Cheap Good Eats ($4.50-$8/person and you won't leave the table hungry)
If you want to eat out well and on the cheap on Cozumel, it's easy to do -- just eat where the locals do. With a few exceptions, these little places cater mainly to people who live here.
Because we live on the island full-time and love to eat out, we've become particular experts in the Cheap Good Eats category. Our recommendations in this category fall into 3 groups: First, there here are the loncherias that are generally open from around noon until 5 PM Monday through Saturday. (Pictured Right, a huarache from Chilangos tacqueria on the 30 Ave..)
Loncherias sell a fixed price lunch known as "la comida corrida" (food on the run.). Portions are quite generous consisting invariably of chips and salsa dip, soup of the day, an iced drink which more often than not will be jaimaica and your choice of from 3-6 entrees which are usually written on a chalk or white board and come with rice, a small portion of steamed vegtables, tortillas and beans. Sopa de Lima, a traditional Mexican chicken soup might be your soup course if you hit the right day at a local loncheria.
Prices range from $5-$6.50 US for a meal that will fill you up for a Looong time. Latin Americans eat their biggest meal in the middle of the afternoon. Hence the big portions and the inexpensive, catering to the locals prices. Generally no English whatsoever is spoken at these places. But you can get by "pointing and grunting" at the blackboard menu.
If you want cheap eats in the evening, you'll be looking at anjojito (finger food) type meals and we've listed a few of our favorites in this category as well. Hit these places after 7 and much later is better. Here again these places cater to locals
Good, Inexpensive Restaurants that are open during the day only (Comida Corrida served where noted.)One restaurant in this section, Del Sur, is open days and evenings.
This is about as cheap -- and good -- as it gets. Breakfast or early lunch at one of the 5 or 6 little open air restaurants located in San Miguel's municipal market, El Mercado. (Salas between Ave 20 and Ave 25). Very popular with locals and a good place to get soft tacos where you point to your choice of up to 6 home-made fillings.
We like the two right out on the corner facing Salas although, for the past year, one of them has been turned into what looks like a very interesting Philippino joint catering primarily to cruiseship crew members from that country. We haven't gotten around to trying this one yet but the over the country menu looks fascinating. If you try this place before we do, how about some Feedback for this article??
We think this place serves some of the best Yucatecan food on the island and at prices that can't be beat. . Locals must think so too. Because whenever we're there we always see Mexican families in expensive cars pulling up at the door and sending one of the kids out with tupperware dishes to take home for the big meal of the day.
For between $3.50-$5.00 you get a delicious tall aqua fresca, a sopa (soup) and generous main course. They have a menu but the 5 or 6 specials of the day are listed on a blackboard. No English spoken here but it's worth making the effort to make yourself understood.
Very authentic Yucatecan cooking and the best Sopa de Lima on the island (at least that we've had so far.) Located on Ave 25 1/2 block south of the intersection with Morelos. Las Flamitas is the second and smaller of two , open-air restaurants you'll come to traveling south on Ave 25. Everything we've tried on this menu is good except the fish which doesn't seem to be their specialty. Lunch Only 11:30 to around 4:30 PM Closed Sundays.
San Carlos Pescaderia
Contrary to what you might think, fish -- and especially shellfish -- is not particularly cheap on Cozumel. In fact, you can get it for less in Florida.However in the little back garden of this fish market on Avenida 50 Bis between Calle 3 and Calle 5, you'll find pretty much the best prices in town for fabulously fresh fried whole fish and filets simply but beautifully prepared.The fish is sweet and very, very fresh--it's basically catch of the day, after all. And their ceviche is out of this world. RIGHT, Owner, and one of his waiters pose for a picture in the back garden with a pair of satisfied guests.
This is a very Mom and Pop type operation and they do an intense take-out business out front but have added 7 or 8 tables and a roof over the garden to create a very pleasant dining-in experience. A large fried snapper and 4 big pieces of snapper filet plus about a cup of totally fresh couch and octopus ceviche cost us $160 pesos -- about $15 US and that included 5 beers (but not the tip.)
It's true this place is a bit hard to find. But it's worth the effort! And, surprisingly, they speak English. Just tell the taxi driver you want to go to the San Carlos Seafrood market on 50 Bis between Calle 3 and Calle 5. Or you can walk -- 12 blocks from the waterfront. Just walk up Calle 3 and turn left on the street that's just beyond the big sports field and the school you'll see on your right. Last we looked they didn't even have the name across the top. But you can't miss it because you'll see a yellow awning and a big painted sign on top that says PESCADARIA (fish market) in large blue letters.
Another loncheria that's only open from noon until around 4:30 serving a changing selection of entrees served comida corrida (fixed plate) style. This is a family that's turned their attractive, middle-class and typically Cozumeleño-style home into a restaurant 6 afternoons a week. You may sit in the front dining area under a fan. Or walk through the kitchen and out into the back garden where there are other tables available.
On the way through, you'll go right through the kitchen. Stop and take a look at what's cooking on the stoves so you'll know what to order when the waitress brings the white board out for you to look at.
Food is excellent here. Prices around $50 pesos for the soup, entree with rice and vegtables and a drink. No English spoken, however. Located 1.5 blocks south of the downtown plaza on Avenida 5 between Salas and Calle 3. West side of the street right next door to a chiropractor.
This clean and attractive little loncheria which is open for breakfast and lunch also makes one special dish for each day of the week. You can order the special or choose from a menu of more standard Yucatecan/Mexican fare.Her pozole (chicken soup with spices and hominey) which used to be served only on Thursdays, is excellent. Located close to the downtown plaza on Rosada Salas between Avenida 10 and Avenida 15, north side of the street, mid-block. Open for breakfast and lunch 6 days per week. RIGHT, Pozole, a meaty soup with hominy that's seasoned with Mexican oregano and garnished with radish slices, is a speciality at Toñitas.
Paradise Beach Bar (Wild Side of the Island)
Not to be confused with the cruise ship-oriented Paradise Beach Club on Cozumel's west side, this small funky restaurant perches right on a gorgeous stretch of beach on the wild, eastern side of the island. Open only during the day because there's no electricity over there, local friends tell me this is a great place to get a big, juicy burger with a grilled onion on top served with fries, lettuce and tomato.. Freshly made, tasty and $50 pesos -- about $4 US. That with the location and you can't beat it with a stick. (Thanks Linda and Valli for this rec.!) We don't have a picture yet, obviously, but it's located right across the road from the Rasta Bar. On the beach very close to the entrance to Punta Sur National Park.
It's a one trick pony -- but what a good trick! A generous heap of crispy fried shrimp chunks on a soft tortilla smeared with black bean paste and topped with pickled onions and your choice of several home-made sauces. Open for a shrimp breakfast or lunch and a good place to stop for a fuel up if you're heading over to the wild side from downtown on the Transveral Road (the one that goes by the San Gervasio ruins) Watch for it on your right as you head away from downtown. It's nearly the last building you'll see before heading out of town and will be on your right and clearly marked. We don't have a photo right now but it's painted yellow and hard to miss.
Inexpensive Restaurants that are open Only in the Evenings.
Chilangos on Avenida 30
This merry little place really gives you your money's worth and is justifibly popular with locals. The specialty here is the huarache, a large, sandal shaped tortilla that is grilled and then generously topped with your choice of delicious home-made fillings including rajas (poblano peppers), nopales (cactus salad), mushrooms, potatoes and variously seasoned mixtures of finely chopped pork, chicken and beef. Then they sprinkle dry cheese and cilantro on the top. Two is a meal for many and they're around $15 pesos -- $1.20 -- each. Good lemonade and quesadillas. Beer also served. 7 PM until very late at night except Sundays
Located on Avenida 30, 4 blocks south of the big intersection of Avenida 30 and Benito Juarez.. east side of the street.
Practically right across the street from Chilangos (described above) Las Seras specializes in pastores (pah-STORE-eys), soft tacos piled with thin slivers of BBQ'd pork, minced onions, cilantro and fresh pineapple. Each one costs only 8 pesos -- around 65 cents.
Order a plate of 6 and you're set for dinner. Try the green avocado sauce which is delicious and not too hot. No alcohol here and the later you go the better. No English spoken but you don't need it. Just hold up your fingers for the number of pastores you want and say: "Pastores, por favor." (pronounced Pah-STORE-aize, pour fah-BORE). Dinner Only and best to go after 8 PM and on up until 1 AM in the morning and later. On the corner of Avenida 30 and Morelos (between Calle 3 and Calle 5) 7 PM until very late at night except Sundays
This roomy tacqueria which has an indoor and a back garden seating area is located across the street from the San Francisco D'Assis grocery which is on the corner of Avenida 30 and Juarez. Excellent tacos pastores here. We have a friend married to a famous local chef who swears by the "gringas" which evidentally are more or less the same thing--tacos pastore--but with lotsa cheese added. Only open at night from around 7 PM on. For the more adventurous, in addition to the more typical fare, this place also makes taco fillers featuring "cabeza de res" including eye, tongue and other parts which are favorites in Northern Mexico but not so much in the Yucatan. There is plenty of more mainstream items on the menu including quesadillas and various styles of tacos. Plus this place sells beer and is likely to be hopping to the max with locals late into the evening and into the wee hours.
El Foco (The Light Bulb)
We only recently discovered this great little joint downtown wedged between an internet cafe and a beauty supply house. 1/2 block south of the pedestrian only plaza on Avenida 5.
The specialty here is tacos. Try the house favorite variations. At $70 pesos/plate they give you an enormous amount to eat and its freshly grilled and very good. Carey's favorite is the Zarape which is grilled, minced porkchop mixed with grilled onions, peppers and melted cheese served on flour tortillas and we are not kidding when we say you get two full cups of delicious filling. This is one of the few tourist-area places in town where you get a good deal on really good soft tacos. Beer served also. If you're staying downtown or find yourself in the area at night, this is a great place for a good cheap meal. Stop in next door to Mocajetes and try one of their great Cuban drinks -- like the namesake mocajete made with rum and fresh mint.
If you want to try authentic Yucatan anjojitos "finger food" like the Cozumeleños eat--and at very reasonable local prices, stop in Monday through Saturday after 7 PM to "Gatitos" on Calle 7 between Ave 10 and Ave 15.
This is a quiet, residential neighborhood about 6 blocks from the downtown plaza. We can assure you, however, that despite the fact that the street is quiet and it is evening, you will be very safe wandering this area. We live 3 blocks away and Carey often walks over by herself for take out snackies as late as 10 at night.
We love the panuchos--chewably fried corn tortillas topped with black bean paste, shredded chicken and crumbly cheese then topped with chopped lettuce, tomatos and pickled onions. But the other items you'll see on the menu on the wall are equally good.
Sopa (soup) is delicious here, too.But don't order it if you're not hungry because the abuelita (grandmother) who rules the kitchen here with an iron hand will want to know what's wrong with her caldo "broth" if you send a bowl back that hasn't been licked clean. You will see a real cross section of Cozumeleños at this restaurant around 9:30 on a Friday night. Mayan families mingling with well-dressed Mexican couples who drove over in their new SUV's. No English spoken. At all. But you should get by fine by just ordering from the wall menu which also lists the prices. Panuchos are $8 pesos each at this writing. 3 makes a nice meal for an average appetite especially if you have sopa with it. This is a good place for take out also. (para llevar--PAR-ah yey-BAR) Dinner only M-Sat.