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Isla Mujeres


Holly Moore
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I'm renting a villa on Isla Mujeres for a couple of weeks next month. Though the place comes with a kitchen and a bbq I plan on eating out most of the time. Looks like there are some great options.

Any recommendations on where/what to eat? Where should I shop for groceries? Food prep recommendations / cautions?

Any other thoughts on Isla Mujeres?

And, for a question never before asked on eGullet, does it make more sense to rent a scooter or golf cart?

Gracias,

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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it's been a few years since I've been there, and we stayed in a B&B, so don't know about groceries, but as I recall, the food was excellent--and almost any place that looked good, was good.

sorry, I don't remember any names--and there weren't big signs--there was a little hole in the wall lunch place that had great tacos and delicious aguas frescas, and the places for dinner would show you some fish and you'd pick one and they'd grill it for you.

it was a sleepy place when we were there--I hope it hasn't gotten too built up.

report back--I'd love to hear about your visit.

and about the transportation--the roads were pretty rough--I would think a scooter rather than a golf cart.

Zoe

Edited by zoe b (log)
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I was there several years ago and we stayed at the Villa Rolandi which included dinner, so we ate there almost every night. The food, atmosphere and service are all very good there if you are looking for an upscale dinner. We did venture out one night for dinner to Casa O which was very nice. We requested a table by the water. Both restaurants overlook the water and are more of a fine dining dinner.

Susan

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  • 1 month later...

I ate consistently better on Isla Mujers than just about any other place I've ever visited. Good and great meals. Not one regrettable meal. And at one restaurant I fulfilled two of my long time Mexican food quests - best ever Chiles Rellenos and best ever chicken with mole sauce.

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Isla Mujeres is a small island, about 5 miles long and 30 minutes by ferry from Cancun. It is the diametric opposite of Cancun - not one American chain restaurant. Only a small 7-11 where the ferry lands and they don't even sell Slurpees. There are a few cars and trucks, but most everyone gets around on scooters or golf carts. Laid back and once one escapes El Centro and the day-trippers from Cancun, more village than metropolis.

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Had many good breakfasts on the island. The most original was a cazuela invented by the owner of Cazuela M&J. A cazuela is a cross between an omelet and a souffle - eggs and milk whipped together, poured into a shallow clay dish, topped with cheese and heated fast in a very hot oven. It arrives at the table, bubbling and steaming. Takes a minute or two to calm down. I had one with shrimp, mushrooms and fresh herbs and another with ham and mushrooms. Cazuela M&J is on a buff overlooking the Caribbean. A perfect breakfast spot.

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My favorite breakfast was at Color de Verano - feel of a French cafe. They serve breakfast and lunch, close for a while and then open up for desserts and coffee. I ordered the European breakfast. Perfect soft boiled eggs with three fresh baked and toasted mini-baguettes - one each of ham, salami and cheese.

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Elements of the Island is a healthy food restaurant that, along with the yogurt, birchmuesli, and posters for yoga classes serves a healthy portion of crisp bacon. One of my breakfasts there - fried eggs atop roesti potatoes.

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Every morning, after breakfast, I picked up a couple of slices of fresh baked banana bread and the occasional brownie at Aluxes Bakery and Cafe in El Centro. There are two or three kinds - a choice of plain, coconut, nut, and/or chocolate chip. It is packed full of bananas and so good that it is usually sold out by 10 AM.

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As mentioned earlier, one restaurant, on the outskirts of El Centro, La Lomita, prepared the best chiles rellenos and chicken with mole sauce I've evern had. The mole sauce was incredibly complex and not nearly as overbearing as that I've had in the U.S.

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La Lomita also introduced me to Sopa de Frijoles - bean and rice soup topped with avocado, onion, tomato, cilantro, lettuce and fresh cheese. Incredible.

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Another lunch was at Playa Lancheros which is on the beach of the bay between Isla Mujeres and Cancun. Folks head there in the morning, swim, break for lunch, and swim some more. They are famous for the tix'n xic - red snapper brushed with achiote paste and grilled crisp. They also make guacamole to order. Best I had on Isla.

Other lunches were at restaurants that along the bay in El Centro, Isla Mujeres main business area. Isla Mujeres started off as a fishing village and many of the boats dock and unload right in front of the restaurants. It is amazing how many large fish a boat holds after a day of fishing. The menus at all these restaurants are pretty much the same - fresh fish and seafood.

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One lunch was a medium size shrimp cocktail at Picus. It is served in an old fashioned sundae glass. The shrimp are aswim in a simple syrup like liquid that tastes of shrimp stock. On top a classic cocktail sauce.

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At Mininos I had the mixed ceviche - shrimp, squid and octopus.

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Valaquez is a Cuban restaurant on a narrows that runs between the bay and a lagoon full of marina's. It is located in a marina. Hard to find. I asked a guy coming out of a shack for directions, he said "aqui." February and March the waters off Isla are rumored to be the best in the world for sailfish fishing. Every day the fishing yachts cruise in and out the narrows by Valaquez. Great lunchtime entertainment while sitting on the porch that hangs over the water. For lunch, an Isla classic, available at just about every restaurant - red snapper sauteed in butter and garlic.

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Kash Keken Chuc is Isla's version of a take-out restaurant. Pork cutlets, ribs and chicken marinated, grilled and sold by the quarter, half or full kilo. Regulars pack their own orders and ring it up on the cash register making their own change.

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Sunday's only, Tino's or "the rib man" starts up his grill behind a wall off one of the side streets in El Centro. Menu's the same as Kash Keken Chuc.

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My favorite dinner on Isla - Mixed seafod and rice at Sanchosos - Shrimp, conch and squid in a Creole like sauce less the okra. Fantastic flavor.

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The ongoing debate on Isla is which place serves the best tacos al pastor - Ballpark Tacos or Taqueria Medina. Both as far as I'm concerned. Ballpark Taco has the best fixins bar though, including marinated nopal cactus.

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At Ballpark tacos I had two al pastor and one chorizo taco. The green strips are the cactus.

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At Taqueria Medina again two al pastor tacos and, at the servers suggestion, a barbecue taco on a corn tortilla.

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I celebrated my last night on the island with a Bimbo dog. Alas, the source of the name is not what one might hope. Bimbo is the name of the bakery that supplies the buns.

For more some other restaurants and more pics of the places listed here, where else but Isla Mujeres at HollyEats.Com

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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  • 3 weeks later...

¡Gracias!

Holly, this was a beautifully timed post. My DH and I will be in the area in April, and I've already put your list into my Treo! Hopefully, I'll be able to add to your recommendations.

You made me hungry!

Barb

Barb Cohan-Saavedra

Co-owner of Paloma Mexican Haute Cuisine, lawyer, jewelry designer, glass beadmaker, dessert-maker (I'm a lawyer who bakes, not a pastry chef), bookkeeper, payroll clerk and caffeine-addict

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  • 2 months later...
  • 5 months later...
  • 1 month later...

Most raves I've heard are for a Mediterranean restaurant Olivia

Also on my list for this trip - Qubano for Cuban and a small spot, El Publito, near the south end of the island for Mexican home cooking and a great "Aztec Soup."

Baseball Tacos has moved to La Gloria. M&J Cazuella may be back at its original location by the time you get there or it may still be in its temporary location on Hildago in the same complex as the gelato place, La Coppo del Mundo.

And the HSB bank on Isla no longer exchanges dollars for pesos. To avoid paying excess exchange rates at the change bureaus pack an ATM instead of hard currency.

Have a great trip. If this is your first visit to Isla, you're going to come away hooked.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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  • 1 month later...

I'll be on Isla for another two plus weeks. Here are some highlights to date.

A new restaurant The Mango Cafe has opened on the Caribbean Road. It would be a great restaurant anywhere and fits right in on Isla Mujeres. The cuisine is Mexican-Jamaican-Caribbean-Anywhere Else fusion and Lori, who owns it with her husband, has a great touch for bringing a dish together.

Breakfast my first day was oven baked french toast. "Oven Baked Conch Pastries soaked in eggnog liquer. Sprinkled with caramelized almonds and served with Orange Rosemary Syrup. Almost like a super rich bread pudding.

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Went back for lunch a couple of days later - had a BLGT - Bacon, lettuce and tomato with avocado and green apple guacamole, on whole grain bread with homemade mayonnaise to which Lori adds honey and rice wine. Green apple is a perfect addition to a BLT.

Lori also makes fresh Tamarind juice and brews her own Jamaican Ginger Ale.

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Sunday morning on the Yucatan Peninsula means Cochinita Pibil - pork marinated in citrus juice, colored with annato seed and slow roasted. There are roadside stands all over Isla that sell it till it runs out - usually by noon or earlier. I went to the public market in Colonia La Gloria - one stop for everything - cochinita pibil from the butcher, tortilla from the tortilla bakery and fresh orange juice from a produce stand.

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More to come.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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  • 2 weeks later...

Still more great eating on Isla Mujeres.

Qubano owner Vivian is cuban but here accent is pure New York City where she first settled after leaving Cuba. She ended up a few years ago on Isla Mujeres and despite not having cooked for twenty-five years decided to open a restaurant. She is the exception to the rule that experience is a must.

First time there I had what Vivian calls a Teston. A good friend's husband couldn't eat bread and he was begging for a sandwich. "She'd kill me if I fed him bread," Vivian explained, "So I decided to see if I could use plantain instead of bread."

She slices the plantains lengthwise and sautes them until they are firm. Uses them as bread and fills the sandwich with sauteed chicken and caramelized onions. Brushes the top plantain slice with Mojo sauce - sour orange, garlic and onion in oil. A creative and delicious sandwich that can be eaten as a sandwich.

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I came back for Qubano's Cuban Sandwich. Vivian roasts the her own pork and saves the juices and the fat. When a sandwich is ordered she adds a bit to a pan and sautees the pork in its juices. This goes into the Cuban Sandwich along with the other traditional fixings. Where Cuban Sandwiches can sometimes be dry, Vivian's is juicy - a great improvement.

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Had dinner at Olivia, a Mediterranean restaurant opened by an Israeli couple. Busiest restaurant on Isla - only place where reservations are a must.

Started with labane, yogurt strained into a cheese, served with green olives with lemon and pita bread.

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For my entree, Chicken with Olives. The chicken is braised in red wine and tomatoes and served over couscous. They serve two thigh/drumstick quarters - no dryer, white meat.

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Dessert - Baklava - perfect.

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The Bistro Francais serves breakfast in the morning, closes for lunch and reopens with French cuisine for dinner.

Their french toast is really good. Nothing fancy or frilly. Just french toast. Perfectly cooked.

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Another time had what they call the "Breakfast Surprise" - one slab of french toast and two fresh fruit filled crepes topped with maple cream sauce.

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Plenty of Mexican home cooking too including fish tacos and enchiladas Suize from Rene and Renee

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Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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  • 2 weeks later...

Fantastic to hear about the newer joints, Holly!

It kills me because the guidebooks I work on just came out in new editions in the fall--I probably visited right before Qubano and Olivia opened. Arg.

What's up with Cazuela M&J? Why'd it move, and is it back in its original spot now?

Zora O’Neill aka "Zora"

Roving Gastronome

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Fantastic to hear about the newer joints, Holly! 

It kills me because the guidebooks I work on just came out in new editions in the fall--I probably visited right before Qubano and Olivia opened. Arg. 

What's up with Cazuela M&J?  Why'd it move, and is it back in its original spot now?

Now you have reason to return, Zora.

Cazuela M&J will not be returning to its original location on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean. Their old location was at the Roca Mar hotel which changed hands. The new owners upped the rent and I hear wanted a different sort of restaurant.

Cazuela's food is just as good at their current location, but I'm hoping they find a place less hidden.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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  • 2 years later...

Just got this short restaurant review in my email today (below). We'll be heading down there next month too - so we're interested in some new or updated information as well!

Our Restaurant Review: Limón Restaurante

Limón is the brainchild of Sergio Martinez and Charrissa Gillingham - formerly of Sergio's on Playa del Sol. It is situated on the ground floor of their pretty family home, near the Super Express in la Glorias. (If you are looking at the Super Express, turn to your left, and look for the terracotta-coloured house just up from the corner.)

Out of a possible 1 to 5 Forks - we've have awarded Limón the following.

Food: 4 Forks - My Seared Tuna was fabulous as were my Mussels. L. had delicious Beef Carpaccio and a Trilogy of Rosemary Kebabs with beef, chicken, and shrimp. His only difficulty was in removing the meat from the skewers - maybe a little spray 'pam' would fix that

situation.

Ambiance: 5 Forks - lovely inside, and in the garden

Service: 5 Forks - with the exception of one forgotten beer - perfect!

Wine: 3 Forks - one red and one white, good wines, but limited selection

Value: 4 Forks - $800.00 pesos for the two of us including tip and wine

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I read about Sergio's place on the Isla Mujeres Bulletin Board . If you're not familiar with it, lots of good info on restaurants and everything else Isla. From this page go to either Q&A Postings" and/or "Isla Chatter."

Have a great trip. I'll be the big guy on the small scooter sporting bright orange goggles.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Hah! Will look for you. We'll be there for just a week toward the end of Feb. Just so you know, I've used your blog as a holy bible on Isla for a couple of years now. The cochinita pibil at the market in la Gloria is fantastic.

I'm sure you've done the tic n chix (sorry can never get the spelling right) at the restaurant at Playa Lancheros (I know it has a different name now). Last year there were 6 of us and we ordered the fish for lunch. What they brought us was a perfectly grilled fish about the size of a coffee table. It was delicious (and dirt cheap). We took the leftovers back to the place where we were staying and my husband disgusted us by hauling it out to eat for the next three days. By day 3, we made him eat it away from where we were sitting because we couldn't stand the smell of it anymore.

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For some fine dining I'd recommend Rolandi --> http://villarolandi.com/isla-mujeres-fine-dining-restaurants-casa-rolandi.php

I'd also recommend the stalls beside the market (a street up from Hidalgo) for a terrific breakfast and great hangover food. Breakfast and lunch only ( I didn't read the whole thread so this may have already been mentioned).

The whole place is pretty dynamic so there's always places opening up and closing, especially in a fragile economy. Have fun, my wife and I have been going there for years and it's always fun.

For something different I'd also recommend a day trip to Zama. It's a beach club near Rolandi, on sac bajo, just a little further than the tortugana. Last time we visited there was a cover charge, but it was subtracted from your drinks, so not really a cover charge. They just want to make sure people who come and use the amazing pools, hot tubs and beach, buy food and or drinks while there. We had a blast at Zama and will definitely go back.

Do a day trip to PDC too, it's a cool town.

Edited for a shout out for Velasquez! Never missed a trip to this place on the beach. 2 for 1 margaritas, fresh seafood galore and family owned for 28 years (maybe 29 now?).

Love that place! If you meed Gilbert be nice to him, he's an awesome guy.

Edited by Trev (log)

There are 3 kinds of people in this world, those who are good at math and those who aren't.

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Tell me about Zama. Gone past it but never in - a little intimidated by the fanciness of the place (we're pretty low end types). What is the cover charge to use the beach club and what's the restaurant like?

Agree completely about Velasquez. Great seafood - and then they do that ridiculous "tequila" shots thing at the end of your meal. We discovered that the pink ones (for girls) and the blue ones (for boys) are pretty much the same. Very funny.

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The Isla restaurant I m most looking forward to for a return visit is El Veradero . A bit hard to track down - it sits on the Macax Lagoon. Easier to find with a Mapchick Isla Mujeres Map - $10 well spent for anyone heading to Isla.

El Veradero is Cuban. Great Fish, even better mojitos. Basically a shack that hangs over the water. Cooking happens a couple of shacks away. Perfect way to let the afternoon float by. The tropical restaurant of everyone's mind's eye.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Tell me about Zama. Gone past it but never in - a little intimidated by the fanciness of the place (we're pretty low end types). What is the cover charge to use the beach club and what's the restaurant like?

Agree completely about Velasquez. Great seafood - and then they do that ridiculous "tequila" shots thing at the end of your meal. We discovered that the pink ones (for girls) and the blue ones (for boys) are pretty much the same. Very funny.

Zama is really cool. It's pretty new and the pools are infinity type pools with cascades and Jacuzzi tubs above. Kinda hard to explain the set-up but it's lovely with a great view. I believe the cover charge was fifty bucks for the two of us (actually 250 pesos, about 20 bucks now), but after a day there it's no problem recovering that money. We felt it was really worth it. The service was excellent and the staff really friendly, too. I had to go out to visit a friend the day we were there but my wife stayed behind to swim and drink. She was comfortably numb by the time I returned later, so they're definitely putting booze into the drinks. The change rooms and showers were clean, as were the washrooms. I can't say much about the food as we only had the comp chips with a few kinds of salsa (we went after lunch). The reviews may expand on that a bit.

There are some pictures and reviews on tripadvisor --> http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g150810-d1732148-Reviews-Zama_Beach_and_Lounge-Isla_Mujeres_Yucatan_Peninsula.html

We love the after dinner 'poppers' at Velasquez! I think you're right that the pink and blue are the same. When they slam them down on the table and you've only got a second to get it into ya, well, you just know it's party time! :laugh:

Love the food there! Last May we took in ~30lb of fresh Mahi Mahi after a great days fishing and they prepared it for us 4 different ways. We likely ate about 6 pounds of fish but told them to keep the rest for personal use, or to use at the restaurant. They were happy and we were stuffed. Over the years we've come to be friends with the family that owns it and look forward to a visit there every time we go.

Edited by Trev (log)

There are 3 kinds of people in this world, those who are good at math and those who aren't.

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Hi Holly... not sure what your experience is with Mexican cuisine but neither tacos (as photographed above) or Enchiladas Suizas remotely comprise home cooking... my memories of Isla & the Yucatan is that Yucatecan and Mexican home cooking are very hard to find in all of these tourist traps... I know you like the dining out but I would highly recommend on your next trip hiring a local cook to shop from the market and prepared what she (or less likely he) would prepare at home... the food will be drastically different (and typically better) then what you are going to get dining out. With few exceptions, even in Mexico City which by far has the most developed restaurant scene in the country... home cooking far surpasses the quality of restaurant dining.

The agent you use to book your condo should be able to provide several recommendations.

Salud y Buen Viaje!

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