Guanachapi’s masters Guatemalan classics
Published: Saturday, May 19, 2012
Updated: Saturday, May 19, 2012 20:05
There are three Guatemalan restaurants in Waltham: Mi Tierra, Paisano and Guanachapi’s. Guanachapi’s is my choice as the ideal spot for hungry, budget-conscious college students. It’s a far more authentic experience than the more popular Mexican restaurant Margarita’s right next door on Moody Street. First-years: Avoid the enchiladas at Margarita’s like the plague and order them at Guanachapi’s instead.
You probably know the place just from walking past it. You’re not sure what it’s called, but you know that it’s that Mexican-looking place with less-than-fancy tables that never has too many people inside. Don’t let that trick you into thinking that it’s not one of the best Guatemalan venues in Waltham. Guanachapi’s is the real deal with great portions and a robust menu of rice plates, enchilada dishes, side orders, drinks and desserts.
When I ate at the restaurant last week, my friends and I ran into a Mexican student from Brandeis who was familiar with the types of foods found on the menu. She informed us that Mexican and Guatemalan cuisine share many similarities. She recommended three dishes to me, and they were delicious.
My favorite part of Guanachapi’s came at the beginning of the meal. Like any Guatemalan restaurant worth its salt, lime and tequila, Guanachapi’s serves complimentary tortilla chips and salsa. Unlike other restaurants, the salsa is homespun perfection in a bowl. It’s thin, almost watery, and orange in color. Rather than large chunks of onions and red tomato, the restaurant’s salsa is a blend of just a few ingredients combined into this soup-like sauce. Not everyone at the table was accustomed to this type of salsa, but it worked wonders for my taste buds. Try to get the waitress to refill your table’s chips and salsa, though it doesn’t work every time.
For my entrée, I ordered the steamy, meaty beef enchiladas ($9). The beef is ground up and wrapped inside three tortilla rolls with cheese and served with flavored rice, refried black beans and a salad consisting of lettuce, cucumber and a hearty slice of avocado. This is a classic meal in Latin America, and apparently Guanachapi’s serves the dish in its own Guatemalan style. I highly recommend the enchiladas for anyone daring enough to order such a big plate of food. The best part was undoubtedly the refried black bean side, with its creamy consistency and blend of salty and savory flavor.
According to our Mexican expert, the chicken tamales ($3) are the most famous dish at Guanachapi’s. Indeed, the tamales were all gone when I tried to order them. If you get to try them out sometime, let me know how they are. For now, I’m going to have to trust the masses with this one.
When it comes to beverages, I’m always surprised at the types of sodas and soft drinks Mexican and Guatemalan restaurants serve. Some are so tasty I wonder why they never caught on in the States. For example, why don’t more people drink horchata ($2.25)? It’s a creamy, refreshing blend of sugar, soda and coconut milk that washes down the rice and beans delightfully. When you stop by Guanachapi’s, experiment a little with the drink menu, and you might find a new drink to replace your current Diet or Coke Zero obsession.
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert. The platanos con crema ($3.45), another Guatemalan classic, are fried plantains with sour cream. If you haven’t had this South American staple before, then try it. It’s that simple. Don’t think of it like eating a banana on a plate with a fork; it’s more like eating a wonderful, natural and creamy pastry with a light touch of sour cream to counterbalance the rich sweet taste.
Two final tips: First, don’t eat too much or you’ll get a stomach ache (it is beans and cheese, after all). Second, disregard the first rule sometimes, and try everything you can on the menu.
The author is a member of the Class of 2012 and a former editor of the Justice.