When it comes to Mexican food or classical eats in Cancun, you can opt for street food, the typical comida rapida, a menu del dia type of place, or you can spring for the Yucatan specials where the fares are high but the food is unique. After a few years in the city, the following are three solid options representing the best of each type.
Ya-Estas! is a typical street-type vendor that sells a variety of cultural favorites, ranging from sopas to tacos to enchiladas to chilaquiles to tortas and beyond. Their prices are reasonable, and the staff are always incredibly friendly. They are mid-way between the Ramada Inn and Market 28 on Avenida Sunyaxchen, on the same side of the street as Market 28 (on the left if you are walking to 28 and on the right if you are coming back to Centro from 28).
You can see their menu and hours of operation at http://www.ya-estas.com Prices are fairly typical for most of the things on the menu, although a few things can be a little more expensive if you are looking to eat one of the specialty items. They also have amazing fresh-made juice as well as your typical soft drinks. NOTE: Prices on their website are in pesos, not USD
This is a little Mexican restaurant that has some of the best traditional fare you are likely to eat while hiding out in downtown. The prices are also impossible to beat. While they do not have a website, it is very easy to find, as it is just a few blocks beyond La Parilla on Yaxchilan Avenue, between La Parilla and Uxmal Avenue on the same side of the street.
Any taxi driver will know how to get you there, so it is very easy to find. You can either sit outside and order your Mexican food off the menu, or you can find the hidden gems that most tourists never experience, which is the inside salad bar and all-you-can eat combo that only the locals know about because it is not mentioned on the menu.
Walk into the restaurant and simply pick a table. Take your plate and walk over to the salad bar and load up on whatever it is that you want, then return to your table. A waiter should be by shortly to ask you what you want to drink, and to show you the available soups and dishes that are included in the combo.
You can also ask for the combo if for some reason they don't mention it, but the very fact that you went to the salad bar and loaded up makes them assume that you want the combo. For 55 pesos you get all-you-can-eat-salad, your choice of all-you-can-eat soup, as well as a main dish that usually consists of either fish, chicken or pork along with beans, rice and a sauce, plus an all-you-can-drink fresh water/fruit blend-of the day. You can also opt for the salad and water only, which is 25 pesos.
As far as their menu goes, the prices are somewhat touristy, but there are a few things on the menu that are priced for locals, usually tacos, burritos and enchiladas. No matter what Mexican food you choose to eat here, the food is always phenomenal and the prices are easily some of the cheapest in Centro. Authentic Mexican food and Yucatan specialties.
If you have money to burn and don't mind spending the same amount of cash you would back home, La Habichuela is without a doubt one of the best restaurants in Cancun. There is one in Centro as well as one in the Hotel Zone, but I would recommend the Centro-based location any day of the week simply because I feel it has a better atmosphere and clientele, since you are rubbing shoulders with locals rather than only tourists.
Bear in mind that the prices here are fairly high, so you will spend 35-50 USD per person, minimum. However, the blend of Caribbean and Mayan specialties makes this without a doubt one of the premier places to go if you want gourmet cuisine, and they have one of the largest wine selections in the city. No matter how long you are staying in Cancun, I recommend putting aside the time and money to visit this place at least once during your stay.
The author of this article, Tim Anderson, lives in Cancun. His book offers valuable insights not only for expats, but also for those of you that would like to vacation there...short stays or for a longer duration.
For more information about Tim Anderson and his travels, visit Marginal Boundaries
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