Quito Street Food Tour: Honest & Unbiased Review

by | Feb 4, 2024 | Ecuador, Food, Travel

Are you looking to do a food tour during your trip to Quito?

Want to try some street food while in Ecuador?

But you’re not sure which tour and whether any of them are worth the money and time.

In this Ecuador travel guide, I’m going to help you make your decision by giving you my honest review of the Quito Street Food Essentials Tour. You’ll also find out what to eat in Ecuador and where to eat this food in Quito.

This tour took place in May 2023 during my 6 weeks living in Quito. I was not paid by the food tour company to write this post, nor did they know I was going to write about them.


Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate and a Bookshop.org Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  Please see this website’s Disclosure for more info.

How to Book Your Quito Food Tour

Book your Quito food tour through either Get Your Guide or Viator. Both companies take bookings from solo travelers.

When I did my tour, I tried booking through Get Your Guide but couldn’t because they had a 2-person minimum requirement. So, I booked my tour through the food tour company’s website and ran into some problems. I’ll tell you about the problem below, so both solo and non-solo travelers won’t run into the same problems I did.

How Much Does the Food Tour Cost?

As of January 2024, the food tour costs US$90 per person. Even if you’re a solo traveler, you get that price. In the past, solo travelers had to pay US$109!

The price is similar to most food tours in Latin America. The tour I took in Guatemala was US$90 and the food tour in Oaxaca was also US$90.

What Problems I Had With My Tour

My tour in Quito was scheduled for a Tuesday at 10:00 am.

Great! I was all set to go. The night before I packed my day pack, laid out my clothes, and planned how to get to the meeting point.

But then…

I got an email from Bondabu. The food tour was canceled. The other people who’d signed up had canceled, and the company couldn’t do a tour for one person.

However, they could do it the following day.

Great! No problem. I’m flexible.

However, that tour ended up being canceled as well! Not enough people had signed up.

So, Bondabu canceled on me twice. I was getting a REALLY bad feeling about this. What if they canceled a third time? Would I get my money back? Could I trust them?

I had booked through Bondabu directly and not through Get Your Guide. If I had booked through Get Your Guide or Viator, I knew it would be easy to get my money back. But I just wasn’t sure it would be easy to get a refund through Bondabu.

I decided to try a third time for that coming Saturday.

Luckily, I didn’t get any email from them saying that it was canceled. So it was on!

Can Vegetarians Join the Food Tour?

According to Bondabu’s website, there are vegetarian options at every stop. However, tell them ahead of time that you’re a vegetarian or vegan.

My Advice for Booking Your Tour

Here’s my advice:

Book your food tour through Get Your Guide or Viator. You should be able to get a refund easily through them. My experience with doing tours in Quito through Get Your Guide is that if you have trouble with the tour, you can quickly and easily contact them and they’ll help you solve your problem.

The Quito food tour was not the only tour in Quito that got canceled. I had booked a free walking tour through Guru Walks, and the guide canceled on me twice! Luckily, I hadn’t paid anything for that tour when I booked.

My Favorite Food Tours in Quito

Quito Street Food Essentials Tour – (RATING: 4.9/5) – A fabulous food tour with 7 stops around Quito; THIS is the tour I did—continue reading for my take on the tour. Check prices here!

After Dark Street Food and Art Tour – (RATING: 4.8/5) – A street food tour taking in the culinary nighttime scene of the Floresta neighborhood in Quito. Check prices here!

Chocolate Tasting Tour – (RATING: 5/5) – Dig deeply into the history and culture of cacao in this tour that takes you to an elite restaurant for a multi-course tasting. Check prices here!

City Highlights and Food Tour –(RATING: 5/5) – A tour that combines food and the highlights of the historic district of Quito. Check prices here!

Meeting Point for the Quito Food Tour

To be honest, I had mixed feelings about this Quito food tour.

On the one hand, people raved about it on Get Your Guide. On the other hand, the tour company canceled on me twice, and they’d taken quite a while to respond to my last email. Plus, the guide was not the person I had been communicating with before but instead one of their employees.

Was I getting a second-rate guide?

Would it be worth the US$90?

Let’s find out.

The meeting point was at 10:00 am at the Teatro Bolivar in the historic district. According to Bondabu’s website, you can request to change the starting point of the tour. You can also request a hotel pickup and drop-off.

My guide was Santiago. The only other person on the tour besides me was a woman from Canada.

Santiago turned out to be a fabulous guide! Passionate about Ecuadorian food, excited to share his culture and history with us, and just a personable, patient, and fun guy. He shared so much about Ecuador: politics, history, architecture, art, travel, and of course, food!

Quito Food Tour Itinerary

My Quito food tour stopped at 7 places, 6 of them to eat and 1 to see street art. On Get Your Guide and on Bondabu’s website, they currently say 4 stops. They also say the tour lasts 2 to 3 hours. Mine lasted over 4 hours. We started at 10:00 am and ended after 2:00.

According to Bondabu’s website, you can request to lengthen or shorten the tour and even add extra stops if it doesn’t mean taking a big detour from the route.

  • Stop #1: Plaza Arenas – fritada
  • Stop #2: Quesadillas de San Juan – quesadillas
  • Stop #3: Mercado America – tortilla de yuca, tree tomato juice, & sour sop juice
  • Stop #4: Street Art
  • Stop #5: Puente de Guambra – viche, pescado encocado, babao juice, and naranjilla juice
  • Stop #6: Mercado Santa Clara – lots of exotic fruit
  • Stop #7: Marina Cocina y Panaderia – coffee, chocolate, and butterfly and pea tea

Your tour stops might be different than mine. Ask Bondabu about the stops.

Stop #1: Plaza Arenas

Santiago first took us to the main square of Quito, Plaza Independencia, and a 400-year-old building on the plaza, Palacio Arzobispal. It’s now filled with lots of restaurants—a good place to go for tourists.

There’s a food cart in one of the side halls of Palacio Arzobispal that sells 3 famous Ecuadorian foods: empanada viento, empanada morocho, and pristinos for $1 each. Worth stopping and trying them all. Santiago wasn’t the one who introduced me to this cart; that was on another tour with Guru Walks (that tour also canceled on me twice!)

We didn’t stop here to eat and we didn’t stay long, so I’m not counting it as an official stop on the tour.

For our official first stop, we needed to walk up a very, very, very steep hill to the area around the Basilica. However, Santiago made the walk enjoyable by talking nonstop about the architecture, politics, and history of Ecuador. And his life. He was very open, warm, and easy-going.

people walking down an aisle at a market with vendors on the sides selling kitchen sinks and electric drills

Eventually, we arrived at our first stop—Plaza Arenas—a market that no foreign tourist would think of visiting. There are no souvenirs in this market. Instead, you’ll mostly find household goods and kitchen and DIY equipment like kitchen sinks, saws, and drills and such. There’s even a blacksmith shop. 

a large hall with food vendors on the sides and tables and chairs in the middle
The food court at Plaza Arenas is where we had our first dish: fritada

Next to the sinks and drills is a green building with food vendors. All seemed to be run by women. You can order food from any of the stalls and sit down at one of the tables in the center of the hall.

We weren’t at Plaza Arenas to look at drills. Instead, we were there to try a very traditional and uber-popular Ecuadorian dish: fritada. Santiago said that Bondabu researched the best fritada in the city and said that the best one was here at Plaza Arenas.

On the surface, Plaza Arenas didn’t look like it would have the best of anything. However, if you’ve traveled enough in Latin America and Southeast Asia, you’ll know that some of the ugliest holes-in-the-wall actually have the most delicious food. Their motto is “The food is more important than the atmosphere.”

a plate of fritada, corn, plantains, toasted corn and salad
Fritada from Mercado Arenas

After eating the fritada at Plaza Arenas, I have to say that Santiago might be right. I’d already had fritada a few times in Ecuador before that day, but the one I had on the tour was the best I’d eaten. The pork was tender and juicy and the flavor was so delicious and complex. It was almost like you could taste each of the spices added to the pork.

So what’s fritada?

Fritada is a dish consisting of chunks of bite-sized pork that has simmered in water, orange juice, cumin, garlic, onion, and shallots. It comes with an array of wonderful side dishes. At Plaza Arenas, our fritada included toasted corn, fried plantains, a salad of tomatoes and red onions, a small corn on the cob, and potatoes.

You can drizzle a “spicy” salsa called aji over the pork and potatoes and well just about anything that’s edible. Aji is a chili sauce, but 95% of the time it barely registers on the Scoville scale. A common ingredient in many ajis is a popular fruit in Ecuador called tomate de abrol (tree tomatoes).

Stop #2: Quesadillas de San Juan

a view of Quito skyline
A view of Quito from the San Juan neighborhood

After leaving Plaza Arenas, we walked north past the Basilica and up another steep street to the San Juan neighborhood. We stopped across the street from Centro de Arte Contemporeaneo de Quito—a cultural center with lots of art exhibits—for a view of the skyline of Quito. 

Our second stop of the day was nearby—a famous restaurant selling a popular Ecuadorian street foodQuesadillas de San Juan.

Before the pandemic, Quesadillas de San Juan was a restaurant with sit-down service. Today you can’t even enter. You can only order takeout from a window on the sidewalk.

Quesadillas de San Juan is famous for one thing: Quesadillas.

Now if you’re familiar with Mexican food, you probably have eaten Mexican quesadillas—folded tortillas stuffed with cheese and often chicken, pork, or beef.

Ecuadorian quesadillas are absolutely NOTHING like Mexican quesadillas.

Nothing!

a person holding a quesadilla
A quesadilla from Quesadillas San Juan in Quito is a must-street food to eat in Ecuador

Quesadillas in Ecuador are pastries made of wheat, sugar, and cheese. The bottom is crispy and flaky and the middle and top are moist. The first time you bite into a quesadilla, you can taste a hint of cheese. It’s not overly sweet. Instead, the cheese gives the quesadilla a nice umami flavor.

This is not the first time I’ve experienced this food naming issue in Latin America. I’ve found other foods in other countries in the region with the same name as foods in Mexico, but the actual dishes are nothing alike. Tostados in Guatemalan cuisine are different from the ones in Mexico and tortillas in Ecuadorian and Panamanian cuisines are different from the ones in Mexico as well.

Stop #3: Mercado América

A woman behind a counter with shelves of Ecuadorian food
A food vendor at Mercado America

We continued walking north through another neighborhood tourists don’t usually visit. This time we’re in América neighborhood. Many of the streets here are named after countries or cities in North and South America. There’s Panama Street, Nicaragua Street, Canada Street, and New York Street.  

This was a very cool neighborhood. It’s not posh or flashy. The buildings are old (maybe from the mid-1950s) but nothing like the stately 200-year-old buildings in the historic center. Very local and down-to-earth. Small shops and restaurants. Some art deco buildings. The neighborhood reminds me of Condesa and Roma Norte in Mexico City. 

Our third stop on this Quito food tour was Mercado América.

a food court with food vendors on the side and people sitting at tables in the middle
You can try some terrific street food at Mercado America in Quito

When you’re in Ecuador, you’ve got to visit at least one mercado (market). They’re great places to buy fresh and inexpensive fruits and vegetables. But the main reason you should visit one is that they are the best places to get traditional Ecuadorian food like hornado and llapingacho.

Here we tried tortillas de yuca. Another naming problem! Tortillas in Mexico and tortillas in Ecuador are two completely different dishes.

In Ecuador, they’re fried patties made of yuca (cassava) and cheese. You can also get tortillas de platanos (made of plantains and cheese) and a more popular Ecuadorian dish called llapingacho—which consists of potatoes and cheese.

a plate of tortilla de yuca, fried eggs, and salad
Tortilla de yuca from Mercado America in Quito is a great place to try traditional food in Ecuador

When you order tortillas de yuca, you get 2 tortillas, a fried egg, and a salad of tomatoes and red onions.

Santiago also ordered 2 juice drinks for us:

  • tomate de abrol juice (tree tomato)
  • guanábana juice (sour sop)

There are so many wonderful dishes in Ecuador but for me, the best part of the cuisine is the fruit juices. On menus in Ecuador, the fruit juices are called jugos naturales. They’re made from real fruit and not some powdered package of artificial flavors. Depending on the restaurant, they usually cost between US$1.50 and $3.00. The two we had at Mercado América are very popular. But you can get blackberry, strawberry, naranjilla, uvilla, passion fruit, granadilla, and many more flavors.

While we were enjoying our tortillas de yuca, I asked Santiago to give us a list of the top 10 must-try dishes in Ecuador. He came up with 15:

  1. sopa de bollas de verde – soup
  2. hornado – roasted pork
  3. locro de papa – potato soup
  4. seco de chivo – goat
  5. menestras – beans
  6. quinoa soup
  7. muchin de yuca – fried yuca
  8. sancocho – soup
  9. fritada – pork
  10. minestrone soup
  11. yaguarlocro – soup
  12. llapingacho – potato pancake
  13. caldo de gallina – chicken soup
  14. ceviche
  15. corvina – seabass

With 7 out of 15 dishes being soups, you can see that soup is really important in Ecuadorian cuisine.

Stop #4: Street Art

After Mercado América, we headed to the government area of Quito. This is where you’ll find the national assembly building and many government ministries. There are also a few universities within walking distance. One of the main parks of Quito, Parque el Ejido, is also nearby.

a street whose sides are covered in street art
One of the best things to do in Quito is to experience its street art

Santiago took us down a narrow street whose sides were covered in street art made by the most famous street artists in Quito. Our destination was a building with a gate covered in pictures of fish. This was the entrance to Bondabu’s new offices.

a large mural covering a wall
One of my favorite murals at Bondabu’s headquarters.

 It was also the studio of many of Quito’s famous street artists. The building’s interior and courtyard are covered in works of art. 

Bondabu has a street art tour that you can take.

Stop #5: Puente del Guambra

By our fifth stop, we had walked well over 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles). Some of the miles were on extremely steep streets.

I don’t think I’ve ever been on a food tour that did so much walking. It was a bit insane. If you’re young and fit, it’ll be no problem. However, if you have knee, hip, or foot problems like me, this tour is going to be a challenge. It’s too bad because it’s an amazing tour.

Perhaps Bondabu could use more public transportation or taxis. I was on a food tour in Singapore that covered even more distance than Quito’s, but we used public transportation to travel between stops.  Alternatively, they could find food stops that are not so far from each other. Still, I really appreciated being introduced to places that tourists normally never get to.

Stop #5 was at a place that I know your average tourist definitely wouldn’t visit. It was a food court located under a bridge that specialized in fish and seafood dishes from the coast of Ecuador. It was called Puente del Guambra.

When we got to Puente del Guambra, I was faced with another issue: I was pretty full. So was the other member of the tour. Food tours need to be well organized so that customers don’t feel full midway through them or customers don’t feel like they’d eaten way too much at the end of the tour.

I managed to eat the food at Puente del Guambra, but not as much as usual and I didn’t enjoy them as much as I would have liked to.

The area around Puente del Guambra is lively and crowded with pedestrians, cars, and people selling things on the street.  The food court was also busy—tables were full of people. If you go on your own, expect to share a table with strangers.

a small cup of fish encocado
Pescado Encocado was the first dish we tried at this stop on this Quito food tour.

We had two dishes from the coastal province of Manabi:

The first dish was a small sample of Pescado Encocado. This is fish cooked in coconut sauce and served over rice. It reminded me of something you’d eat in Asia.

a bowl of viche
Viche is a traditional dish from Ecuador’s coast

The second dish was viche—one of the most interesting bowls of soup I’d ever had. The soup’s broth is always made of peanuts and plantains and it usually comes with fish, shrimp, squid, and something surprising—a ball of plantains called bolon.

a pile of naranjilla in a plastic container
Naranjilla is a popular fruit in Ecuador

We also tried 2 fruit juices.

Naranjilla fruit juice – Made from naranjilla fruit. The fruit looks like oranges and tastes sour like oranges but in my opinion, it’s better than orange juice. I often had naranjilla juice on my Anahi cruise in the Galapagos.

a cup of naranjilla juice
A glass of Babaco juice was one of the juices I tried on this Quito food tour.

Babaco fruit juice is made from a fruit I’ve never heard or seen before—babaco. This was my favorite of the two I drank. The juice was yellow, and it tasted like a mix of strawberry and pineapple.

Stop #6: Mercado Santa Clara

Six blocks later we were at stop #6 of the food tour: Mercado Santa Clara.

The market in the Santa Clara neighborhood was perhaps my favorite stop of this food tour, which is really saying something since I was full and since everything on this tour so far had been spectacular.

Santiago took us to a fruit vendor on the first floor of the market—vendor # 116. I went back several times during my 6 weeks in Quito. The owner of the fruit stand is super nice and won’t charge you more because you’re a foreigner.

We didn’t visit the food court on the top floor that day, but on my future visits to the market, I found that it’s got a really good selection of Ecuadorian traditional dishes. Try the hornado (roast pork) here!

a hand holding an uvilla

The reason I loved this stop so much is that we got to try so many different kinds of fruit that I’d never eaten or seen before in my life. Also, fruit is light and refreshing, so it’s good to eat if you’re a bit full.

The first fruit we had was uvilla—a small round fruit that’s also known as goldenberry. It tastes very sour but also a little bit sweet.

a hand holding a granadilla

Granadilla looks like passion fruit except its orange. Inside it’s got seeds like those in passion fruit. However, it tastes better than passion fruit–sweeter and not as sour.

I’m currently living in Manabi province on the coast, and I see granadillas everywhere.

a pile of pepinos

The highlight of the day was the third fruit—chirimoya. In English, it’s called custard apple. And indeed the texture is custardy. It’s also got a nice flavor—not sour at all, but just slightly sweet.

Chirimoya is so rich tasting that I often have a hard time finishing a whole one myself. It’s best to be shared with others.

Depending on the season and location, you can buy one chirimoya for between US$1 and $2.

The last fruit we tried was pepino—green and smooth on the outside. Don’t eat the skin. The inside tastes like musk melon. It’s not sour or sweet. A bit like the blandest musk melon you’ll ever eat. Not my favorite of all the fruit I tried that day.

Every food tour should include a stop at a fruit stand to try the different fruits of a country.

Stop #7: Marina Cocina y Panaderia

The Quito food tour ended with a stop at Marina Cocina y Panaderia for coffee, chocolate, and tea. Luckily, we got there by taxi because it was a kilometer from Mercado Santa Ana.

When you’re in Quito, try to get to Marina Cocina y Panaderia for brunch. The food here is absolutely fabulous. They serve brunch and lunch items like chicken and waffles, French toast, bagels, sandwiches, muffins, donuts, and even kambucha. The menu is international with flavors from Korea, Turkey, Mexico, and the U.S. They even make their own bread. Their specialty is sourdough.

two small glasses on a table. One glass contains round milk chocolate pieces and the other glass contains round dark chocolate pieces.
The chocolate I tried on this Quito food tour.

First, we sampled Ecuadorian chocolate: dark and milk chocolate. Delicious. Ecuador is a major exporter of chocolate, so when you’re in the country you’ve got to try some. Better yet, add a chocolate tour to your Ecuador itinerary.

We also ordered coffee and tea. The latter was maybe the best thing we had all day.

Ecuador grows coffee but up to that day, I hadn’t had a good cup of coffee. The one at Marina Cocina y Panaderia was the best I’d had up to that point.

a glass of butterfly and pea tea sitting on a table
Butterfly and Pea Tea was the last thing we tried on this Quito food tour.

The highlight of our visit to Marina Cocina y Panaderia was a cold tea called butterfly pea tea. It contained lemongrass, apple, carrot, flor azul, flor de azahar, and calendula and served with ginger beer. Besides having an out-of-this-world flavor, the cold tea was a beautiful purple. The flavors were like nothing I’d ever tried before in my life. It was probably the best thing I’d ever drunk in my life.

Why are some restaurants in Quito locked?

The other interesting thing is that the restaurant was open and full of customers, but the front door was locked when we arrived. We had to press a buzzer for someone to come and unlock the door. That’s not completely uncommon in Quito and other countries I’ve been to in Latin America.

Crime is on the rise in Ecuador due to the Mexican and Colombian cartels taking over the drug trade. The government is trying to fight back. Most of the crime takes place on the coast near the Colombian border but has gone all the way down the coast to Manta. When I was living on the coast, the popular mayor of Manta was murdered because he tried to stop the cartels from operating in his city. The area was under a curfew with no one allowed out on the streets between 10:00 pm and 5:00 pm.

Quito has its share of pickpockets and armed robbers.

I heard three stories during my stay in Quito of restaurant robberies. Armed robbers enter the restaurant during its busiest time and rob customers at gunpoint. They usually target popular restaurants that are guaranteed to have more economically middle to upper-class customers. That’s why you’ll find some of them locked during business hours.  

Where to Stay in Quito

If you happen to be also looking for ideas on where to stay in Quito, here are my recommendations for every budget.

These suggestions are based on my time in the city and my friends’ visits to Quito. I spent 3 days in Quito before my trip to the Galapagos and 6 weeks after. During this time I stayed in 4 different hotels or hostels.

I recommend staying in either the historic center or in La Mariscal neighborhood. The historic center is convenient—close to all the main attractions—and you’re surrounded by lots of beautiful historic buildings. La Mariscal has got loads of restaurants and feels safer than the historic center.

You can also check out my complete list of where to stay in Quito.

Here is my Quick guide:

$ – Under US$40 | $$ – US$40 – $100 | $$$ – US$100 – $300 | $$$$ – Over US$300

Traveler’s House ($) – Great location in the historic center; in a 300-year-old house; huge rooms; I stayed here before my Galapagos trip. Very helpful and friendly owner. RATING: 9.2/10 (230+ Reviews) | BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Viajero Quito Hostel ($)Great location in the historic center; I stayed here on my last night in Quito and loved it! Their private rooms are very comfortable! RATING: 8.9/10 (1,100+ Reviews) | BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Friends Hotel and Rooftop ($$)Perfect location in historic center; breakfast included, rooftop restaurant with incredible views. RATING: 9.3/10 (1,300+ Reviews | BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com

Hotel Casa Gangotena ($$$$) – This beautiful and historic hotel is perfectly located right on Plaza San Francisco!  RATING: 9.1/10 (65+ Reviews) | BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Illa Experience Hotel ($$$$) – The most stylish hotel in Quito has great views of the city and is located within walking distance of Plaza Independencia. RATING: 9.1/10 (42+ Reviews) | BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Check out this list of the top 25 places to stay in Quito – you’ll find a list of hotels with rooftop terraces, giving you stunning views of the city!

Final Thoughts

So, the ultimate question is this: Was this food tour worth it?

With all its cancellations, the food tour got off to a rocky start. However, in the end, it was more than worth it. In fact, I’d say it was one of the top 3 things I did in Quito. It was definitely one of the best Quito tours I did.

If you’re in Ecuador and you’re wondering what to do in Quito, without a doubt add this food tour to your Quito itinerary. You get to visit places that are off the usual tourist trail and you get to really explore the culture and food of Ecuador more deeply.

If you can swing the $90, I highly recommend the tour. But book through Get Your Guide.

for more ideas on things to do in Quito, check out this article on the best tours in Quito.

Top Tours in Quito for Foodies

Best Resources for Your Trip to Ecuador

Book Your Flight:

Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights to Ecuador. They will turn up results for all airlines including major ones and local airlines. You’re guaranteed to find EVERYTHING that’s available and thus get the cheapest price.

Book Your Accommodations:

The best hotel booking sites are Booking.com and Agoda. They have the most choices and they consistently churn out hotels and hostels with the lowest prices. Another site for backpackers and budget travelers is Hostel World.

Book Your Tours:

Viator has the most tour choices of any site in Ecuador. They’re reliable and trustworthy. I also like using Get Your Guide for Ecuador for their excellent service. Both booking sites are reliable and trustworthy, and if you have trouble with your tour, they’ll quickly help you.

Get an eSIM

The most convenient way to stay connected to the internet is with an eSIM. I like to use Airalo for their excellent prices.

Want More Ecuador Travel Info?

Check out my Ecuador Travel Guide for more ideas, inspiration, and tips on traveling in Ecuador.

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