This isn’t a food blog. (Although you wouldn’t know that by these first couple of posts.)
But one aspect of Guatemalan life that I most missed while in NY was the food. I’m not talking about the super-gourmet stuff served in the “nicer” parts of town or the tourist destinations. I mean the family-run places that serve delicious dishes on the cheap: ‘el comedor’ (the eatery.)
Some might say that comedores lack atmosphere. I’d say the opposite is true. Unlike the cookie-cutter sameness of the fast-food chains, with their plastic booths and corporate color schemes, los comedores are full of personality.
Each day’s offerings are usually scribbled on a chalkboard. Sometimes a waitress will recite the menu to you. This is usually done while she stares unfocused at a place slightly below the ceiling, as if the day’s dishes were written there, in the air, and only she can read them.
Last night I ventured to a particularly unique comedor in Zone 2 of Guatemala City. “Comedor Shalon” is located on a quiet side street, barely illuminated by the amber glow of the city’s street lamps. Unlike many comedores it also serves dinner.
From the sidewalk Comedor Shalon doesn’t look like much. It looks like somebody’s garage. In fact, it is somebody’s garage. A dimly lit, cave-like space with a long wooden table out front. As you approach, however, you’ll notice that the table is covered with all sorts of appetite-awakening, freshly prepared foods: fried chicken, steaks, hardboiled eggs, flautas de pollo, chile rellenos, and more. On a grill, adjacent to the table, simmer pots full of beans, sauces, and hot drinks.
I ordered two flautas topped with avocado and cheese, and a hardboiled egg covered in a tomato chirmol sauce. I passed on the coffee, choosing instead “arroz con leche,” a warm drink made with rice and cinnamon. (And, of course, the obligatory tortillas.)
The inside of the comedor is surprisingly immense. So deep, in fact, that the back wall is completely lost in darkness. On this particular night many of the tables, scattered willy-nilly throughout the cavernous space, were occupied by police officers taking a lengthy dinner break. I chose a table closer to the entrance.
What more I can say? The meal was filling and delicious. The atmosphere decidedly Guatemalan. And the total cost of my dinner? $2.