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Where to eat
Crepes n Coffee - Sweet Temptation
Timothy's barVilcabambaHealthy Fast Food
AGAVEBLUVilcabambaHealthy Mexican Food
Dumas - A gentle gournmet touch
VARADERO PuertoHuaquillasSuperb Seafood
For a small town/village, Vilcabamba has an abundance of superb and diverse restaurants. Bon appetit!
Talking about lunch, it can be quite challenging to find good and affordable places to eat in Loja... Not that there is any shortage of reaturants by any mean. The thing is that the typical $2 to $3 "almuerzo" doesn't really satisfy most expats' tastes.
There are of course more expensive options, "a la carta", but then prices go up.I love the Howard Johnson's lunch time buffet but althought it is great value for the money it is way out of my average lunch time budget.
In the "treat" department (coffee, cakes, ice cream ...) in the past few years a number of new cafeterias have popped up in Loja and the quality of the coffee has significantly increased. Many of them now have espresso machines and can make you a decent cappuccino or mochaccino, some have crepes / pancakes and even waffles. This is a bit of change from the traditional tamal or humita.
In this section we will review some places that we found interesting in the center of Loja.
This is or has the potential to become one of the best restaurants in Loja. It is still quite new but has already received very positive on line reviews.
The "Trattoria and Restaurant Dumas" is managed by Roberto Delgado, a qualified, talented, and very amicable chef who despite his young age (30) has had quite an interesting career path.
Roberto studied and worked 4 years in Buenos Aires, then came back to his home land to work at "Chez Jérôme" in Quito for Jerome Montelier, a french chef of international reputation. Roberto told me that he was his "sous-chef".
Then after working two years on a boat in Galapagos he finally decided to drop the "sous" in "sous-chef" and become his own "chef" in his restaurant called "Dumas" in Loja Ecuador.
The location could not be better, only a few meters from the central square (next to Produbanco).
I enjoyed conversing with Roberto while he was preparing two vegeterian pizzas for a north american couple. The pizza looked to die for. I talked to the customers afterwards and they absoluetely swear by the place and come quite regularly.
They serve lunch (almuerzo) and have an extensive a la carte selection that is available from 4PM onwards.
Fancy a genuine American breakfast or brunch with pancakes, waffles, maple syrup, coffee, eggs and bacon, you name it … the real thing ?
At Crepes n Coffee you will find a variety of crepes and waffles served with fruit, maple syrup, nutella or oreo on the sweet side or with chicken, bacon, meat, eggs, cheese on the salty side.
A good looking presentation and everything spotless adds another touch of professionalism.
Jose Luis Granda and his wife in front of Emporio Lojano - Calle 10 de Agosto entre Sucre y Bólivar
What would Loja be without its "empanadas de queso" ?
With the humitas and the tamales, empanadas are a great tradition and people in Loja love to take a break from a work to go and enjoy a good "empanada" with a cup of coffee.
There are many many places that offer this type of treat in Loja. However, Emporio Lojano is different.
Firstly, they offer great coffee. They have an expresso machine and the coffee comes from their own plantation in Pindal. I tried it and it was delicious. I had to ask Jose Luis, the owner and barista, to prepare me a short one because at first he offered me the normal "Flojon" that people drink here. (lots and lots of water). So, he prepared me a tight one and I really enjoyed it.
Secondly, the space, although by no mean finished, is cosy, confortable and promising for the future. They are restoring an old traditional home with mud walls and rustic timber and are turning it into a modern open lounge style cafe. People can sit in sofas, children can play in the patio.
It has only recently opened but I believe it is bound to be a success. Try it out and let us know what you think.
We hope to have the opportunity to review them fully in the near future.
Hubert Ontenada - Cafe Bourbon - Av. Orillas Del Zamora Y Virgilio Abarca, LOJA
Created by the first certified barista in the city of Loja, Hubert Ontaneda, Cafe Bourbon Arte Latte is a cozy and very nicely decorated place located more or less 6 blocks from the central park of Loja.
Here they sell the origin arabica coffees "Leon Toledo" and "Uchima" produced by the family Leon in Vilcabamba and they serve a variety of excellent cups from traditional filtered coffee to cappuccinos and short espressos.
Very recently (as of january 2016), we discovered the newly refurbished cafeteria of the hotel Saraguro. They offer a healthy buffet style lunch for only 3 bucks...
Below is just a small selection, by no mean gastronomical, typical or representative
of what is available in Loja. This is just what I know.
JAN 2011 NEW!
A BURGER KING IN LOJA
I don't know about you, I eat healthy, make juices, grow my own food, eat organic
when I can, don't eat much meat etc... However I don't mind a good juicy hamburger
from time to time. You gotta live before you die. One day while I was meandering
about in the many small streets of Loja, I bumped into a place that looks
a bit like a Burger King, with photos of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and of course
with the old jukebox machine and the red vinyl seats.
The owner is a young Ecuadorian (23) named Fernando who speaks very good English
and has undertaken nothing less than creating his own franchise called "Soft Dreams".
They sell ice cream and what I found to be delicious hamburgers. I order the "Tradicional"
and it tasted a bit like the Burger King Whopper that I normally eat when I find
a Burger King (In Guayaquil, they have a very good one). You can also make your
own burger and pick what you like from a list of ingredients. Using that formula,
for $5.10, you'd get a burger with 3 slices of meat and if you were to select all
the 15 ingredients that I have seen on the board, I guess that you'd need a big
mouth and would leave with your junk food craving pretty satisfied for a while.
For all the expats who miss a good burger give it a go and let me know what you
think. Tell Fernando if he is there that you heard about him from Pierre and he
will make sure to give you what you deserve.
Note: this restaurant was closed for a while
and we removed it from this web site but it is now open again (April 2010). They
have redecorated the inside, it is nicer than before and the food is just as good.
We had chaulafans recently and we could not finish them. The total cost for 2 people
There is no chinese restaurant in Vilcabamba. Why not try
something different when in Loja? That is what I thought when I walked past Chifa
Xuan located on 18 de Noviembre the first time. It is no gastronomical experience
but the food tastes good, the service is super fast, the portions are big and the
prices are low.
I don't know whether they use MSG but a friend of ours who is sensitive to MSG said
that he did not get sick after eating there so he was our "canari in the mine".
Best to ask if you have concerns. MSG en Español is GMS (Glutamato Monosódico).
Of course, as many people know, MSG is everywhere and it is not because a restaurant
does not add MSG to its cooking that there isn't any. It may come from other ingredients
that contain MSG. Also, to make matters worse, MSG comes under many different misleading
names such as "Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein" or even the nice sounding "Natural
Meat Tenderizer". The rule of thumb is that the more likely the food only contains
fresh ingredients, the less likely it is to contain MSG.
Next to SuperMaxi, there is a food court offering a variety of "junk" to "semi-junk"
food. There is a KFC and I won't recommend it here any more than I would recommend
it anywhere else in the world. Opposite to the KFC, there is a place selling flamed
grilled meat and that is something that cannot be found in Vilcabamba. So, once
in a while, why not have a "pollo a la plancha" with some fries and if you really
crave soda, sugar and/or aspartame ... a coke ?
The salad that they serve with the meat is covered with some kind of vinegar loaded
salad dressing that makes it unedible. I decided to take action and bravely said
"No me gusta vinagre en mi ensalada" (I don't like vinegar on my salad) . After
some moments of indecision, the chef himself agreed that I could have just salad
with nothing on it and that made the meal much more enjoyable.
Note: there is another Fogon Grill on Parque Central in
the middle of town. We found that the food is actually better there, the service
is better and you get to eat with real cutlery instead of plastic.
I went there with Ecuadorian friends living in Loja and it was really good. We had
to wait a little as usual. This restaurant advertises that it offers typical Loja
dishes ("Lo tipico en Loja").
It will take me a while to figure out exactly what is "typical Loja food", as opposed
to Ecuadorian food, and I will have to go back a few times, but please bear with
me while I learn what a "salchipapa" is or a "guatita" and I will let you know.
In the mean time, there is no risk in trying this one out and it will definitely
not hurt your budget.
One thing that Loja has and that Vilcabamba does not is a place to have a great
espresso coffee and a great ice cream. I know, I know, Sambuca is not bad, the coffee
is good too but Sambuca only have a tiny espresso machine and if you are a group
of 10 people who want cappuccinos, good luck ! Also, at Mimos they use the Cafe
Victoria which is a certified organic coffee produced in Loja (see www.fapecafes.org.ec)
As far as the ice cream is concerned, I get easily sick with dairy products that
contain additives such as food coloring or other chemicals (the infamous list of
Es). At Mimos, I never got sick. The cream is natural and ... well ... creamy and
there are many flavours to choose from. They also make ice cream deserts with fruit
or chocolate or coffee or all of the above.
Finally, they have delicious cakes and tiramisu but the tiramisu at Hosteria Vilcabamba
Ah la cuisine Franco/Belge que c'est bon !
Romain (Français) et Aurélie (Belge) se sont expatries récemment de Vilcabamba et
affrontent au quotidien les grands froids de la ville de Loja (tout est relatif)
pour vous offrir le meilleur et aux meilleurs prix. Ambiance sympa, plats du jour
variés et délicieux, sandwiches, pain maison dont la réputation n’est plus à faire,
salades, omelettes, crêpes, glaces, pizzas et bien sur, les frites. Tout est délicieux.
Les laptops sont les bienvenus puisque La Baguette est une zone Wi-Fi.
Romain (French) and Aurelie (Belgian) have recently relocated from Vilcabamba to
Loja and have opened a new restaurant called « La Baguette ».
It goes without saying that they sell French baguette and not just any baguette
but only the best. Romain has built a serious reputation as a quality bread maker.
The restaurant offers a relaxed atmosphere, Wi-Fi zone, a variety of food such as
“menu of the day”, salads, omelets, crepes, ice creams, pizzas and of course the
invented-in-Belgium-stolen-by-the-French “French fries” cooked to perfection. Everything
is delicious and very reasonably priced. Going to Loja for the day? Don’t miss out
on “Ze Baguette”!