When the worlds of Mayan and Spanish food join forces, the result is a delicious fusion we call Guatemalan regional cuisine. Antigua Guatemalan Restaurant in Kent offers diners a version of Central American food not commonly found in the Pacific Northwest.
Wilfredo Lopez and Yadira Reyes left Guatemala over a decade ago, and this year they fulfilled their dream of opening a restaurant with the flavors of home.
“When we got married, we enjoyed going out to eat on the weekends when we had a day off,” said Lopez. “We couldn’t find a Guatemalan restaurant in the entire state of Washington. There was plenty of other cuisines like Italian, Mexican, and Indian - but no Guatemalan. So, we started thinking about opening our own restaurant.”
Knowing it was an enormous endeavor, the couple began their journey into the culinary world with a focus on introducing their culture to Seattleites through food and hospitality.
"We feel far from home, but sharing part of our lives has made our small dream come true,” said Lopez. “We did it!”
Antigua Guatemala has only been open for six months, and they already give a percentage of their profits to schools and hospitals in Guatemala through the Seattle based non-profit, Guatemala Village Health (GVH). GVH sends volunteer teams of medical professionals, students and teachers to Guatemalan villages every six months, who provide clinical care like medication, birth control, and preventative dental care. Their goal is to create programs for Guatemalans sustained by Guatemalans.
“It’s important for us to give something back to our communities,” said Lopez. "We don't ask for donations from customers; all our charity comes directly from our business.”
Of course in addition to their charitable contributions, the couple's culinary contributions are far from mundane. Corn is a staple of Guatemalan food, just as it was during ancient Mayan days. Often the corn is made into tortillas and tamales and served warm with beans, rice, and cheese. These inherited traditions maintain a strong base in today’s cuisine, and when combined with the Spanish style of cooking has created a food culture distinct to Guatemala.
“Every country and cuisine has its own uniqueness,” Lopez continued. “We serve delicious, traditional plates, like the Mayan's dishes made back home. Everything we serve is homemade from scratch, which takes time, not like fast food. Guatemala has a lot of holidays on the Mayan calendar. So food is very important for us. We like to sit at the table for a while and enjoy the food and company.”
For some authentic Guatemalan flavors, try Antigua Guatemala’s Chicken Pepián, a savory chicken stew drenched in an indigenous, savory sauce. This fusion of Mayan and Spanish culture is one of the oldest know dishes from Guatemala. The Platanos Fritos are a must order, because who doesn’t love fried plantains served with cheese and cream?
If you really want to blow your socks off, forgo dessert and order a cup of Atol de Elote, a hot, comforting beverage made with creamy sweet corn and spices. Guatemalans traditionally venture out every afternoon to enjoy an atole de elote with a tamale or other local snack. The flavor is beyond delightful and pleasantly surprising.
“If people want to try Guatemalan food and get to know a different culture, they should visit Antigua Guatemala,” said Lopez. When people visit our restaurant, they not only support a small business, they support a dream and the people behind it. They also leave knowing a bit more about our culture.”
Antigua Guatemala is currently open for take-out and is located at 120 Washington Ave. North in Kent. To see their menu, visit their website at www.antiguaguatemalarestaurant.com
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