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Guate Gualan has been open since 2015. Photo: Guate Gualan.
Guate Gualan has been open since 2015. Photo: Guate Gualan.

Without any authentic Guatemalan restaurants in city, Veronica Lopez opened one in the heart of North Philly

Guate Gualan in North Philly is a family business full of love for their country’s cuisine.

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Philadelphia is a city known for its food, both plentiful and diverse.

But for a long time, it lacked authentic Guatemalan restaurants that offered original recipes from the Central American country.

That is until Christopher Lopez’s mother, Veronica, entered the scene with Guate Gualan. 

“My mother noticed how there weren’t enough Guatemalan restaurants in Philadelphia, a lot of people had to drive out to Trenton to be able to enjoy the cuisine,” said Lopez, manager of Guate Gualan.

The trip to Trenton was about an hour from Philadelphia, which was very inconvenient for families who had little ones to feed.

“My mom is very passionate about serving the food that she was taught cooking,” Lopez said.

The business was established in March 2015 with the promise that Veronica would stay true to her roots and deliver impeccable dishes that represent her country.

“My mother came to Philadelphia in the late 1990s, she had a tough process getting here,” he said.

Lopez was born and raised in Gualan, in the department of Zacapa where her mother and other generations of women in her family taught her how to cook.

She brought the love of food and family to her restaurant.

“My sister and I work at the restaurant and are always there, my mom runs the kitchen along with three other cooks who are from Guatemala and Honduras,” he said.

Lopez described the cooks who help his family eatery as a major part of their business. 

“They really support us,” he said.

Since the opening of their restaurant, many people from different backgrounds have been curious to try Central American cuisine because of the lack of accessibility to it.

“Our cuisine is not that common, a lot of customers who come in always have a lot of questions about our food,” said Lopez.

The family business has been staying optimistic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are indoor dining right now, but there is a limit,” he said.

Like other small restaurants in Philadelphia, many owners have also resorted to outdoor dining, but given the bitter winter weather that Philly is experiencing, many restaurants have closed the option

“We can’t do anything about the weather, we just have to wait until we can 100% reopen inside,” said Lopez.

If you are not comfortable dining in, Guate Gualan is also offering takeout services.

One of the best things to order is the ultimate special named after the restaurant.

“We put chorizo, marinated pork, carne asada, rice and beans on a platter, this is really popular because you get a lot for what you pay for,” said Lopez.

Another interesting and authentic alternative is the churrasco de harina, a customer favorite that consists of a flour tortilla with grilled meat, cabbage, scallions, sauce and dried cheese served with beans and avocado.

“We plan on opening a second restaurant in the future one day,” he said.

If you want to support Guate Gualan check out their menu, or visit their spot that is located on 182 W Olney Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19120

Your tastebuds will thank you! 

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