One of the best things about Mexico is its cuisine, which is a mixture of Mesoamerican and European cooking.
When cruising to Cozumel, don’t settle for the food served in the restaurants created especially for tourists. Instead, venture into downtown San Miguel and experience Cozumel’s top 10 (authentic Mexican) things to eat and drink.
Cochinita is pork marinated in a special sauce made primarily from the paprika-like spice, achiote. Be sure to ask for “cebollas” (pink pickled onions). If you’re feeling brave, add a little habanero sauce for heat. El Amigo Mario serves tortas de cochinita and more daily from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is located at 5th Street between 35th and 40th avenues. You could also try this dish around The Market (El Mercado) on Sundays, located on Rosado Salas between 20th and 25th Street.
We have the Mayans and their predecessors, the Olmecs, to thank for chocolate. Cozumel is rich in ancient Mayan history, so it makes sense that high-quality chocolate is available on the island. The charming shop Chocolateria Isla Bella (located on 5th Avenue, right next to Kinta Mexican Bistro) offers more than 20 different handmade exotic and traditional chocolate truffles, as well as Mexican hot chocolate, organic coffee, chocolate bars, raw chocolate treats, brittles, barks, pure vanilla beans, home-brewed extract and much more.
You can’t visit Mexico without enjoying delicious authentic (no hard shells here) tacos. No place is more authentic than The Market (El Mercado) in downtown San Miguel, located on Rosado Salas between 20th and 25th Street. Try “tacos de guisados” (homemade fillings), “tacos al pastor” (thin shavings of vertical-spit-roasted marinated pork) or “tacos de camaron” (shrimp tacos). El Camaron Dorado, found on the transversal road that goes by the San Gervasio ruins, serves incredible shrimp tacos and other seafood. Another good place to get tacos is Antojitos Mi Amigo Jose. And don’t forget, it’s practically Mexican law that tacos must be accompanied by an ice-cold Mexican Coke made with real sugar.
OK, it isn’t exactly Mexican, but it’s still a must. El Chef, located on the corner of Fifth Street and Fifth Avenue — just a short walk from the Ultramar ferry dock, serves this unique sandwich. With indoor and outdoor seating, this small, inviting eatery features mostly pasta and seafood dishes, but the sandwich is a real standout.
Yucatan is the state one over from the state Cozumel is located in (Quintana Roo), and the dishes that come from this region of Mexico are unique. At Las Flamitas, located on 25th Avenue, a half block south of the intersection with Morelos, get a tall “agua fresca” (more about this later), soup and a main course for around $5. Las Flamitas is only open for lunch, from 11:30 a.m. to around 4:30 p.m., and it is closed on Sundays.
Ceviche is fresh raw seafood cured in lime juice and combined with chopped onions, chopped tomato and cilantro, and, if you’re lucky, chopped chili pepper. It is normally eaten with “totopos” (tortilla chips) or saltine crackers. This is the ultimate Mexican beach food. Pescaderia San Carlos serves a mean ceviche at 50 Avenue bis, between the Rosada Salas and 3 south streets. They are open until 8 or 9 p.m. Wash your ceviche down with an ice-cold Mexican beer.
Pozole is a stew with hominy that's seasoned with Mexican oregano and garnished with radish slices. It’s hot and spicy and delicious. Oh, and it’s great for a hangover. Pozole is typically eaten on Mexican Independence Day, but it is available year-round. Try a steaming bowl of pozole at Toñita Comida Casera (comida casera means homemade food), which is located on Rosado Salas Street between 10th and 15 North.
Aguas frescas are non-alcoholic beverages made from fruits, cereals, flowers or seeds blended with sugar and water. They are light and refreshing. Try horchata (rice), jamaica (hibiscus flower) or tamarindo (tamarind). Aguas frescas are available at most of the restaurants mentioned.
A margarita is the quintessential Mexican cocktail. A true margarita is made only with tequila, triple sec and lime juice. If you like the frozen variety, head to Wet Wendy’s Margarita House and Restaurant. Their margaritas are all handmade with fresh and real ingredients and include flavors like peach, pineapple, cilantro and the usual suspects. Wet Wendy’s is located on 5th Avenue between 2nd Street and Juarez.
There is nothing like fresh Mexican baked goods, a.k.a. pan dulce (sweet bread). You’ll find it — and European delights — at Zermatt Bakery, located on the corner of 5th Avenue and North 4th Street. Take a seat and order an espresso, or get your order to go. Locals love this place too because the prices are very reasonable. Zermatt is closed on Sundays.