Keeping up with restaurants is a challenge in a city where most restaurants thrive for a year and then vanish. Dining out is the mainstay of Managua ’s elite and they tend to abandon a place as soon as something newer and trendier comes along. But a few classics help hold the whole scene together. ¡Buen provecho!
Pizza Valenti is the heart of a tight little cluster of restaurants. Take a taxi here and you can find something to eat within one or two blocks. Pizza Valenti (Colonial Los Robles, two blocks east of Lacmiel, tel. 505/2277-5744) is now essentially a landmark—a family restaurant serving a variety of classic pizzas and cold beer. Their pizza is excellent, though not gourmet, and they’ve got pasta as well: Try their fresh pesto and their cannelloni. Don Pan (across from Pizza Valenti) serves sandwiches and baked goods.
For simple, belly-warming “California-style food,” try Moon River Burritos (in the Los Robles neighborhood adjacent to the San Jeronimo book store,, two blocks from Backpacker’s Inn, tel. 505/2277-5017, open Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m.); they’ve also got nachos, tacos, and beer.
Managua’s premier coffee shop is La Casa de Café with a selection of pastries, juice drinks, and Nicaraguan coffee all served on a gorgeous, second-story open terrace overlooking the street. The coffee is excellent, but the ambience is better (they now have branches in the commercial centers as well). Solid breakfasts are served in addition to other meals.
María Bonita (1.5 blocks west of Distribuidora Vicky, tel. 505/2270-4326) is another favorite, serving Mexican classics in an open, romantic atmosphere for about $6, and a traditional and European breakfast bar Monday–Saturday 6:45–10 a.m. for $3. Tacos al Pastor is unassuming but delicious and not expensive. Mexican and Central American specialties run about $3–7.
For tasty Peruvian-Asian fusion, La Terraza Peruana (De Pasteleria Sampson, 1 block north, Casa No. 14, Planes de Altamira, tel. 505/2278-0031) has exquisite ceviches and other seafood, and also a huge array of appetizers, chicken, and beef entrées ($5–10). Bonsai (1.5 blocks south of the Monte Olivos funeral parlor, tel. 505/2278-8585) is a newish but well-recommended sushi place, with executive lunches for $5–6 and a veritable sushi feast for $45 that would feed a marauding band of seven samurai.
On your way to Granada , Sushi Itto (tel. 505/2278-4886), a Central American chain of good-quality sushi restaurants, has two branches in Managua , one in the Galería Santo Domingo and the other at the Rotunda El Periodista, about two kilometers west of the UCA, with meals starting at $10. Hary’s Grill (next to the Texaco gas station, Las Colinas, Carretera Masaya, tel. 505/2276-1067) serves pricey imported Argentinian steak.
El Muelle (one block east of the Hotel Intercontinental Metrocentro, $6–8) also offers excellent seafood cocktails and main courses.
Zona Hippos lies just off the Carretera Masaya and is thickly clustered with competing restaurants and lively sports bars with open-air seating. We recommend El Garabato (two blocks south of the Hotel Seminole Plaza, tel. 505/2278-2944) for their variety of Nicaraguan classic foods and internationally-inspired chicken and beef dishes in a pleasant indoor/outdoor environment that gets a bit noisy later at night.
One of the best seafood places in town, with a choice of outdoor seating and air-conditioning indoors, is Marea Alta (from Hotel Seminole Plaza, two blocks south). The restaurant is the former residence of Chema Castillo, where in 1977 the Sandinistas took hostage of diplomats and government officials (Chema himself was killed). The Los Robles branch has become a core around which a dozen other restaurants have sprung up.
Next door is Rock and Grill, which offers a brash and definitely un-Asiatic mixture of sushi and steak dishes for $8–15, and one set of street-front tables. Nearby Sharky’s offers an excellent seafood paella for two for $15 and other seafood dishes for $7–15.
Driving south from Zona Hippos puts you in Los Robles, a relatively secure and well-serviced middle-class neighborhood only a few blocks west of Carretera Masaya. For home-cooked Nicaraguan cuisine in an upscale atmosphere, La Cocina de Doña Haydee (one block west of Casino Pharaoh, $3–7) has been around for ages and always gets good reviews. Her menu of Nica specialties, including her famous Indio Viejo (an assortment of small, classic dishes) taste better in this quiet and intimate place off the main road.
Ola Verde (behind Pharoah’s Casino, follow the road to the end and turn right, tel. 505/2270-3048, open from 9 a.m. daily, breakfast starts around $4, lunch around $6, more for dinner) features fresh juices, salads, soups, hummus, and babaghanoush on a pleasant and fresh menu of changing vegetarian and chicken dishes. Ola Verde also has a small shop of natural products and is a popular meeting spot for foreigners; ask about upcoming cooking classes.
El Puyaso (from old El Chamán, 75 meters south, Los Robles, tel. 505/2277-2485) is the Managua branch of a Matagalpan favorite, and their steak is top-notch and inexpensive. Otherwise, La Plancha (from the Semáforos Plaza del Café, 150 meters to the east) is home to some of the best meat in town. Ask for the parrillada rack or just go for the grill, a la plancha, about $10–12 a plate.
One of Managua ’s fanciest and oldest dining options, La Marseillaise (Calle Principal Los Robles, tel. 505/2277-0224) is a city classic since before the war, serving traditional French cuisine and stunning desserts, all in a classy building adorned with works of art. It’s also one of the city’s most expensive, so be prepared.
On the road out of town are several places that make for excellent and memorable lunches given their view of the capital. Mi Pueblo (Km 9, $6–12) is worth the trip for lunch or dinner to check out one of the best views in town, bar none. The menu is unsurprising—Nicaraguan classics like nacatamales and churrasco steak with red beans—but a lot of attention goes into the food.
Just a half kilometer farther south out of town is Asados Milcas ($3–6), with large helpings, quick service, reasonable prices, and good charcoal-grilled meats. Even farther south and newer, Casa Hacienda (Km 15, tel. 505/2265-8437) offers a similar menu, but serves meals on a gorgeous site once a former coffee plantation (ask to see the 850-year-old ceiba tree) where you can get an idea of how the outskirts of Managua looked before all the construction began.
There are two reasons to eat in this part of town: One is that you plan on catching a show at the Ruta Maya, one of Managua ’s better musical venues; the second is the quality of the restaurants here. Eskimo (next door to the Fábrica Eskimo, tel. 505/2266-9701) serves a varied menu of meats, fish, and shellfish, all in the $6–9 range; the pollo en vino is a popular choice. Los Ranchos (Carretera Sur Km 3, tel. 505/2266-0526, open noon–3 p.m. and 6–11 p.m. daily) isn’t cheap (about $15 per entrée), but they’ve served a fantastic steak au poivre since the days of Somoza. El Churrasco has similarly easy-to-recommend beef dishes for about $10–12 per person, located right on the Rotonda El Güegüense.
Managua’s second most popular vegetarian place is Licuados Ananda (half a block east of the Estatua Montoya, tel. 505/2228-4140, open 7 a.m.–9 p.m. daily), with whole foods and a menu of several dozen fresh fruit juices and smoothies, well recommended on a hot day.
The budget backpacker stronghold specializes in low-cost eating as well: nothing fancy, but the price is right. For breakfast, you can’t go wrong at Café Myrna (one block west of TicaBus, open 6 a.m.–lunch daily, $3.50 for a full meal) for eggs any way you like them, fresh juices, and the best pancakes in the country. But if you prefer just a pastry, try Cafetín Tonalli (2.5 blocks south of Cine Cabrera), a unique women’s cooperative that produces extraordinarily good breads and cakes, and sells juices, cheese, coffee, and more (Swiss training!). Take out or eat in their enclosed outdoor patio. Finally, Frutilandia (a block and a half east of the Calle 27 traffic light, look for the colorful storefront, open 7 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), where you’ll find a fresh, delicious menu of fruit smoothies, shakes, and simple meals.
Our favorite fritanga (Nicaraguan barbecue) in Managua has satisfied decades of backpack travelers and remains a great option for low cost dining. Fritanga Doña Pilar (one block west and half a block north of TicaBus, open nights about 6–9 p.m.) only serves dinner: chicken, gallo pinto, tostones, fresh avocado, an icy glass of fruit juice, and some fried cheese will fill you up for a price that can’t be beat, if you’re comfortable eating at a plastic table, roadside.
For more robust budgets, these two places provide a substantial, elegant meal in a classy atmosphere, with prices that correspond. El Mesón Español y Barra La Tasca (Bolonia Mansión Teodolinda 350 meters south, tel. 505/2266-8561) serves fantastic paella and shellfish for about $20. And right at the Rotonda El Güegüense (essentially across the circle from McDonalds, a nice irony, $12–18) is El Churrasco, probably the best bet in the neighborhood, with an impressive menu of steaks, chops, and grilled beef.