The specialty in Lívingston and elsewhere in Izabal is a dish known as tapado, a seafood stew prepared using coconut milk and bananas.
On par with the wonderful accommodations at Hotel Casa Rosada (tel. 7947-0303, www.hotelcasarosada.com, 6:30 a.m.–9 p.m. daily) is its excellent restaurant, where delicious meals are served on charming hand-painted tables in a thatched-roof covered patio overlooking the Río Dulce. Dinner is a three-course set menu, including fresh salad and coconut bread, main course, and dessert costing about $11. Typical entrées include lobster, shrimp, filet mignon, Thai curry, and fish. Lunch and breakfast are served à la carte and include sandwiches, fruit salads, and quesadillas. Try the banana pancakes for breakfast. Excellent coffee and espresso drinks are also served here.
A few doors down Calle Marcos Sánchez Díaz, heading west, Malena’s (inside the Hotel Posada El Delfín, tel. 7947-0056, www.turcios.com/eldelfin, 6 a.m.–9:30 p.m. daily) is one of Lívingston’s finest restaurants, serving a varied menu of international dishes at reasonable prices, including vegetarian nachos with Provençal sauce, chicken, burgers, and veggie burgers. Seafood entrées include tapado, ceviche, fish chowder, and sea bass. There are delicious homemade desserts, coffee, and espresso beverages to top off your meal. The restaurant is on the second floor of a two-story dock jutting over the Río Dulce with pleasant modern decor, sea breezes, and the unmistakable feel of the tropics.
Along this same street close to the municipal dock, Restaurant Buga Mama (tel. 7947-0891, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Tues.–Sun., noon–10 p.m. Mon., $5–25) is a good place for reasonably priced fish, shrimp, and pasta dishes. The restaurant, housed in a bright-blue wooden building, is wonderfully staffed by tourism industry students from a local school run by grassroots development organization Ak’ Tenamit. Try the spicy pasta.
Calle Principal has a number of eateries. One of the first places you’ll see as you come up the hill from the main dock is Happy Fish (tel. 7947-0661 or 7947-0268, 7 a.m.–10 p.m. daily), serving reliable seafood and salads in a pleasant patio setting just off the street. It’s a good bet for breakfast.
Across the street is Restaurante McTropic (7 a.m.–10 p.m. daily), under the same ownership as the Hotel Ríos Tropicales, where the specialty is Cantonese food, including chop suey and fried rice.
A few doors down and across the street is the popular Restaurante Bahía Azul (tel. 7947-0151, 7 a.m.–10 p.m. daily), where meals are also served on a patio overlooking the street. The creative menu includes curry, sweet and sour or soy sauce chicken. There is live music some nights. It’s also a good bet for breakfast. Try the “Gangster” breakfast sandwich with ham, cheese, hot cakes, and honey—a bit like a McGriddle.
Farther up the same street toward Playa Bariques, Tilingo-Lingo (7 a.m.–11 p.m. daily) serves good nachos, curries, fish, and tapado.
If you crave authentic Italian cuisine, head to Vecchia Toscana (tel. 7947-0883/84, 8 a.m.–1 a.m. daily), in Barrio París on the beach north of town toward Playa Quehueche. There are delicious pastas and wood- fired-oven pizzas with prices in the $4–9 range.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com