For many visitors to Granada, experiencing new cuisine and local dishes indigenous to Nicaragua is a great way to connect with the local culture, and fully appreciate everything this trending colonial city has to offer. At Tribal we are often asked to recommend our favorite restaurants for out-of-towners who have only a short time here in Granada. Travelers can easily be overwhelmed with a variety of choices, and so little time. Local upstarts and internationals alike have ventured to bring a a delightful cornucopia of impressive flavors to the plates of Granada. Tribal owners Yvan Cussigh and Jean-Marc Houmard, who have been part of the New York City downtown culinary scene for many years, have a great passion for simple good food, drink and hospitality. The regional blossoming culinary scene was a great influence in their choosing Granada for their new boutique hotel. Here is the short list of some of their favorite suggestions for the itinerant foodie.
Everyone will want to spend a day exploring the colonial city, El Parque Central or Parque Colón is the social heart of Granada. Food Vendors line the park’s periphery to sell various Fritangas like carne asada and all things fried, from plantains to cheese! The quintessential street food to try here is Vigorón, its roots are pure Granada. The layered dish is served on a plantain leaf topped with boiled yucca or cassava sliced thickly, a heaping of deep-fried pork cracklings, and is finished with a tangy vinegar-infused cabbage slaw and pickled chili peppers.
Here’s the list….
El Garaje | 512 Calle Corral – A unique and intimate lunch spot in Granada where the daily changing eclectic menu features fresh creative dishes, fish and meat, organic salads, and vegetarian options.
The Garden Cafe | Central Park 1 block East Calle Libertad y Avenida Cervantes
Pita Pita | Calle la Libertad, Miguel Cervantes – New Mediterranean fare
Pan De Vida | 305 Calle El Arsenal – Homemade breads, and baked goods
Villas Mombacho De la Marina Cocibolca – A short drive or taxi ride will take you to the shores of Lake Nicaragua where you will find this quaint thatched roof restaurant ideally located waterfront with wonderful views of Ometepe and the many Isletas. It’s a great place to pass the afternoon and enjoy traditional Nicaraguan dishes.
Bar Restaurant Camino Viejo – Late Afternoon Tapas along the Malecon
Along the Calzada, the lively street to be on in the evening you will find many open air restaurants and outdoor cafes. Locals and tourists alike fill the streets and outdoor tables, enjoying local food, beverages and entertainment.
El Zaguán | Calle La Calzada – Fantastic grilled meats, particularly local beef.
Nectar | Calle La Calzada – Consistently good traditionally fused dishes.
Cafe Los Suenos | Calle la Calzada – Organic, locally sourced inventive dishes.
Don Luca’s | Calle La Calzada – Fresh Mediterranean, Thin Crust Pizza.
El Tercer Ojo | De Catedral 1/2c Al Lago Calle la Calzada Plaza – Asian, Outdoor lounge atmosphere
Gelateria Italy & … Co | Calle la Calzada – For great Gelato after dinner or late afternoon
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Espressonista Specialty Coffee Bar and Restaurant | Calle Real Xalteva # 609. A Tribal Favorite, creative, artistic, delicious fresh dishes.
Las Colinas Restaurant | Calle Atravesad a Colinas del Sur – is most famous for its fried guapote fish, which is an ugly, carnivorous beast, closely related to the bass family. It is served whole, yet miraculously deboned, accompanied by tomatoes, onions and fresh avocados. Wonderful local atmosphere, dirt floor, thatched roof.
Ciudad Lounge Restaurant | Calle La Libertad – Chef inspired dishes, upscale, trendy, cigar bar.
El Kapuyo Restaurant | Calle El Martirio – Inventive vegetarian.
LATE NIGHT SALSA & TAPAS
Chicco Trippa and Boriccua along the Malécon.
Granada Comes Alive at Night along La Calzada
One of the best things to do in Granada is to immerse yourself in the kaleidoscope of vibrant culture on your first night.
Head out to Calle La Calzada and experience the liveliness of the colonial city. A plethora of restaurants housed in colorful restored colonial homes flank the cobbled stone pedestrian street in the heart of Granada. Calzada starts at the Parque Colon, where the Cathedral is located, and proceeds straight past Iglesia Guadalupe, where it widens to accommodate automobile traffic and continues to the waterfront on Lake Nicaragua. Choose a front row seat at one of the many open air restaurants and outdoor cafes. Locals and tourists alike fill the streets and outdoor tables, enjoying local food, beverages, entertainment and the best attraction, people watching. There are so many restaurants to choose from, you would need more then a week to enjoy the excellent local fare served here. Hosts at every restaurant will attempt to entice you and are happy to share with you their menus. Take your time, or try a tapas stroll, enjoying appetizers at one restaurant, and an entree at another. There is a lot of variety. Nectar’s offers good local dishes, with a worldly influence, Pizzeria Don Luca has very great pizza and italian, El Tercer Ojo Granada offers an elegant, lounge like atmosphere with Mediterranean and Asian fare. O’ Shea’s Irish Bar is just that and always attracts a crowd, Rodeo Steak House and Grill is Nicaraguan owned, always lively. An imaginative mélange of street performers parade the street. You will often see Gigantes and Break Dancers, Mariachis will serenade you stopping at tables to play a favorite song, and young artists will offer to sell you locally handcrafted jewelry and trinkets, all will enchant you, Bring your wallet, and have smaller bills available to tip the performers if you like. After dinner enjoy the cool night air, perhaps a delicious gelato, dance the night away at one of the clubs, or take leisurely stroll back to the quiet oasis at Tribal Hotel.
It really was a treasure hunt sourcing locally handcrafted goods to incorporate into the design of Tribal Hotel. Very close to Granada, located on a little hill, the Pueblos Blancos are small villages where we were able to connect with the local culture and meet indigenous Nicaraguan people who are passionate about keeping alive their strong pre-Columbian roots and traditions. Their handicrafts are available for purchase at the hotel. Our favorite, San Juan de Oriente, was previously known by the name of San Juan de los Platos, derived from its deep rooted pre-Hispanic history and culture of producing the most beautiful clay artifacts and crafts. This is where we were able to work with local potters to design our beautiful, durable outdoor clay sconces. The villagers here are friendly and welcoming, eager to share their talents and artistic masterpieces with visitors. Complimenting the magnificent crafts created here, the town is located in a picturesque part of Nicaragua. The locals are descendants of the Nahuatl Indians, who settled here some 5,000 years ago, most are skilled in the making of traditional arts and crafts, skills passed on through the generations.
Visiting recently with guests from Tribal Hotel we gathered around the potter’s wheel to observe one of our favorite local craftsman and his family demonstrate the traditional way pottery is made, painted, and burnished. It’s all organically produced, they hike to the clay pits to gather the clay, pound it by bare feet, their brushes are made of soft children’s hair gathered from haircuts, and they use giant seeds as burnishers. The potter’s wheel is kick started, there is no electricity. After a very lengthy process of hand crafting the pottery on the wheel, the pieces are burnished and painting using the traditional “engove” method, then baking in kilns made of brick and heated with wood burning fires. The entire family is involved in the process, It’s really remarkable to see.
Tribal Hotel’s beautifully handmade tiles were crafted locally in Granada, Nicaragua. Each tile is poured, dyed and air dried. Watch the process.
So much went into the concept and design of Tribal Hotel. It was great to explore and source local goods. Nicaragua offers an amazing array of talented master craftsman and artisans. Granada is the absolute best source for the beautiful cement tiles that are all the rage right now with architects and designers alike throughout the Americas and Europe. We designed our tile pattern to reflect the Tribal theme, and had the tile made right here in Granada. It was so interesting to observe the process.
Like many of the world’s most beautiful treasures, the history of patterned cement tiles, or mosaicos hidralico, as they are known in many colonial districts of Latin America, is up for debate. Some think Mexico was the first Latin American country to make them (and Cuba the second), having arrived in Central America through European trade routes. Meanwhile, Spain and France are duking it out for the title of first nation to make them worldwide. There is certainly a visible influence from the Moors.
Whatever the case, there are a few things of which we can be certain. First, these elegant and vibrant tiles can be found across the globe, and the famous “Granada Cement Tiles” manufactured in Granada by local Nicaraguan master craftsman are just beautiful. This stunning colonial city is bursting with historic cement tiles from early 1900s The Craftsman pour pigmented colored cements into sections of the metal molds that are used like giant cookie cutters. Forming the tile’s top layer, the cement is poured to a depth of one-eighth inch. While the cement is still wet, the mold is carefully pulled out so the various colors can join, forming the intricate design. Next, a half an inch of a dry cement mixture is added on top to add bulk and strength. Lastly, 3,000 pounds of hydraulic pressure is applied to draw moisture from the colored cement through the dry backing. The result is a cement tile that is incredibly durable and easy to maintain, and becomes more polished as it wears.
If you too are interested in the local craftsman and artisans of Granada, just ask our tour guides to direct you to where you can see for yourselves their work in process. You will find the artists very proud, and happy to share you with you their work.
One of the most exciting things about hosting our guests here at Tribal Hotel is the opportunity to share the colorful wealth of culture and traditions of Granada. The opening of the hotel coincided with Holy Week, called Semana Santa here in Granada, Nicaragua. Holy Week is a special time to fully immerse yourself and experience the rich culture of this country influenced by a blend of ancient Spanish Catholic rituals and indigenous traditions. On the morning of Good Friday many churches organize a procession known as Santo Entierro. At Tribal Hotel we created a floral shrine as everyone on the street did to honor this day, it was amazing to experience the defile, (procession) along the Via Crusis.
Learn more at these great sites, or make reservations at Tribal Hotel for Semana Santa 2015 and experience it for yourselves!