Many Nicaraguans eat lunch on the go, but the majority eat dinner at home, so outside tourist areas you may find eating options are reduced in the evening. Budget eateries including comedores (basic eateries), where you choose from a variety of ready-prepared dishes, and market stalls serve a limited range of filling dishes and set meals from US$2 to US$5. Also in this price range are fritangas (grills), which serve grilled meats and fried sides. Midrange eateries will have a decent-sized menu charging US$5 to US$10 per plate. Top-end establishments (mostly found in Granada, León Managua and San Juan del Sur) will have an even better range, including dishes from around the world, costing more than US$10.
While both breakfast and dinner are often served with a big scoop of gallo pinto (a common meal of blended rice and beans), at lunch the rice and beans are usually separate – it's said to be more filling that way. Be sure to keep an eye out for local specialties including nacatamales (banana-leaf-wrapped bundles of cornmeal, meat, vegetables and herbs), baho (plantain and beef stew) and rundown (seasoned fish or meat cooked in coconut milk with root vegetables).
Nicaragua has a wonderful array of fresh fruits which are often sold cut up in small bags on the side of the road or as refrescos naturales (juices in water with sugar).
Eating in Nicaragua is generally a casual affair, but in popular destinations there are restaurants where you should reserve ahead. In more remote locations you'll dine at your hotel or hostel.
- Fritangas Often your best bet. Around dusk, locals light up simple grills – usually on or near the main plaza of town – and serve up steak, chicken, fried plantains and gallo pinto to hungry passersby.
- Comedores Nearly every town in Nicaragua has one or two of these basic eateries, often featuring a set lunch plate.
- Restaurants Some specialize in gourmet breakfasts, others double as bars in the evening.
Essential Food & Drink
Gallo pinto Daily staple, composed of red beans boiled with garlic, mixed with rice fried with onion and red pepper.
Quesillo Tortilla stuffed with cheese, topped with pickled onions and sour cream.
Nacatamal Similar to the Mexican tamale, with spiced chicken and vegetables cooked inside ground corn dough, wrapped in a banana leaf.
Rum Nicaragua's Flor de Caña rum is among the best in the world.