Just got back from nearly 2 weeks on Isla Mujeres. With nothing really pressing to do on the island, most days were spent planning what to eat next. It was a fantastic trip, filled with very very good food. Here are some favourites:
- Velazquez. Up Medina, Velazquez is just about the last seafood place on the beach side of the street. We ate there 3 times and it was always good. Had whole fish, fish fillets, shrimp in garlic mojo and a la diablo - all delicious. Not recommended: garlic crab. Too much work for the amount of meat and besides I cut my finger on one of the shells, making it difficult afterwards to squeeze limes for afternoon Margaritas. Fun, stupid finale to every dinner is the free "tequila" shot the bring around - pink ones for girls, blue ones for boys - topped up with some kind of horrid fizzy drink. You're supposed to down it in one gulp while everyone around says "GO GO GO GO GO!" Hilarious and silly.
- Picus. Another seafood place, nearer to the ferry. Also very good. Not sure which we liked better - both of these places had very fresh, very reasonable fish and shellfish.
- Taqueria Cachirul. Down in Colonia La Gloria. Fantastic tacos, tortas, quesadillas with every topping in the book (plus a few that we couldn't identify). Do not slather your taco in the medium green-brown salsa on the far right like my husband did. I thought he would burst into flames. Fortunately, the very good liquado he had ordered helped somewhat. FYI each liquado comes in two separate glasses, making it essentially two servings. Ridiculously cheap.
- Mercado at Colonia La Gloria. Much better market than the one in El Centro. More vendors with better produce. ALSO the most killer cochinita pibil on Sundays which you buy by weight. Pick up some fresh tortillas, tomatoes, onions, avocados and it's a fantastic lunch.
- Playa Lancheros. Ok this place just tipped us over the edge. We went to spend the day at the beach and have their well known fish "tix n chix" (or whatever it's called) for lunch. There were 6 of us and we all ordered the fish. They called us to the table when the food was ready and someone brought out a gigantic tray with a grilled grouper the size of a coffee table. It was unbelievable. The fish was coated in (I think) achiote paste and other stuff and incredibly good. Even after we all ate as much as we could, there was still as much left as before we started. We took the leftovers back to have for lunch the next day but honestly it was ridiculously huge. If you go there, order half as much fish as you have eaters and you'll still have more than you can finish. I'm sure we didn't spend more than $15 per person, including beers.
- La Lomita. I liked some of it but our friends didn't so much. I think it was the heat - it was a hot evening and the pollo mole and chile rellenos just felt too heavy. Also - and this is just a suspicion here - when I ordered the pollo mole he originally said they were sold out. Then, two seconds later he said we could have it. Ten minutes later a young guy comes running in the front door with a handful of tetra-packs of store-bought mole sauce (he was trying to hide it but I got a glimpse as he passed). I have a hunch that this was maybe an emergency mole run and the chicken tasted a little microwavy. I'd like to go back and give it another try next time but I am suspicious. ALSO - and this I do know for sure - one other day I stopped in by myself for dinner in a rainstorm and had only a chile relleno and a beer and I was overcharged by about double what it should have been. Since I'd only just arrived on Isla, I didn't question it and paid but on the second visit I realized what had happened. I'd like to think it was a mistake.
- El Veradero. This is NOT the place along the Garrafon road, although there's another Veradero restaurant along there. We had originally stopped in for mojitos one afternoon on the way home from the beach. The place is really out of the way and you do have to be looking for it (and asking around) but we eventually found it. The mojitos are excellent. So we decided to go back for dinner another night. It was good - fish and sort of Cubanish sides - lovely vibe with a wooden veranda overhanging the lagoon. Very lively crowd arguing, from what I could gather, about Castro. Very fun.
- Cafe Hidalgo. Not the kind of place I would have picked to go to but one of our friends raved about the crepes there so we went one day. The crepes were delicious and beautifully presented with lovely fresh fruit. On the main pedestrian street - Hidalgo.
- Kash Keken Chuc. Great grilled chicken and pork. Mostly take-out. This place was a five minute walk from where we were staying so we got lunch stuff from there a couple of times. You get a whole grilled chicken with some rice, salad and a weird bean soupish thing for about $8 or so. Along the Garrafon road near the Coca Cola plant.
There were other meals. Other tacos. Other street food. There was one night when my husband had promised this woman that we'd come back to eat at her little place with tables set up on the sidewalk and we had a great meal practically in the middle of the road. She offered everything from tortas and tacos to Chinese and Thai food (we passed on the Asian stuff). I had something called a huarache, which was a homemade tortilla topped with a whole pile of things. It was good and the experience was very funny. The place has no name and there is no way to distinguish it from all the other taquerias and carnitas places on the island except that it's in Salina Chica and her husband cooks everything on a single burner on the sidewalk.
Great breakfast at the mercado in El Centro. One of the 3 food stalls outside the market - Alexy y Giovanny - makes awesome breakfasts with excellent fresh orange juice but bad coffee. Most other days we had breakfast at the house where we were staying with the most outrageously good fresh fruit from the market - mangos, pineapple, papaya, bananas - and yogurt and cheese and fresh juice and good coffee (which we made ourselves). Just for the record, however, it appears to be impossible to get plain, unsweetened yogurt in Mexico. Even the "natural" yogurt, which one might assume is plain, has had sugar added to it. Oh well. It went nicely with the fruit anyway.
I came home with my suitcase full of dried chilies, salsas and a big package of achiote paste (determined to make cochinita pibil). I prayed that the smelling-eye-dog at the airport wouldn't notice me and, fortunately, he wasn't there when we arrived because I'm sure he would have gone nuts. A great trip with great eating.