Throughout the country there is a lot of variety as to what is typically eaten, depending on the location. In the Sierra, potatoes almost always accompany lunch and dinner, and in the coast rice is popular. Soup is also a big part of lunch and dinner. Breakfasts often consist of toast, eggs, and juice or fruit. Batidos, or fruit shakes, are popular breakfast items or snacks. Especially in the Coastline, Ecuadorians make a variety of breakfast meals based on green or sweet plantain and yuca, such as bolonoes, empanadas, patacones, corviches, muchines, pan de yuca, humitas and others. They are cooked with either cheese, pork or fish. They are very filling and inexpensive meals.
Restaurants run the gamut in terms of menu, quality, hygiene, hours and price. Basic meals can be had for less than $2, or it is possible to pay close to U.S. prices in the tourist areas, especially for food from the American chains.
If you’re on a budget, your best bet for a good and local meal is to order an almuerzo (lunch) or a merienda (dinner). These normally consist of a soup, a meat main course and a dessert for $1-2.
More expensive restaurants (say, ones that charge $4 per meal or more) often add a 12% sales tax and a 10% service fee.
Coffee or tea (including many herbal varieties) is typically served after the meal unless you ask for it sooner.
Except at places that cater to foreigners, it is the custom not to present the diner with the bill until it is requested. While many servers are used to rude tourists, rubbing your fingers together isn’t as accepted as in Europe although it’s not considered downright rude as in the United States. The best way to get the check is to tell your server “La cuenta, por favor”.
Smoking is allowed in most restaurants, but the law explicitly prohibits smoking in closed areas, so it’s a good idea to ask for a non-smoking section, or ask if the restaurant allows smoking.
Locro de papa is a famous Ecuadorian soup with avocados, potatoes and cheese.
Ceviche is a common dish found on the coast. It is a cold seafood cocktail that is usually served with “chifles,” thin fried plantains, and popcorn.
Encebollado is a hearty fish soup with yuca, also found on the coast: A tomato-fish soup filled with chunks of yucca, marinated vegetables with “chifles” thrown in for added crunch.
In the Highlands, Ecuadorians eat cuy, or guinea pig. The entire animal is roasted or fried and often served skewered on a stick.
Empanadas are also a common local food that are usually consumed as snacks in the afternoon. The most common varieties of this filled pastry are cheese and/or chicken.
Bollo Made of milled sweet plantain with peanuts and albacore. This is a very typical dish in the Ecuadorian Coast.
Bolón Made of minced plantain with cheese or pork. It is eaten at breakfast with coffee. It is consumed mostly in the coast in the Manabí province.
Bottled water is very common and is safe to drink; it comes con gas (carbonated) and sin gas (non-carbonated). Water from the tap is unsafe to drink. Even Ecuadorians generally only drink bottled (or boiled) water.
Coffee is widely available in cafes and restaurants, and also sold in bean form. Tea is also common, usually with a good selection including herbal.
Fruit juice is plentiful and good, and you will often have many options: piña (pineapple), mora (blackberry), maracuyá (passion fruit), naranja (orange), sandía (watermelon), naranjilla (a jungle fruit), melon, taxo, guanabana, guava, etc. If you’d like it made with milk, sort of like a less-frozen milkshake, ask for a batida. Note that often juices are served lukewarm.
Aguardiente, often made from fermented sugar cane, is the local firewater. If possible, have some ground freshly into your cup from the sugarcane.