Southern USA cookin’ at the best BBQ in Guatemala

Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen

My spouse had a hankerin’ for ribs or some other type of meat. He found out about a barbecue in San Pedro on Lake Atitlan and it hit the spot so right – we’ve now been there twice. That says a lot because I don’t eat meat, and I’m not crazy about barbecues.

'best bbq in guatemala'

It’s called Smokin’ Joe’s BBQ. On Saturday, the barbecue is held in Panajachel from noon to 4:00 p.m. On Sunday, it’s in San Pedro. We went to the San Pedro location behind Cafe Chuasinaje both times. It’s on the road parallel to the lake, near the public dock for boats to Santiago. The sign out front says “Best BBQ in Guatemala.” That’s probably right. It may be the only BBQ – but it’s still worth a trip.

It features the standard barbecue fare – pork sandwiches, rib slabs, hunks of chicken and meat, burgers, even fish. And there is a pretty darn nice spread for us non-meat eaters as well: salads, mac ‘n cheese, mushroom burger, and all the other fixin’s offered to everyone like corn on the cob and cornbread (cornbread wasn’t offered on our first visit). Smokin’ Joe’s has great macaroni and cheese. A sign says just one serving per person – everyone loves it.

Plates of food come with a generous serving of meat and unlimited sides from the buffet. They cost around 60 to 100 quetzales, depending on your meat order, or about $8.50 to $14 USD. Vegetarian option plates are about 50 Q, or $7 USD. Free refills on most side dishes. Drinks are an extra dollar or two at the bar by the pool, depending on your poison. The menu is on a giant chalkboard near the grill station and it clearly states no take out.

A few tips to pass along from my two visits:

  • Go early. By 3:00 p.m., things are winding down. And, both times we went they ran out of mac and cheese.
  • Place your order and pay, then wait for your name to be called on the loud speaker, which isn’t that loud.
  • Seating is whatever you can find.
  • Watch out for the flies – they are everywhere. Don’t let your food sit around unattended.
  • Be prepared for people to ask you for donations or to sell you trinkets. The BBQ is held in an open lot on the side and beyond a coffee shop. Anyone can come and go as they please.

For entertainment, one time a band was there, another time there was just old 80’s music on a stereo system. Feel free to chat with expats – there are many who live in and around San Pedro in addition to travelers. There also is a small pool on site.

Go with an appetite and have fun!


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