Specialty and Gourmet Foods - Cuenca Shopping Guide (Part 1)

Specialty and Gourmet Foods: Cuenca Shopping Guide (Part 1)

With a bit more time on my hands these days, I have found that preparing meals and cooking gives me a creative outlet and a more interesting diet and I also hear this from others. So, I am constantly on the lookout for the best ingredients. I began looking in earnest to build my personal “go-to” list of places soon after I arrived in 2017. With a renewed focus for this article series, it’s turned into a full-blown research project which I now see will not end anytime soon. 

My top-of-mind list was about 8 or 10 places but that list has ballooned to about 80! This article will cover just a few of my favorite specialty and gourmet purveyors and I will publish other categories in future installments.

My approach

In addition to my own list, I  crowdsourced many suggestions through Facebook posts and want to thank fellow expats for their suggestions, most of which will eventually appear in the series. One research finding is that we are obviously blessed with an abundance of excellent bakeries and bulk roast coffee shops. But there are just too many examples in Cuenca to do those categories justice so they are not included. If you have developed your own top 5-8 list in either category, send me your list with what you like about each and I will collaborate with you on an additional story for this series.

An important proviso is that we are NOT covering restaurants. With so many great places to choose from, that is an entire other article series and I have to sleep and eat sometimes, people! (OK – I am going to make another cup of superb Ecuadorian coffee in my french press to refocus before continuing. Ah – that’s better. )

The challenge we gringos face is finding the quality and variety of foods we came to love in the U.S.and Canada. Personally, replacing some flavors and tastes has become a bit of an obsession. Ecuador has amazing pork, chicken, veggies, etc. but to find the best and in the wide variety I want has compelled me to “shop hard” and identify many places over which my favorite ingredients are dispersed around Cuenca. 

There are no equivalent outlets to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or Costco which present enormous varieties of fresh, ultra-high quality meats, fish, vegetables, sauces, baked goods, spices, packaged meal kits, ad infinitum – in each of its locations. And owing to Cuencano tastes there is an understandable dearth of specialty “ethnic” shops for Chinese or Mexican items, for example. Megamaxi and Supermaxi bear the closest resemblance to Whole Foods’ type variety.  And they do a pretty good job of stocking the diversity we gringos crave but shelf space is justifiably devoted to pleasing Ecuadorian appetites.

Yes, we gringos have broad and insatiable palates. But there is hope for the desperate gourmands and gourmets among us. Like many aspects of life here, success requires a bit of footwork and patience. And if you shop hard enough, you will find (almost) everything you are looking for to satisfy the jaded gringo palate.

My goal is to make your search a little quicker and easier with this series by dishing out my recommendations and others from the community. And if you would like to suggest certain of your favorites, please drop them in the comments or email me along with what makes them special for you.

Let’s dig in.

Cuenca Shop -Tienda Gourmet

Specialty and Gourmet Foods_ Cuenca Shopping Guide - Cuenca Shop

Located together with King Smokehouse in Parque San Sebastian, “Cuenca Shop” is a treasure trove of products in a compact space.  If you have not visited recently, you owe yourself a trip to see how this place has earned so many accolades from expats.

The list of goodies includes an excellent selection of coffees, teas, wine, cheese, olive oil and other condiments, real maple syrup, mustards, tea, coffee, vanilla, horseradish, canned goods, beef, vitamins & spices.  It also offers a remarkable selection of hard-to find, ecuadorian chocolate brands and spirits like Bourbon, Scotch and Jameson Irish Whisky

Cuenca Shop is also a collection point for customers to receive Gran Roca Organic produce, Chan Chan Cheese and Ali Kitchen Orders.

Delivery is free for orders over $25.

Where to Find Cuenca Shop

King Smokehouse (located inside Cuenca Shop)

Specialty and Gourmet Foods_ Cuenca Shopping Guide - King Smokehouse

King Smokehouse only stocks the finest smoked meats, poultry (including turkey) pork chops ), pulled pork, lamb, sausages, meatloaf, and a local favorite, smoked bacon. Other goodies include biscuit and cookie mixes & corn bread.

Felix also offers whole and partial smoked turkeys, especially on holidays.

View their product/price list from June 29 2022. Delivery is free in Cuenca for purchases over $25

Where to Find King Smokehouse

Supermercados El Olivo

Jessica Enriquez who speaks English and some good friends from Quito opened this bright, airy and interestingly provisioned, “health food” store in the Paucarbamba neighborhood. The first thing I noticed was the visual appeal of the place. And a little closer look made it clear that the owners have done an excellent job of stocking brands and (fresh and nutritious) products to appeal to those looking for a broad variety of healthy alternatives.

The product range includes spices, meats, vegetarian “meats” and other vegetarian specialties, bulk grains, nuts and nut butters, veggies, fruit, wine, liquors, snacks, ice cream, cookies and other desserts, health drinks and more.  

Their facebook and instagram pages do a good job of presenting many of the choices. This instagram video is a quick overview.

Those looking for tasty foods that meet their dietary requirements will be delighted at the alternatives: vegetarian, keto, gluten, organic and sugar-free for starters. Delivery service is available. 

Where to find Supermercado El Olivo

La Yunta

Specialty and Gourmet Foods - Cuenca Shopping Guide - La Yunta

Most of us know about La Yunta Restaurant and Tienda and their reputation for great food and innovative furnishings. Tucked away on one side of the restaurant is La Yunta Deli, owned by Gota, sister of Sole Riquetti, one of the co-owners of the restaurant.

Gota does not have her own Facebook page so you need to visit to take in the unique variety of mostly imported delectables she stocks. But I promise it is worth a trip. Living fairly closeby, I have relied upon this shop for vital items like sugar-free maple syrup, canned water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, chili sauce, hot sauce, and PAM spray oil. No product list was available at the time of this writing but scan the photos to get an idea of the unusual variety Gota carries.

Where to Find Tienda La Yunta

Superstock

Specialty and Gourmet Foods - Cuenca Shopping Guide - Superstock

Superstock is quite different from the other places in this article as it is part of a business group, Jacome & Ortiz de Comercio, that owns a number of brands like Cafe’ Cubanito and Delverano and operates out of the building complex pictured below.  

Superstock is a bit like Coral in that it is a department store selling all kinds of household goods. But unlike Coral, Superstock offers a mind-boggling assortment of imported food and food-related items which are found on the ground floor. Not all of the selections are imported but many of their own branded items are such as olive oils and pastas, juices, yerba mate and frozen seafood from Spain.

The food products on the website are all in English with prices and photos so you can “pre-shop” before visiting. You may need to set your browser to translate to get English.

But I recommend a trip to see this foodie paradise for yourself.  I have spent more than a few hours wandering around the ground floor marveling at the depth and breadth of their inventory which is unique for Cuenca in my experience. 

They have a pretty extensive wine selection as well. It appears that restaurants purchase here as some items are supersized or presented in bulk quantities; and, wholesale price inquiries are encouraged.

Italdeli

Specialty and Gourmet Foods -  Cuenca Shopping Guide - Italdeli

Italdeli is well-known by expats for high-quality meats, poultry, seafood, vegetables and condiments. They sell some of their own brands as well as others. I enjoy shopping here frequently because they offer excellent quality and friendly, efficient service with lots of convenient locations. 

Because they are well-known in the gringo community, I won’t devote more space to them. They have a good Facebook page & website that translates into English if your browser is set to translate.

Next Time – Installment 2 of Rick’s Favorites

Next time I will feature the following great culinary sources.  I linked to their web pages so that you can take a sneak peek:

Wrapping Up

So, we finally published the 1st of our gourmet food series, which officially began 2 months ago. I hope you collected some ideas to broaden your own list of favorites. Cuenca is not New York or Buenos Aires (gracias a Dios) but it absolutely offers some truly fine food shopping. Please check out some of the places I mentioned and enjoy turning their products into some first-class meals.

After I finish up with Installment 2 of my favorites, I plan to explore some specific categories including Organic/Health/Natural, Mexican, meats, seafood, prepared meal elements, cheese, spices and chocolate.

Buen Provecho! 

6 Responses

  1. This is perfect timing. I have been looking for sugar-free maple and now I have two options. I never knew about Supermercado El Olivo and am anxious to visit. I live on Alfonso Moreno Mora, so it is “just down the street” on the other side of Solano.

    You need to include Luvimar in some article and for seafood there is Don Camaron on Alfonso Moreno Mora in the same block as ItalDeli.

  2. Loved the article, very helpful to a new expat like myself. That said, I took exception to the sentence “Because they are well-known in the gringo community, I won’t devote more space to them. “. I’m new here, so they aren’t well known to me and possibly others. I am looking forward to part 2.

  3. Wow, Rick, what a great and detailed search you did! Thank you so much! It’s so cool to see all the amazing options available for people in Cuenca. I can’t wait to just visit some of these places and shop. I appreciate this!

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