The Latin Tongue: El Guayaquil

Read why we are doing this in our intro article.

This week, we made a big mistake. Charles and I met at the corner of Lake St and Bloomington Ave without a plan. "Let's just walk around and pick a spot to eat," we told each other. Anyone who has spent even a little time at this intersection knows how preposterous this is. There are three Mexican super mercados and no less than 12 latin eateries within three city blocks. How we decided upon El Guayaquil is still a mystery. After wandering through the Mercado Central and then peering in each and every window of the places on Lake Street, we found ourselves standing in front of El Guayaquil and feeling so hungry that we simply did not care. The one decision we did make was that we would be coming back to Lake and Bloomington soon.

From the outside, Guayaquil is outstanding for its big green awning and huge vertical sign. On the inside, it is another typical Latin eatery with a music from south of the border, a karaoke station, and a friendly family enjoying each others company. What is not typical is the menu. Guayaquil is the name of the largest city in Ecuador. It is near the mouth of the Guayas river, on the Pacific ocean. Had we known this, the menu and its bevy of seafood such as conch, octopus, catfish and squid would not have been so surprising. We might have expected fried plantain and yucca to have their place. But we didn't. Every week we love this adventure more and more.

Dollar tacosDollar tacosNeedless to say, it was rather difficult to decide. We had to stick to our groundrules which stated that we would have a tamale and try tacos, which were two of the ten mexican items on the menu. If you order tacos here, ask for the $1 tacos which are actually not on the menu. Otherwise, you get a plate of 3 or 4 tacos for around $8 with lettuce, tomato, cheese, etc.

Besides the tacos and tamales, we decided we absolutely had to try an appetizer called Arepas de Pollo (fried corn cakes with chicken and cheese). Then, we asked our lovely server what she recommended. Her pride in the food was evident and it was hard for her to narrow it down to just one, but in the end we ordered a goat stew with seasoned rice and fried plantains. Definitely unexpected. Definitely exciting.

We looked around a bit during the very brief time between ordering and receiving our food. The place was simple, quiet and quite pleasant. The TV was off and the kids were playing peacefully. None of this mattered, though, when the food came. The tacos were absolutely perfect. Each consisted of two small fresh, steamed corn tortillas, well cooked and seasoned meat, cilantro, lime, onions and a side of delicious salsa. The tamales were stuffed with seasoned chicken (the only option) and were fine as far as tamales go. They were tasty, but came without the corn husk around them, which we prefer as it seems to keep the moisture in the masa corn a little better. The tamales also came with a side of sour cream. This seemed odd and in the end only worked to hide the flavor of the chicken, so we went without.

Goat stew with plantains and riceGoat stew with plantains and riceFor the unique dishes, the Arepas de Pollo and the Goat Stew, we were very pleased. The arepas were basically state fair food. Amazing state fair food. They were greasy and hot, the queso was simply oozing out of them and they had that perfect blend of sweet/fried/savory. Yum. Watch out though, these things are rich.

The Goat Stew (which, if it had a Spanish name, I have forgotten it) was a really tasty and complete meal. The balance of sticky rice, plantains and savory goat meat was very satisfying. Like any traditional goat dish, you have to be ok with nibbling on little bones. We were surprised at how absolutely tender, melt-in-your-mouth the goat was. It was in no way gamey either. The savory gravy-like stew was very flavorful and mild. The plantains were also a great addition. I'm glad we ordered the green plantains as opposed to the sweet ones. I felt like they were a better fit for the dish. They were fried to perfection. Did I mention that the portion was really generous. I would definitely order this dish again. 

So, there you have it! In our search for hidden Latin gems, we traveled to Ecuador and furthered our education. Please go and support our hard working neighbors and you will be well fed.

Here are the details:Arepas de polloArepas de pollo

El Guayaquil Restaurante

1526 E Lake St




Average around $10-$12

Tacos $1 each, 2/plate (remember these may not be on the menu)

            $8 for four with lettuce, cheese, tomato, etc. (these are on the menu)

Burritos $7

Tamales $3

Enchiladas $11

Breakfast dishes $4-7

Veggie plate (rice, beans, plantains, avocado) $10

Goat stew $11

Arepas de Pollo $7


Surprise: Definitely the fact that 90% of the menu is Ecuadorian



10am - 11 pm M-F

9am - 11 pm Sat, Sun


Payment: Cash or credit


Language: English was definitely the second language, but our server was quite fluent in speaking English. Menu translations were good.


Lawrence Black is a writer and editor at Simple, Good and Tasty.  He can be reached at He is often very full of beans and rice.