By Evan Katz ‘15
If you’re seeking Ecuador’s best restaurant, I’ll stop you right there. Close out Trip Advisor, cancel all your reservations. Disregard the advice of the kindly lady who lives downstairs; she is wrong and is totally stealing your WiFi. I alone know of this magical place, and I’m prepared to tell.
Eating in Ecuador can be hit or miss. There’s a small almuerzo lunch restaurant on nearly every corner in the city and around the university, and being the rugged, bearded, food-loving (or at least the last one) adventurer that I am I usually try and sample something new. A rough experience goes something like this:
“Hey, this plate looks pretty good. I’ve got some meat, some rice mixed with something, a nice little side of salad… wait a second, this isn’t meat. It’s just a piece of fat that’s been taped to half a skull of a chicken. No matter, I’ll just wash it down with this… tomato tree juice. You know what? I’m just gonna play it safe, pull these stray hairs out my rice and stick to that. I wasn’t really hungry, anyway.”
A few days of consecutive restaurant strike-outs can tempt even the most open-minded eater into considering alternative forms of nutrition (at least with photosynthesis you wouldn’t have to eat half-cooked soy beans), so it’s with good reason that few things brighten my day like stumbling across a surprisingly good meal. Most great foods in Ecuador sneak up on me, disguising themselves as strange fruit or some blend of rice and likely llama mucus until once safe in my mouth they throw off their costumes and merrily toss heavenly tastes into the outstretched arms of my taste buds. (I still haven’t found the names of these delicacies, but I will hunt them down and once I’m president demand that they’re prepared daily for me in the White House kitchens.)
Still, though, no matter how many delightful dishes I’ve sampled, there hasn’t been one that’s halted my nomadic lifestyle, one that’s so enamored my tongue that I’m ready to stop my wandering ways and settle down. Until now.
I found the place by accident, really, just looking for a quick bite to eat one day on the way to class. I’d have to describe the restaurant as kind of a “hole in the wall,” not out of any disrespect for the location, mind you, but because the place is actually located in a hacked-away portion of the concrete barrier that borders the street.
Inside, you’ll find an unchanging, five-item menu, three plastic chairs, and an old woman that will glare at you in silence until you order something. As if you’re not impressed already, it gets better – for only $2.85, I’m served both the world’s juiciest hamburger (complete with a fried egg on top) and a massive, crunchy ham –and-some-other-meat sandwich on a baguette roll. I’ve only heard of one other place with such an enticing offer, and (unless you know someone) I’m pretty sure you have to die first to eat there.
Sure, skeptics like yourself might try to belittle this little corner of glorious cuisine with snide comments like, “Evan, I don’t think this restaurant has any type of refrigeration capabilities” or “The nearby streets seem to be littered with the bleached bones of previous customers,” but I’m not one to be easily swayed. Say what you like – my sandwich/burger combo’s just about ready.