Managua Guide to Foodie Travelers
From Nicaraguan street food to fine culinary experiences, the Nicaraguan capital offers cultural experiences in addition to good eats
Managua locals aren’t just about getting their business done—they also love to have fun and eat well. In recent years they’ve proven that international food trends are alive and well—even in Nicaragua. Folks visiting Managua today have many options to choose from, with food coming from top kitchens and world-class chefs to street and market food that reflects the working-class roots of the city.
In Nicaragua, your food experience starts with breakfast. Places like La trenza (the braid), Leche agria de “Mi Vaquita” (sour milk from My Little Cow) and Leche Agria El Ganadero (The Rancher sour milk) offer breakfasts, quesillos (braided cheese with tortilla, onion and sour cream), and other platos tipicos (typical plates).
A traditional breakfast at one of these spots can consist of fresh hot corn tortillas, gallo pinto (red beans and rice), eggs, cheese, avocado, and the ever-present leche agria, which actually is more like a home made yogurt. Let’s just say, you won’t leave the place hungry. And let’s talk prices, a full breakfast including a natural fruit drink or Nicaraguan coffee costs about $3 U.S. dollars.
For lunch, a world of options awaits you. The widest variety and quantity of international cuisine is located in Managua, so if you are headed out to more remote and rural locations, you might want to enjoy the luxury of choices found here, but let’s save those for dinner, shall we?
If you would like to try some of the more typical options, get yourself over to La Cocina de Doña Haydee, El Garabato, or El Güegüense. These restaurants all have a very nice atmosphere and good eats at fair prices. Don’t miss trying some of the local dishes such as indio viejo (corn meal gravy cooked with sliced grilled beef with cilantro), baho (a sort of tropical pot roast with slow-cooked beef and root vegetables), and vigoron (a snack of boiled cassava root topped with pork rind and cabbage salad).Some of the best budget options are the buffet restaurants, where for about five dollars you get a very good value for your money, plus these are all good people-watching spots. Now for my money, the best buffet restaurant is actually Brazilian! Picanha Buffet Brasileiro is fantastic and one of the best lunch places around. Recently they have begun to offer limited dinner hours.
Next, let’s look at dinner. This is where the international cuisines standout, plus maybe you’ve already had your fill of the local stuff? In case you haven’t, try a local fritanga, which is a sort of “pop-up” restaurant typically setup in the front of someone’s house. Options include grilled meats, gallo pinto, plantains in the form of crispy chips or fried sweet, local cheese, and two items that sound Mexican but aren’t. Snacks include enchiladas, which I call an “unidentified fried object” which is really cornmeal masa formed in a crescent shape, filled with a chopped beef and rice mixture, then deep fried. Another smaller dish are tacos which are more like Mexican taquitos, served with a cabbage salad and sour cream.
In past years, this part of our review would mostly describe French, Spanish, Cuban and Italian restaurants (with a smattering of ever-present Mexican and Chinese joints..) Nowadays there are really delicious middle-eastern, vegetarian, Irish, Peruvian, Venezuelan, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese choices. Some casual meal options are Cuban, fried chicken and American fast food chains. Steak restaurants also abound, with El Churrasco, Los Ranchos, Don Candido, and Porterhouse among the best. Gastronomio del Buzo and Restaurante Summer are just a couple of the better seafood restaurants. The best place in town for good ‘ole American food is Jimmy Three Fingers Alabama Rib Shack, which is exactly as it’s name implies, a great rib joint.
But if you have one place to choose from for dinner, look to the creations of Carla Fjeld, who favors organically grown, locally sourced ingredients transformed into well-served, simple, yet elegant meals with consistently excellent service and a relaxed ambiance.
The menu at her popular Restaurante Ola Verde, located on the south end of town, just off of Carretera a Masaya (Masaya Highway) near the Galerias shopping mall, sources it’s ingredients primarily from local farmers.
While her oft-photographed quesadillas, organic sesame salad, Mediterranean and seafood dishes are popular, the variety of gluten-free, sugar-free, and locally-sourced dishes and desserts are what really makes Ola Verde a standout in the local restaurant scene. On weekends there is usually live music in the garden area.