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Let's speak bluntly: Honduras is not known for its cuisine. It does not have the creative culinary background and diverse regional plates that, say, Mexico or Peru has. Yet, if you look around and even go off the beaten track a bit, there are some absolute gastronomic gems. The national dish of Honduras is a mountain of food, the plato típico: a heaping, carb overload of beef, plantains, beans, marinated cabbage, fresh cream, and tortillas. Anafres, a refried black bean and cheese fondue served in a clay pot accompanied by tortilla chips, is the favorite appetizer in the country. Sometimes chorizo is added. Like tacos in Mexico or pupusas in El Salvador, the baleada -- a folded wheat flour tortilla filled with beans, crumbled cheese, and sour cream, and sometimes beef, chicken, or pork -- is a snack food found everywhere in the country, including in fast food restaurants, street-side stalls, and many typical restaurants. In the highlands, chuletas de cerdo, or pork chops, are on most restaurant menus, as are steaks and other beef dishes. In freshwater lakes on the mainland, especially Lago de Yojoa, fish -- usually tilapia or sea bass -- are fried whole and served with plantains. The term "estilo de Yojoa" can be seen all over the country and generally signifies a fish fried in its entirety. Pollo frito, or fried chicken, is another extremely common meal and can be found across the country.

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Hondurans like to eat. They eat three meals a day, and none of them are light. A typical breakfast, or desayuno, is filling. Eggs (usually revueltos, or scrambled), a slice of fried ham, thick tortillas, cheese, refried beans, and plantains are served with fresh-squeezed juice and coffee. A morning meal on the run might just consist of a corn tamale and cup of coffee. Cereal is catching on in parts of the country, as well. Lunch, almuerzo, is generally served between noon and 2pm, and for most, it's the biggest meal of the day. The plato típico is what many see every day, though most restaurants have a variety of options, including the plato del día, a set menu with a main course and several sides, much like the plato típico but smaller. Dinner, or cena, is served between 6pm and 8pm, and for many is the lightest meal. It might be a sandwich or baleada, or even just a licuado, a sort of fruit shake. Almost every meal is served with rice, refried beans, and a basket of warm tortillas.

Fast Food

Sadly, multinational fast food chains dominate the landscape of many Honduran cities. American fast and casual chains like McDonald's and Applebee's can be found in and surrounding malls, which are also widespread, across the country and along most major highways. Many American-style grills, usually run by expats, can also be found in major tourist areas and generally have a mix of both Honduran and international dishes. Greasy, fried potato chips and other snacks are common; however, a more local flavor is a bag of tajadas, or fried plantain chips served with a slice of lime and salsa.

Garífuna Cooking

On the North Coast and the Bay Islands, Garífuna restaurants -- often just beachside champas, which are thatched-roof wooden shacks often on stilts -- are well known for their tapado, a seafood stew made with sweet potatoes, malanga, yucca, and plantains. Pescado al ajillo, grilled fish in garlic sauce, along with ceviche, conch, and stews, are made with coconut milk and served with cassava bread, and shrimp in a dozen preparations are also enjoyed along the coast. Pan de coco, or coconut bread, is served with every Garífuna meal.

Lencan Cooking

While the Lencas are the largest indigenous group in Honduras, their unique recipes are almost entirely contained along the Lenca Trail near Gracias. Tamales, steamed corn dough stuffed with different ingredients, are big here. Ticucos, a tamale with legumes, beans, and the herb loroco, are common, while a tamale called chorocos can be found only in San Manuel de Colohete. Different types of chorizos, pollo en crema de locro (chicken in loroco cream) and lengua de res (beef tongue), are standard plates. Only one formal restaurant I know of serves a wide range of traditional Lenca recipes: the outstanding and mostly organic Rinconcito Graciano in Gracias. Elsewhere, you can find these dishes in family homes and small eateries along the trail.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

As you may have guessed, coffee is consumed throughout the country. Coffee is one of the major cash crops of Honduras and production is concentrated in Olancho, in the Copán Valley, in the South, east of Tegucigalpa, and also along the North Coast. Larger operations, such as Café Copán, export around the world, while smaller gourmet and organic brands, such as Café Welchez, cater mostly to tourists. Nearly all coffee served in Honduras is freshly brewed, and Nescafe is nowhere to be found. It is almost always served black with too much sugar -- at least, in my humble opinion. The restaurant chain Espresso Americano is a U.S.-based chain that has become the unofficial Honduran alternative to Starbucks, although it is considerably cheaper. Inside, you will find a range of common coffee drinks, like cappuccinos and macchiatos, as well as pastries and light snacks.

To help combat the heat or just to fill your belly between meals, there is nothing better than a licuado, a blended milk and fruit shake. Aguas, or refrescos, are also common and blend fruit with purified water. Horchata is a sweet milk-and-rice drink, sort of like a hot rice pudding, that can be found in the western part of the country.

Alcohol

Beer is probably the libation of choice at bars and restaurants across the country. While you can find standard international brands such as Heineken and Budweiser almost everywhere, most opt for the local brands, all brewed by the same company: Cervecería Nacional. The two most common are the light, smooth Port Royal, a pilsner in a green bottle, and Salva Vida (Life Saver), a lager served in a brown bottle. Imperial, also a lager, is the heaviest of the three and is the choice beer of the south and Olancho. The indie facility at D&D Brewery at Lago de Yojoa is the first microbrewery in the country and serves several different brews, though it can be found on tap only at the brewery and in one restaurant in Copán.

Guifiti, a traditional drink that combines alcohol with medicinal plants, is consumed at festivals and to cure ailments in Garífuna communities on the Bay Islands and along the North Coast. The country's favorite spirit is the rotgut aguardiente, sometimes called guaro. The town of Yuscarán south of Tegucigalpa is the main production center and home of the El Buen Gusto factory.

In the Bay Islands and all along the Caribbean coast, rum is the drink of choice. There are no major Honduran rum producers; however, Nicaragua's excellent Flor de Caña can be found everywhere, and they have a distillery on this side of the border.

Wine, while obviously not produced in Honduras, is becoming more and more common among the middle classes, and you'll find a growing number of wine bars and expanded wine lists at restaurants.

Honduras's Favorite Snack: The Baleada

In El Salvador, there are pupusas. In Mexico, there are tacos. In Honduras, there are baleadas. The simple version consists of a flour tortilla that has been put on a grill, which kind of tastes at times like -- as much as I hate to say it -- a thinner version of one of Taco Bell's chalupa shells. It's slathered in refried black beans and a bit of fresh cream and grated farmer's cheese, then folded over. It's the any-time-of-day snack. You can have one for breakfast and they add eggs. On a 10-day rafting trip on the Río Plátano, my guide served them with whatever meal he could get away with. In San Pedro Sula, which has more fast food joints than anywhere I have ever been, a few chains -- such as Baleada Express and Super Baleadas -- serve up massive baleadas filled with anything you want: avocado, sausage, plantains, bell peppers, onions, chilies, pork, jalapenos, and more.

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