If you’re visiting Antigua Guatemala and you get a yen for back-home fast food, fear not. Your desire for salt, fat, preservatives and buns that squish like marshmallows are in good supply here. Along with many restaurants serving Guatemalan and international cuisine, this historic colonial town has enough fast food joints to satisfy most of your cravings for fries, burgers, fried chicken and pizza.
Antigua Guatemala is a beautifully preserved and restored example of Spanish colonial architecture and the fast food franchises that we know so well have been included in the local streetscape but without too much of an assault on the eye.
The fast food chains blend in relatively gently with the scenery in Antigua Guatemala. There are no large garish signs and little intrusion into the traditional colonial motif that is this town’s historical signature.
However, this is not the case if you take the trip from Guatemala City to Antigua Guatemala. On the way you will see the familiar strip plazas and fast food franchises all running along an expressway belt on the way out of town. It could almost be anywhere in North America, except for the chicken buses and families of five riding on one motorcycle. (I’m not exaggerating about the numbers on the bikes, honest.)
Most of Antigua Guatemala’s fast food franchises are in the downtown area. Two stalwarts of the burger industry, McDonald’s and Burger King, are on the Calle Poniente, just a few blocks south of the Parque Central, which is everyone’s touchstone starting point. The burgers taste more or less like what you would be used to in New York or Toronto, except I find them so salty it curls my hair. And, they are somewhat more mushy when you clamp down on them come chow time. But overall, it’s a universal experience. Not too many surprises.
Dominos Pizza, also downtown and close to the park, can be found on Calle Oriente. Here you will find the same style and pretty much the same taste that you are used to. Cardboard crust and ketchup-tasting sauce parallel any experience back home. It could just be me, but I find the local version’s high octane sodium content a bit daunting.
There are also two locations serving up fried chicken and fries at Pollo Campero. This is a Guatemalan fast food chain that now has franchise locations internationally, but most of them are in Central America. In Antigua Guatemala they are located at 5 Avenida Norte and Calzada Santa Lucia. (That’s the same street where you find the big Mayan food market. Your tourist map will say “Calzada,” but everyone in Antigua Guatemala calls it the “Alameda” Santa Lucia. Just telling you in case you get lost and have to ask directions, which you inevitably will have to do before you get the hang of these streets with names that don’t match the ones on your official map.)
I have to say that this fried chicken is really really the worst of the worst and that goes for the fries too. Not only is it bad fast food (it makes KFC seem like haute cuisine), it’s really expensive by Guatemalan standards. You can get a nice roasted chicken plate with vegetables, beans and rice for about $3.75 US. in many local restaurants. Meanwhile the pollo at this franchise rings in at about double the price of real food. My advice is to skip this franchise and head for a cozy Guatemalan restaurant for a plata tipica (traditional plate) and you’ll do just fine.