Cancun Restaurant Guide

Cancun Restaurants serving authentic Mexican cuisine are a legacy of one of the world’s greatest fusions of cultures and foods.

With over 600 Cancun Restaurants (not counting the sidewalk “fondas”) serving gourmet to homemade, you’re guaranteed a rare culinary experience.

Most Cancun hotels are all-inclusive; so, many people never feel the need to experience the many other fine (and expensive) proprietary restaurants along the 15-mile hotel zone. Offering American, Continental, Mexican and Asian fare, it’s a sure bet you’ll never go hungry.

Savor the subtle flavors of authentic Mexican cooking (what’s Epazote?) and delight in Huitlacoche, the Mexican Truffle (just don’t ask what it is).

Visit the sidewalk stands (check for running water) where the Senoras are making tortillas a mano (by hand), Quesadillas, Chilaquiles, Pozole, Cochinita Pibil, beans, rice and Mole. And, be prepared for the attack of the Taco Monster.

You will be served corn tortillas, the Native American “Bread of Life” at every meal whether you order them or not. Flour tortillas, a favorite in the States, are not so popular with Mexicans. The other Mexican staples are beans and rice. Refried beans (frijoles refritos) are served with many meals. Frijoles refritos are pinto beans that have been cooked and mashed, then fried again in a little (or a lot of) oil. Rice may be flavored with onion, chiles, tomatoes, and garlic. Black beans are “the other bean” often served.

Chilis have been a staple ingredient in Mexican recipes for thousands of years and are eaten on everything, including fruit. Mexicans cook with more than 200 different chiles ranging from mild to scorching. The chile of choice on the Riviera Maya is the Habanero, shaped like a yellow plum and one of the hottest. “Rojo o Verde (red or green)?” is a question that a waiter may ask you, referring to which color of chile sauce you prefer.

Jalapenos, tomatoes, and cilantro are mixed with Mediterranean staples of olive oil, garlic, onions, capers, and green olives to prepare Salsa Fresca and Pico de Gallo (rooster’s beak). The ingredients are chopped by hand and never blended. Limes are almost as important as chiles and appear in a great many dishes ranging from soups and salads to drinks and desserts. Mole is some variation of unique combinations of more than 20 ingredients including chilies, chocolate, sesame seed, peanuts, almonds and tomatoes and will be found on the finest Mexican tables.

Avocados, a Mexican favorite, are a wonderful health food with loads of “good fat” and a so creamy texture. Guacamole is avocado mashed with a fork by hand-mixed with chopped tomato, onion and cilantro and used on tacos, fajitas, salads, etc. I like to blend avocado smooth with sour cream and “consomme” (powdered chicken bullion), heat slightly in a saucepan and serve over chicken. A great. simple salad – blend an avocado (with powdered chicken bullion again) and lightly toss with shredded lettuce. That’s it. Try it at home!

The Mexican diet would be extremely healthy except that everything is fried, often in lard.

Masa is thick wet cornmeal that is flattened and cooked into tortillas.

Tacos are corn tortillas filled with meat and lettuce, tomato, onion, chiles and sometimes rice and beans. Authentic Mexican tacos often use radishes and cilantro instead of lettuce and tomato. The tortilla used in a taco may be hard (fried in oil) or soft (uncooked).

Quesadillas are wonderfully fat, fried, stringy cheese tortilla sandwiches. They may also be stuffed with meat, onions, cilantro and tomato along with the cheese (queso > quesadillas).

Enchiladas are corn tortillas usually with chicken or beef inside and oven cooked in mole or salsa with shredded cheese melted on top and rice and beans on the side.

Cochinita Pibil is a type of pork barbeque made with salsa, orange juice and achiote served on tortillas.

Chilaquiles are deep-fried tortilla chips, simmered in meat salsa and served with eggs, or beans, lots of melted cheese and sour cream, usually for breakfast.

Burritos are flour tortillas with beans, meat, and cheese inside. Burritos are a popular food item in the U.S. but are rarely eaten in Mexico.

Fajitas are like burritos an American favorite not popular in Mexico. In most Cancun restaurants the meat and grilled vegetables are brought out hot, while lettuce, tomato, fresh guacamole, and salsa are brought out cold in separate dishes. You then fill the tortillas with the desired ingredients.

Flautas are corn tortillas wrapped around chicken, pork, chorizo (sausage), or beef and deep-fried.

Taquitos are smaller versions of the flauta. The joke (broma) is that taquitos are made with dog meat.

Tamales are corn husks or banana leaves wrapped around thick masa which is filled with meat or chicken and seasoned with chiles and sauces – rolled, tied and steamed. Tamales are often eaten for breakfast.

Atole is a breakfast drink of thin cornmeal mush, milk, sugar and cinnamon usually sold on the street out of milk cans.

Pozole is a hearty chicken soup with hominy, vegetables, chiles, and oregano. Mexican’s love it.

Tostadas are flat, fried corn tortillas with rice, beans, meat, lettuce, tomato, chiles, sour cream and cheese piled on. A taco salad is the same except the fried corn tortilla is formed into an edible bowl.

Sopes, usually considered Antojitos (snacks) made of small, thick, fried masa patties topped with meat, salsa, cheese and sour cream.

Postres (cakes) cater to the Mexican’s “sweet tooth” and are marvelously fat. My personal favorite is the “Tres Leches” (3 milks), actually made with different creams.

Helados (ice creams) to die for!

A Typical Cancun Restaurant Breakfast Menu:

  • Local fruit, freshly squeezed juices, and just-baked bread and pastries.
  • Sopaipillas – bread that is rolled, fried and filled with honey or dusted with sugar and cinnamon.
  • Tamales with salsa verde
  • Chilaquiles – tortilla chips simmered in a chicken or meat salsa, covered with cheese, popped into an oven until melted, topped with sour cream and served with eggs or beans
  • Huevos Motulenos (Rancheros) – a corn tortilla with a fried egg, refried beans, peas, and ranchero sauce
  • Canasta Mexicana – eggs, cheese, peppers and chorizo sausage baked in a tortilla basket
  • Posters (desserts) – no meal is complete without them

Tacos and corn chips are great, but Cancun restaurants offer much more. Don’t be afraid to order something new.

Aprovecha! (Bon Appetit)

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