Even after having spent a few months in Tenerife, and having eaten at well over a dozen of them… I’d be hard-pressed to explain exactly what a guachinche is. But here’s my best shot: an inexpensive, no-frills restaurant that serves hearty Canarian cuisine.
I had thought that the word “guachinche” must somehow be related to the guanches — the original inhabitants of the Canary Islands, who were conquered by the Spanish in the 15th century. But that missing “n” in the root syllable bugged me… “guach” is not the same as “guanch”. A better explanation might be the one found on Wikipedia. Suspicious and covetous of the best local produce, English merchants would warn the Canarians, “I am watching you”, which was transcribed as “Hay un guanchinche” in the local language.
That might be a stretch. At any rate, in the parlance of Tenerife’s modern visitors, “guachinche” should be understood as shorthand for “excellent, affordable, local cuisine”. These restaurants might as well be advertised with a red hexagon, because every time we saw a sign for a guachinche, we came to a full stop.
We had originally planned to write about our favorite guachinches on the island, but soon realized that wouldn’t really be necessary. The most exciting thing about them, is the fact that they’re uniformly great and affordable. I suppose Canarian cuisine isn’t wildly complicated; if you can throw garbanzo beans into a pot, you’re a natural. So the discerning factor is popularity and atmosphere.
Our favorites were Casa Nene in Anaga, La Cueva de Casiano in Tegueste, El Monaguillo in Candelaria, El Ramal in Orotava, and the Risco in San José de los Llanos. In general, the north of Tenerife, and especially the Anaga region, are known for their guachinches — we discovered a lot of great ones in and around Tegueste.
Make sure to show up hungry, because portion sizes are generous … and if you have a favorite guachinche of your own, please share it in the comments!