By Tom Hanchett
When UNCC religious studies prof Eric Hoenes suggests an eating adventure, it’s smart to say yes. Especially if Central American food is on the menu, since Hoenes hails from Guatemala.
We met fellow UNCC professor Nicole Peterson and started at Panaderia El Quetzal on Eastway Drive near Garinger High. The bright green and red quetzal bird is a national symbol of Guatemala. And “panaderia” means bakery. Sure enough, we were soon filling paper sacks with Guatemalan pastries. My favorite: thin crispy sugar cookies called champurradas.
The bakery’s co-owner had just opened a restaurant, announced a wall banner. Off we sped up The Plaza, where we found Guate-Linda — Guatemala the beautiful — with half a dozen tidy tables and an eight-page picture menu of traditional dishes.
“Start with an enchilada,” Hoenes advised. Familiar Mexican enchiladas consist of a tortilla rolled around beans and cheese, but the Central American version uses a crisp flat tostada. It’s piled with ground beef, bright red pickled beets, slices of onion and hard-boiled egg then drizzled with tomato sauce. “The messiest kind of thing to eat,” said Hoenes happily.
He struck up a conversation in Spanish with grandmotherly cook and co-owner Nora Guerra, in Charlotte ten years from Pasaco in southern Guatemala. “They drive out to a farm to get their chickens,” he reported. “Store-bought chickens just don’t have the right flavor.”
So I ordered chicken soup. It came with a roasted quarter bird that you pull apart and add to the vegetable broth, along with rice and avocado, where it instantly soaks up flavor.
Eric got pepian, “a Guatemalan national dish with roots in pre-Columbian cooking,” he explained. It arrived with a chicken leg submerged in a rich brown sauce, alongside chubby hand-made Guatemalan tortillas ready for dunking.
After that, we didn’t really need dessert. But we had those paper sacks of pastries….
Panaderia El Quetzal
Monday – Sunday 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
925 Eastway Drive
Charlotte, NC 28205
(704) 536 – 9408
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Friday, Saturday 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday 7 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
6016 The Plaza
Charlotte, NC 28215
Center City & nearby
Carolina apple cider
Indian street food
Greens from South Carolina
Upstate NY Italian sausage
Blackberry memories of Brooklyn
Puerto Rican kabobs
South Boulevard, South Tryon & southward
Mexico + Greece = holiday treats
Cuban box pig
Snack foods from India
SC meets Vietnam
Little corner of El Salvador
Arepas from Venezuela
Indian sweets for Diwali
Korean at China Wing
Indian food in south Charlotte
Fort Mill — real Chinese
Ready for Laotian food in Charlotte?
Psst! There’s a European Market hidden just south of Ballantyne
Independence Boulevard, Monroe Road & environs
Nigeria in east Charlotte
Secret Greek grocery
Colombian BBQ & snacks
Detroit hot dogs
New York bagels
Iran Kabobs in Matthews
Ramen in Matthews
Russian picnic fare
Armenia in Matthews
Katayef – holiday dessert at Pita Kabab in Matthews
Crispy NJ pizza comes to east Charlotte
Central Av, Albemarle Road & vicinity
Dominican street food
Jamaican black cake
Somali stew and sides
Schawarma from Jerusalem
‘Tis the Season for Champurrado
Latino bakery feeds a region
Taste Monterrey, Mexico
Tamales in Plaza Midwood
One restaurant, three Latino traditions
Guatamala in east Charlotte
You buy – We fry
French/Vietnamese pastry arrives in east Charlotte
North Tryon, UNCC area & northward
Asian Moon Cakes
Beef on Weck from Buffalo
Dominican fruit shakes, pressed subs
Mexican ice cream
Louisiana Viet crawfish
Salvadoran comfort food
NYC pastries – Lake Norman
Vegetarian eats from south India
Indian Dosa Night
Middle East via Lynx
Bahn Mi Brothers
Turkish near UNCC
BBQ from Pakistan
Find a taste of Hyderabad at Nawabs Kebabs
The Patio at Our Lady of Guadalupe
NC fish camps
Grits & cornmeal
Laos in Kings Mountain
Multiple Places & Food Trucks
5 eateries for Black History Month
Charlotte’s International food scene
South’s Love Affair with Soft Drinks
5 Places to “Eat Northern”
Northern Favorites: Six More Eateries
Curry journey: Vietnam, Trinidad, India
Spiedies – Food Truck
5 best bites on Albemarle Road
Lao Sausages – Food Truck
Western Indian – Food Truck
Himalayan flavors – Food Truck
Shaved ice goes global in Charlotte