A gastronomic adventure in Xalapa, Mexico / Veracruz
You will probably be staying in this sprawling, industrial port city one night at the most, en route to Xalapa. It’s not a total drag: Veracruz has a charming and lively downtown, especially the main square, where musicians serenade every night and the locals dance. But it is hot, dusty, and steamy, and considered by most to be simply a waypoint. Eat in Boca del Río, the bustling restaurant, club, and hotel zone just south of Veracruz proper, near the mouth of the Río Jamapa, then hang out at one of the cafés on the Plaza de Armas (corner of Av. Independencia and M. Lerdo). Get up early for café lechero (coffee with milk) and the omelet in turkey broth at Gran Café de La Parroquia (Av. Gómez Farías No. 34, 229-932-2584), hit the big food market Mercado Hidalgo (corner of Hidalgo and H. Cortés) early for a viewing before it gets too hot, and hightail it for Xalapa.
Any cabbie, or someone at your hotel desk for that matter, will know where these restaurants are. All three serve excellent seafood—to come to Veracruz and not feast on local fresh seafood would be a serious mistake.
El Negro de EsteroCarr. Anton Lizardo Boulevard Isla del Amor s/n Pasando del Puente del Estero
Reliably fun, with great drinks and freshly caught seafood.
El VaraderoCorner of Zamora and Orizaba, Boca del Río
This is the place to order arroz a la tumbada (seafood and rice).
Las Brisas del MarJuárez Boca del Río
The best of the lot, with a huge selection of seafood in a dizzying number of dishes.
Hotel LoisBoulevard A. Ruíz Cortínez No. 10, Boca del Río
Snazzy and modern architecture with a quasi-minimalist décor, in the heart of the Boca del Río area; 124 rooms; $80-plus.