If you want the best steak of your life, you’ll need to travel to the small Salvadorian town of Juayua. Don’t even try to pronounce it… not even the locals can agree on a single way, but the two most common pronunciations go something like (WHO-ah-you-ah and why-WHO-ah). Anyhow, just say, “that town with the food fest that no one knows how to pronounce,” and everyone will know exactly where you are talking about.
After our stay in Ahuachapán, my best friend and I made our way via chicken bus about an hour down the Ruta de Flores to this quaint little town. Like most Central American towns in the countryside, everything happens around the main square with an opulent Catholic cathedral dominating the “skyline”.
Juayúa used to be a predominately coffee producing region, but with the decline in worldwide coffee prices, the Salvadorian government initiated a successful campaign to diversify revenue streams in this region. Now Juayúa is probably the most visited tourist city along the Ruta de Flores, and even locals from San Salvador make their way northwest each weekend to enjoy the food festival known as Gastronomia.
The food is as delicious and varied as the name of the festival is unflattering. I’m normally not one to experiment with street food in Central America, but I even tried some rabbit while walking the streets around the central square, and honestly, it was pretty freaking good. Those Salvadorians certainly know just the right spices to make the tongue dance.
We stayed one night in a beautiful little hostel/hotel (Hotel Anahúac) renting a nice private room for about $25. There was no AC, but honestly the temperatures at night were low enough that it didn’t matter even for two spoiled Florida guys in the middle of April. Arriving on Saturday, we dropped out luggage off in the room, and promptly headed to the central park about three blocks away for our first taste of Salvadorian street food. The vendors gladly gave out samples on little toothpicks… much like Chinese food places in American mall food courts. After making our rounds, I decided on some steak which came complete with potato salad and some type of beans. It was the best piece of meat I have ever had. James settled on a seafood medley that looked absolutely disgusting, but he ate it all and I think he may be pickier than I am about what he puts in his mouth.
The setting is beautiful, and the people watching is top-notch. All in all this was one of my favorite excursions in Central America. If you ever have the pleasure of making your way to Central America, this is definitely the place you want to spend the weekend stuffing your face—Gastronomia in El Salvador!