Monday, March 3, 2014

RESTAURANTS IN CUENCA ECUADOR - Todos Santos Church and Restaurant in Cuenca - THE BEST OF THE BEST!


Some of Todos Santos Restaurant's Remarkable Chefs

Bo and I LOVE to cook!  We cook and eat most of our meals at home because we like to eat healthy, want to stay within our monthly Cuenca budget, and also because, since we know GOOD food, we're pretty picky about finding restaurants that we consider fabulous and reasonably priced.

Of course we could go out to eat every day here because many of the restaurants charge $2 to $5 for a full course delicious breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  However, we like to go out occasionally and find that special restaurant we want to frequent because it's a treat, a celebration, an experience, and a great meal for a great price.  Yes, we do sometimes meet friends at a restaurant for a meal, or we sit down for a simple mid-day meal because we've been out and about doing errands and we're too tired to fix anything at home.  Yet, on a regular daily basis, we are home enjoying the fresh meats, fruits and vegetables from our neighborhood "mercado" which are then transformed into fabulous healthy meals, mostly prepared by my Chef Bo.
Platanos, carrots, and camote (a sweet potato) are in the three-tier basket.  Chard, red and green peppers, avacados, red onions, cucumbers, fresh pungent basil (what a find for 50 cents) leafy lettuce.  Wooden bowl abundant with local fruits including mangos, oranges, apples, papaya, and bananas.  All this produce for $11.50.  En Serio!!!! 

One of our favorite places to dine is at Todos Santos Restaurant on Calle Larga.  It is located in a 16th Century Convent, and the food is absolutely fabulous! Recently we went there with friends for lunch.  I asked the head chef, Mauricio, if I could come and do a photo shoot for my blog.  He immediately said, "Yes," with the offer to take Bo and me on a private tour of the restaurant, organic gardens, and church grounds.  We met Mauricio the following day before the restaurant opened, and what a fun time it was photographing this kind and friendly chef and one of the most amazing historical buildings in Cuenca.  Mauricio explained a lot of the history as he took Bo and me on our own personal guided tour.  It was another fabulous "behind-the-curtain" experience I will cherish, which I love about living in Cuenca.

So join us through my lens and then plan on stopping by to meet Chef Mauricio and enjoy experiencing his artistic organic cooking.  It will be a memorable meal in a quaint and historic atmosphere which you are sure to enjoy and will never forget!


Chef Mauricio Bernal has his own special place in the garden area where he like to go and "chill" before or after a long day of meeting, greeting, and serving the public.  His passion for his restaurant and its location was evident as he proudly showed us around this beautifully restored historic building.
Cobbled floors, antique pieces, and original woodwork grace the entrance with a rustic and historic feel.  The original building was built in the 1500's.  Though recently renovated, it boasts an old-world historic ambiance with many original features intact.
A huge double wooden door leading to a cafe-bakery is open to the public daily.  Their fresh on-sight oven-baked breads and delicious pastries are absolutely worth the trip.
The daily breads and sweets are.......
...... freshly baked in this over 100 year old historic wood-fired oven.  The master baker uses long wooden paddles to turn the breads for an even browning.
The public can purchase these delectables Tuesdays thru Saturdays from one of the only five charitable nuns living on the premises.  Apparently, there used to be 100 nuns living here.
Chef Mauricio took us through one of the many quaint dining rooms, and we climbed over the plants that barricade this staircase.......
.......walked down a little rustic hallway.......
......into a tiny room where, in the past, a newly received nun would be called to isolate herself for a year from the things of the world (yikes, no texting or internet).  This was her time to pray and be sure she wanted to continue her life strictly devoted to her religious faith.  Yes, this is where she slept - on that thin little mat on the floor.  Ouch! 

It was time to go down and tour the lush and grand organic garden from where all of Todos Santos' fruits and vegetables are harvested.  Mauricio's salads, vegetable dishes, and desserts are always organic, freshly prepared and so delicious!  The fabulous Tomebamba River runs parallel to this abundant landscape.

We walked along beautiful tiers of stone pathways adorned with cascading plants......
.....enjoying a fabulous view of this historic city!
The leafy lettuce were abundant and thriving.

Delicious plump berries.....

.....and more!  We witnessed a wonderful array of fruits!

We sampled one of many black walnuts ripe for the harvest.

The day was sunny and warm - perfect weather for a colorful fragrant organic garden tour!

Every few steps there would be another variety of juicy fruit or colorful ripe vegetable.

Some areas were ready for planting another rotation crop.

The lush grounds are planted, weeded and harvested by one of several gardeners.

As we circled around.....

.....the rustic garden grounds......

.....Mauricio explained to us that the nuns use some of the restaurant and bakery proceeds to help support this school adjacent to the Convent-restaurant.  They also support the poor.
We watched the children come out of the building for their daily recess time.  Children in Ecuador wear uniforms to school, and each school has it's specific uniform colors. 

It was time to head back to the restaurant, but difficult to pull myself away from the beautiful church grounds and this amazing sky and view overlooking the city.

Back at the restaurant, special cakes were being created by......

.....one of Todos Santos' master bakers.

A paper is formed into a cone and filled with a sweet fruit syrup.....

.....then squeezed onto the center of each cookie.

Five different fruit flavors were pressed while we enjoyed watching this antiquated process.
While the master baker decorated his pastries and cookies, this student chef prepped vegetables and greens for the soon-to-arrive lunch crowd.

All from that abundant organic garden!
Finally, the tour is over and Mauricio heads downstairs to the elegant dining area.....

.....to check on the table settings and ambiance and give it his final approval!

Todos Santos is located at Calle Larga 5-19 y Mariano Cueva.  

They opened October 1st, after a two-year renovation.  Go early and Mauricio will take you by the hand and show you around, explain the history, and seat you for an elegant and memorable meal.  On your way out, stop at the bakery to take home some of the delicious and unique breads and sweets. 

You can order a tasty and reasonably priced elegant lunch (above) in the day time. I had "Seco de Chivo" - goat that is slow-cooked for 12 hours overnight!  It was melt-in-my-mouth delicious and tasted like the most tender steak ever!   Buen Provecho!


  1. We love the Todos Santos restaurant. Gertie and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary in Cuenca for lunch there. So I loved your photo/tour of the building and interesting historical comments. Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Carolyn,
      Yes, it is a fabulous restaurant with such an historical atmosphere - and beautiful views! Everyone should experience it at least once! Glad you enjoyed the post, and keep on reading. More to come!

    2. Hola Linda, And a belated Happy Birthday! Belinda and I enjoyed a Christmas season lunch at Todos Santos, and were proudly shown around by Mauricio. He lived and studies culinary arts in Chicago, and speaks perfect English. Like you, we were very impressed w/ the vegetables growing outside our table's window. Very good use of the terraced ground. Mauricio pointed out how the oven's fire never goes out on account of the amount of wood and time to restart it! Wonderful story and photos, Linda, and I also thoroughly enjoyed your and Bo's hike in the Cajas w/ Fabian and his brother. Un abrazo! Jeremiah

    3. Hola Jeremiah,
      Gracias para el reconocimiento de mi cumpleaños. How wonderful you have experienced this fabulous dining place and were given a tour by Mauricio. Glad you enjoyed the script and photography. Yes, the Cajas Hike was another memorable time for both of us. I hope you and Belinda are embracing each day of your Cuenca journey and life.
      Con Amor,

  2. Hi Linda,

    Your blog was recommended to my by our mutual friend Sheila, and I have been very much enjoying it! I am a student in her Resonare music class, and she recommended I reach out to you. My husband and I are visiting Cuenca at the end of March on our honeymoon. I can be reached at zelsey@gmail.com, but I can't seem to find contact details on your blog... please send me a quick message- I'd love to connect! Warmly,

    Kelsey London

    1. Hi Kelsey,
      Welcome to our Blog! I hope you continue to enjoy reading about our Ecuador adventure, and that you will find what I post enjoyable and helpful for your upcoming visit. I will be in touch, and I look forward to meeting you when you arrive end of March.

  3. This restaurant and church look fantastic; my husband and I are so anxious to visit!! Speaking of visiting, we too, are preparing to depart Oregon (southern Oregon Coast) to Ecuador by year's end...provided we can get all the pieces together!!! Your blogs have been extremely interesting and it's such fun to read of former Oregonians (GO DUCKS!!!) in their new home.
    We are in the process of collecting all our documents and having them apostilled. Could you please send a quick note to me at kcjennings@hotmail.com so we can send some personal requests.
    We are living more economically these days and I guess that's preparatory to our departure from Oregon. We need some good tips of shippers, attorney services when we arrive, housing, etc. I don't think we are going to come for a visit first; it's going to be pack up here, get on a plane and arrive in Ecuador! Gracias!

  4. You have a great site for potential expats to get a feel for living in Cuenca. Very informative. I'm putting together a book about North American expats living in Ecuador and would like to know if I might use one of your posts in the book. I would give you full attribution of course, as well as a link back to http://boandlindainecuador.blogspot.com/.

    The working title of the book is "Retire Overseas - The Expat Retirement Living Guide (Ecuador Edition)".

    The book will feature first-hand accounts of people such as yourself who have made the move and who have valuable information to share with others who may be contemplating the same. It will be a compilation of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly so that potential expats get a realistic look at what they are up against when moving to Ecuador (or elsewhere). Directed primarily at Boomers, it will also feature sections on Ecuador Facts, Expat Families, Finding the Right Spot, etc.

    I will add your bio in the "About the Author" blurb at the end of any post of yours I use. I would only use one of your posts if permission was granted. You can write the "About" and it will have a link back to your site.

    It will be published for the Amazon Kindle marketplace and will include several accounts of expats such as yourself who are actually "living the dream" and providing useful information to other expats. Please let me know if you have any interest.

    Thanks very much,
    Greg Simonds

    Email: greg.simonds[at]gmail[dot]com


Leave us your comments and I will respond with any questions you may have. Enjoy our Blog! Linda (y Bo)