Part of the student experience is of course, going out and experiencing the social scene of wherever you’re studying. In Quito, the place to go for gringos and Ecuadoreans alike is the Mariscal, Quito’s only bar and restaurant district. There are all kinds of places from the most rowdy dancing joints to more chill bars and restaurants and even karaoke. The area centers around Plaza Foch, the intersection of Reina Victoria and Mariscal Foch, two blocks from 6 de Diciembre.
For a quiet night in the Mariscal, Coffee Tree in Plaza Foch has outside heaters for sitting and people-watching and great two-for-one drink specials every night of the week. Right next door Dragonfly is a similar atmosphere, but more expensive. Strawberry Fields Forever is a Beatles-themed bar one block from Plaza Foch and around the corner on Jose Calama. The drinks are reasonable and the music is a little loud for conversation, but it’s a good mix of classic and current rock.
Several bars offer trivia nights which start between 9-10 on different nights of the week. Fin McCool’s on Reina Victoria south of Plaza Foch has trivia on Wednesdays. As its name indicates, it is an Irish bar with an intimate feel and is a great place to go to celebrate St. Patty’s Day while in Ecuador. On Thursdays, Mulligans on Calama does trivia with proceeds benefitting local charities, lasting until close to midnight.
If you are out to farrear, or party, start out at Brau, right on Plaza Foch. They have unlimited beer for an hour for $7, a mix of 80s and current pop videos blasting, and even pool upstairs. Head over to Chupitos for shots starting from $2; it’s a small, dark bar that you could miss if you don’t look closely. Above Strawberry Fields is the Boot, a bar with an atmosphere similar to Brau, playing loud pop music and is the only place I’ve seen in Ecuador with beer pong tables, adorned with the faces of Correa and Obama. Bartenders will gladly provide solo cups and pitchers of beer for those looking to show off their beer pong or flip cup skills. Beware of the infamous Boot fishbowls, a dangerously sweet and fruity bowl of alcohol which has claimed more than one respectable international student.
When it’s time to go dancing or sing some Karaoke, the Mariscal has a plethora of options. The Bungalow on the corner of Reina Victoria and Joaquin Pinto is a three-level dancing joint. The drinks are expensive, and cover is $5 except on Thursdays, when entrance is free until midnight. Wednesday is ladies’ night, and they offer free admission for ladies and good drink specials for everyone. The music is a great mix of reggaeton, US top-20 hits, dance music staples, and salsa. Tequila Sunrise, next door to Strawberry Fields and the Boot is another good option, with lots of salsa and reggaeton all night.
After a night of drinking or dancing, visitors to the Mariscal are bound to be hungry. There are Shawarma places all over the Mariscal, offering chicken and lettuce wrapped up in pita bread with ají and mayo sauce until about 2am when most close up for the night. Hot dog places, like Los Hot Dogs, are also common in and around the Mariscal. Be sure to get a dog with all the fixins like marmelada de piña. The hidden jewel of Mariscal munchies is Taquitos. Located on the far side of Joaquin Pinto, follow the florescent light toward Mexican food heaven. For around $2, satisfy your late night cravings with a plate of three taquitos, which are small soft tacos filled with your choice of chicken, beef, mixto (both meats), or veggies. Or, go for a burrito with the same filling options. Top either with the salsa (not ají like most places) and you’ve got the perfect end to a night in the Mariscal.
The classic Ecuadorean drink is Canelazo, a hot combo of aguardiente (an anise or licorice-flavored liquor) and mora (the ubiquitous ‘berry’ flavor) or orange juice. There is a small shack on Jose Calama which offers 2 x 1 Canelazos every day of the week, but it is served all over the Mariscal. Bars serve all the classics: mojitos, cuba libres (rum and coke with a twist of lime), etc. and of course everyone’s favorite Ecuadorean beers, Club and Pilsener. Pilsener is your basic amber brew, a lot like Budweiser or PBR. Club is the poor man’s Heineken, and neither are too bad at all.
Naturally there are places outside of the Mariscal to have fun at night. Naranja Mechanica, is a local favorite. The movie-themed bar-come restaurant-come art gallery is a very low-key place to spend a night hanging out with gringos and Ecuadoreans alike. Shawarma Kings in Tumbaco is the valley’s PREMIER shawarma, beer, and darts place. The owners, Ahmad and Kurt are always around to play darts and chat. They are converting their backyard into a concert venue and the second floor into a tattoo and piercing parlor, so soon USFQ students will never have to leave the valley. The late, great Reina Victoria was an Ecuadorean-run British pub about 4 blocks from the Mariscal with darts and fun staff. It was recently sold and only the future will tell what will replace it.
To the Ole Miss bunch heading out to Quito this summer- hope this is a helpful guide, have fun!