1. Mombacho Cigar Factory & Lounge
While the spiritual homeland of the Nicaraguan cigar industry is Estelí, Mombacho Cigars is proudly established in Granada. Named after the nearby dormant volcano, Mombacho is a young albeit ambitious brand.
Since its conception, Mombacho has been helmed by Claudio Sgroi, a proud Sicilian whose career began in the Dominican Republic with Davidoff. Embodying the spirit of the city, the brand moved into the once-abandoned Casa Favelli and began extensive renovation work while preserving its heritage.
Unlike many younger brands, Mombacho endeavours to stay true to its craft. All the cigars are rolled by hand without Lieberman machines and Claudio insists that old wooden moulds are used for producing their shape.
As a boutique brand, Mombacho relishes in subtle attention to detail. For instance, every cigar band is stamped with the date it was rolled. Similarly, Claudio has devised a unique concoction of organic banana vinegar that’s used to disinfect the cigars before they are packaged.
When visiting Mombacho, you can enjoy a tour around the factory and its facilities. Alternatively, you can unwind in Granada’s only true cigar lounge, which is simultaneously spacious and cosy. Here, you can even grab a nip of Flor de Caña rum or an espresso of Léon’s famous Twin Engine coffee.
Naturally, they sell their cigars on-site and you can walk away with a few boxes for the duration of your stay or even to take home with you.
2. Argencove Chocolate
Founded by two Australian families in 2017, Argencove produces some of the most refined chocolate in Nicaragua. Every batch is artisanally produced from their workshop kitchen and shop in central Granada and the cocoa beans are cultivated on their own nearby farm at the foot of Mombacho volcano.
Furthermore, they have developed an intriguingly symbiotic operation on the farm. Argencove’s CEO, Peter McFadyen, uses the grazing land to raise prize cattle whose beef is exported around the world. Their rich diet includes cocoa pod leftovers and they in turn produce nutritional fertiliser for the orchards.
Sally, Peter’s wife, manages the cocoa orchards and the bean-drying process. As a botanist, she uses her unique skills to grow naturally healthy trees and a create a balanced ecosystem. Similarly, Pete’s engineering background has enabled them to develop a sophisticated irrigation system.
Artisanal Chocolate Roasting
Meanwhile, Kirsty is Argencove’s culinary artist and personally oversees every bean roast from their FDA-approved kitchen. Using a reverse-engineered coffee roaster, she will taste a bean every two minutes during the two-hour process to ensure that they are at the optimal stage.
Following that, they husks are removed using an artisanal device that the team made themselves. Consisting of a power drill, a vacuum cleaner, and a wooden labyrinth, the beans and their shells are carefully separated. And, of course, the latter will be added to the cattle’s feed!
Although Kirsty quips that their venture began as a result of too much red wine while out camping together, Argencove was meticulously prepared. Unlike most entrepreneurs who create a business after moving to Nicaragua, they specifically chose it as it was the country most adapted to their project.
Nevertheless, the two families are nothing less than pioneers who left their lives back home to embark on this daring adventure together.
The result is an exquisitely-crafted chocolate that’s unctuous and rich in flavour. Argencove have worked tirelessly to create new and exciting batches so be sure to pay them a visit if you’re in town! Otherwise, a number of their products are now even available on Amazon.
3. Pita Pita [Mediterranean Restaurant]
Granada has become renowned for hosting some of Nicaragua’s best restaurants. During our stay, we made sure to sample a variety of the town’s delights. Nevertheless, we found ourselves regularly returning to Pita Pita.
A eclectic collection of various cuisines, Pita Pita defines itself as a Mediterranean restaurant by combining Israeli, Persian, Arabic, and Italian dishes. While you can enjoy one of their authentic wood-fired pizzas, you could instead opt for their homemade hummus with freshly-baked pita bread.
Similarly, their Shawarma and Palestinian kebab dishes were particularly popular among us!
While Pita Pita may be somewhat pricey for the area, it’s still an affordable restaurant compared to the United States and Western Europe. Additionally, the portions are generous so take care not to get over-excited with your starters!
Finally, the staff are very friendly and speak English as well as a number of different languages. You may also pay in US dollars instead of Nicaraguan Córdobas if you prefer.
4. The Garden Café [Arty Restaurant & Gift Shop]
While we had a preference for Pita Pita’s hearty dishes for an evening meal, we often stopped at Garden Café for their breakfast and lunch menus instead. Located just across the street from Pita Pita, it’s also very easy to find.
The Garden Café offers a variety of dishes made from fresh and rejuvenating ingredients from generously-filled sandwiches made with freshly-baked bread to refreshing salads. While there are hot meals too, we found that their cold options were ideal in Nicaragua’s heat.
Similarly, you can nip in just for a snack or a cup of Twin Engine espresso.
Like Pita Pita and many of Granada’s restaurants, the café is built around an old colonial private courtyard, which has been turned into a lush exotic garden. Philodendrons creep up tree trunks while birds will often bathe in the central fountain. It’s a wonderfully reclusive spot for a moment of relaxation.
Additionally, The Garden Café hosts its own gift shop, which is perfect for bringing back souvenirs for loved ones. Their wares include locally-made jewellery as well as handcrafted leather goods. Also, it’s a great spot to pick up a bag of Twin Engine coffee as they sell it too!
5. Picholine [Fusion Cuisine Fine-Dining]
Previously known as Miss Dell’s Kitchen, Picholine has just moved to a new location, which was formerly occupied by the restaurant, el Camello. Like some of the addresses above, the restaurant offers a variety of fusion cuisine inspired by ingredients and dishes from both Nicaragua and abroad.
Additionally, they specialise in seafood and go out of their way to procure the freshest fish from the Pacific coast. However, their meat-based and vegetarian dishes are treated with the same attention to detail.
If you’re looking for a fine-dining experience in a romantic environment, Picholine is worth seeking out. Offering exquisite food, it’s a more premium venue. However, the quality of the food, the candle-lit setting, and intimate setting are unparalleled in Granada.
About Granada, Nicaragua
Mainland America’s first colonial city, Granada was founded as early as 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba. Today, it is often regarded as Léon’s mirror image both politically and architecturally.
Firstly, Léon has a distinctively Castillan aesthetic with a historically left-leaning heritage. Meanwhile, Granada is known as La Gran Sultana due to its somewhat Andalusian image and has been often associate with more conservative politics.
As a result, the capital kept switching between the two sister cities depending on who was in power. This historical political rivalry even grew into violent conflict throughout the 19th Century.
Eventually, it resulted in the political factions agreeing on a compromise. The capital was established in Managua, which is essentially an equal distance between the two.
Isn’t Granada In Spain?
Indeed, Spain hosts its own Granada, which is the namesake of its Nicaraguan cousin. In fact, it was named in honour of the Catholic’s defeat of the Spanish city when it was still held by the Moors.
Geographically, is well-placed for the adventurer. Nestled into the coast of Lake Nicaragua, it is overlooked by the impressive Mombacho volcano, which is dormant but not extinct.
Furthermore, the 365 islets in the lake were produced when Mombacho erupted and blew away most of its cone several thousand years ago. One of the lake’s largest island, Ometepe, is celebrated as one of the richest locations for growing tobacco. Similarly, it was formed by two volcanoes.
A historical jewel, Granada is also cherished for some of the country’s most revered colonial-era architecture. Most of it is well-preserved and houses hotels, restaurants, as well as cigar factories!
Above is just a small selection of some of our favourite locations in Granada to try if you identify yourself as an epicurean. However, there is so much more to see! Both Granada and the rest of Nicaragua are rich and diverse with a variety of cultures.
If you’re planning to head to Nicaragua, feel free to post a comment if you have any questions! Similarly, let us know if you’ve been and a place that you loved has been omitted!
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