu it became clear at the time that it wasn’t Mexican, but a quasi pan-Latin restaurant without much of a focus on “Mayan” food. They were offering some Guatemalan, some Peruvian and some Mexican food. With no menu at the time, the restaurant seemed to be offering whatever the cooks in the back room knew to make. So I was a bit disappointed. But, after reading a comment on Dave Cook’s blog about his recent experience at Maya, I have decided to go back and give it another try. It’s clear they are Guatemalan at the core of the restaurant and take some pride in their local cuisine and dishes. That makes makes all the difference. So maybe we’ll have a real Mayan restaurant after all. I’ll report back shortly.

Delicias Guatemaltecas is new, though I’m not sure when it opened as I only just noticed it yesterday as I was driving down Cove Rd. I haven’t even had a chance to pop in to grab a menu, but by the looks of it, it’s a typical Guatemalan deli, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here’s to hoping it’s a gem hidden in the chaos that is Cove Rd.

There are probably a few other Guatemalan places in the nearby environs hiding out, waiting to be discovered. I consider it my mission to uncover them all.

4 Comments on “Sizing up the Guatemalan scene in Stamford”

  1. Helena says:

    I sure feel like a stupid European, but what kind of dishes are common at a Guatemalan restaurant?

  2. adamclyde says:

    Guatemalan food kind of bridges Mexican cuisine with Central America. Guatemala (from my perspective) seems to be very much in touch with it’s Mayan ancestry so a lot of the dishes are reflective of that.

    Much of the food would be recognizable from Mexican restaurants, but will have a distinctive difference. So you find tacos, for example, but they are of a different variety – generally with much thicker, hand made tortillas (and always saltier it seems). They have tamales, but they are wrapped in banana leaves (true, some Mexican ones do too, but these are distinctly different with different sauces. My favorite Guatemalan tamal is the tamal de chipilin). Soups are very common and popular too – chicken-based soups especially (which will have bones attached, always, just like the tamales). The empanadas are also distinct, sometimes being downright pre-Colombian where the dough is simply masa and the filling is nothing but bean paste (though, they do have other kinds of empanadas too). Garnachas are a great snack too… sort of a cross between sopes and nachos (depending on the variety). Lots of great stuff.

  3. Helena says:

    Sounds very tasty! I hope we will get a Guatemalan restaurant in Stockholm some time in the future and a real Mexican (non tex-mex) restaurant as well. 🙂

  4. Roland says:

    A family tree can wither if nobody tends it’s roots

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