Best of Xela 2007

Odds are, you’ve probably been here for a month or two, studying subordinate clauses or helping blind, diabetic Mayans learn how to sew. You know, the whole gringo in Xela thing. When you’re out of class or needlepoint lessons, you generally stay at your host family house, writing in your journal, or venture out to the same tired places with the same tired people. Well no more. Our crackerjack staff has worked tirelessly, drinking until their livers failed, dancing until the wee hours of the morning, gorging themselves on foods they can’t even pronounce, to bring you the definitive list of all things great in Xela.

Best Coffee/Café : Baviera. With great coffee, soothing music and free high-speed wireless, it’s pretty much the unofficial XelaWho headquarters. (Runners up: El Cuartito and Casa Babylon)

Best Snack : Comida Taiwanesa. We’re not big advocates of fusion cuisine, but any place brilliant enough to combine eggrolls and empanadas certainly gets our attention. And at Q2.50 each, they’ll continue to do so. (Runners up: Pupusas and Elotes from Parque Central)

Best Inexpensive Meal : Blue Angel. Two huge burritos for Q15? Yes, please. As if that weren’t enough, their “theatre” shows two movies nightly. Click here for the schedule. (Runners up: Café Bolívar, Sagrado Corazon)

Best Restaurant : Sabor de la India. Surprising as it may sound, this really wasn’t close. They blend delicious fresh ingredients with Indian spices and even rent rooms. If we lived there, we’d never eat anything else. (Runner up: Royal Paris)

Best Romantic Meal : Panorama. The only restaurant in Xela that combines breathtaking views with romantic music and delicious food. Perfect for that extra-special evening with that backpacker chick you met last night.

Best Nightclub : Kokolokos. Love it or hate it, Kokolokos is where you probably end up, whether you know why or not. It certainly isn’t the warped pool tables. That said, if you’re a gringa looking for a Latin lover or a cazagringa looking to get laid, this is your mecca.

Best Nightclub (Alternative) : PalaLife Klishé. When Kokolokos closes, the party moves downstairs to this open-minded place of revelry. If you like strobe lights, glitter and Madonna – and who doesn’t, really – this is the place to be. Drag shows on Saturday nights are not to be missed.

Best Bar : La Taberna del Chivo. Featuring buckets of beer and 80’s rock ballads, La Taberna del Chivo offers all that is awesome about cantinas (cheap beer, relaxed environment) while somehow avoiding the angry bolos and knife fights. (Runner up: Tecun).

Best Salsa Bar : La Parranda. With its stylish layout, sexy patrons and great music, it’s probably the only nightclub in Xela that would do well almost anywhere else. We hear José will be opening another salsa club down the street featuring, among other things, pizza and beer. Bravo sir. (Runner Up: Duende).

Best Wine Bar : Bajo La Luna. Often overlooked, Bajo La Luna (below Café La Luna, entrance on 4 a Calle) is a charming brick cellar turned wine bar with a fine selection of meats and cheeses. We’re no experts on wine pairings, but anything beats vino a la caja with queso fresco.

Best Romantic Bar : Bari. Bari offers live music every night in an intimate, candlelit setting. And if your date sucks, an old man comes by each table to perform the best magic tricks you’ve ever seen. So cool.

Best Bakery : The Bake Shop. The undisputed king of the Xela baking scene, this Mennonite bakery gives us delectable donuts, choice cookies and yummy yogurt (but only on Tuesdays and Fridays). They make great banana bread and pies as well. Just be sure to get there early; the line of gringos and their language school teachers starts forming at 8:50am. (Runner up: The Breadbasket)

Best Bookstore : Vrisa Books. Great selection of inexpensive books and a friendly staff makes this bookstore number one. They also offer bike rentals for those just passing through. (Runner up: North and South)

Best Gym : Professional Fitness. “ProFit,” ironically enough, hasn’t been all that profitable; it’s the best gym in Xela that nobody knows about. With great views, solid equipment and 80’s techno music, we’re left wondering why.

Best Internet Café (Tie) : Xelapages. In a bind? Owner Tom Lingenfelter is extremely knowledgeable and always willing to help with anything from broken usb drives to web design to stock advice. He also runs, which is probably the best site on Xela out there.

Best Internet Café (Tie) : Infinito. The music is good, the (free) coffee is great and the chance to chat up cute Quetzaltrekkers is….sigh….priceless. As if that weren’t enough, the loft upstairs serves up independent films, beanbags and tofu. What’s not to like?

Best Hostel : The Black Cat. While Casa Argentina gets all the guidebook love and backpacker traffic, The Black Cat offers a better location (see map), free internet, a decent restaurant and well-stocked bar. (Runner up: Hostel Don Diego)

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