Cancún may be known for its coast, its splashy resorts and its sizzling nightlife, but this city is also a top-notch dining destination. Some of the most celebrated chefs in the world, like Michelle Bernstein, Martin Berasategui and Cristian Morales, to name a few, have opened culinary outposts close to our world-famous beaches. However, you can’t leave Mexico without trying authentic Mexican food. Fortunately, Cancun offers several restaurants—from market stalls to sophisticated eateries—that will give you a taste of the cuisine of Mexico and the Yucatán.
A standout in the Cancun dining scene since 1977, La Habichuela has been delighting locals and visitors with gourmet Mexican cuisine in a pleasant setting. Request a table at the leafy Maya garden and explore the expansive menu, which skews toward local seafood but also includes Mexican staples like bean soup (prepared daily since the doors opened), chicken in a mole sauce, and arrachera norteña (skirt steak with refried beans and guacamole). But you might want to skip all of these dishes and opt for La Habichuela’s most famous dish: the Cocobichuela. This flavorful and aromatic dish combines chunks of lobster and shrimp cooked in curry sauce, topped with tropical fruits and served in a coconut shell.
Located next to La Habichuela, Labná celebrates the Yucatán Peninsula both in cuisine and décor. The replica of a Mayan Arch, a marvel of ancient engineering, ushers you into an expansive dining hall where you can dine on regional fare such as poc chuc (a simple and tasty local specialty comprised of sliced meat—usually pork but also turkey, chicken or beef—marinated in sour orange juice, grilled, and served with chiles, pickled onions and tomatoes), and papadzules (the local take on enchiladas). If you want to try a bit of everything, go for the daily buffet.
If you want a culinary adventure in a rustic setting, head to downtown Cancún’s Mercado 28. This popular market sells a bit of everything, and is home to El Cejas, a large, open-air eatery that specializes in seafood. Come for the fresh seafood cocktails, ceviches, coconut-crusted shrimp, and other specialties. This is a rustic yet colorful spot where you’re likely to be serenaded by roving musicians as you dine on fresh, simple and tasty fare.
This relatively new eatery pays homage to classical Mexican cooking with contemporary flair and creative artistry. Start your meal with elote, the street vendor’s take on corn, served with epazote (an aromatic herb), Cotija cheese, mayonnaise and a hint of habanero. Continue with a bowl of birria, or goat stew; molcajete (a variety of ingredients cooked in a stone mortar); or for something more casual, a torta ahogada, a sandwich stuffed with shredded pork or chicken and citrus-marinated onions, and drenched in tomato sauce.
A national mini-chain of urban cantinas, La Destilería is a fun and casual place where you can sample small plates like queso frito (fried cheese) and tacos de lengua (beef tongue tacos) or heartier fare like molcajetes and chile relleno (roasted poblano peppers stuffed with seasoned ground beef or cheese).
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Boulevard Kukulcan KM 20, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico, 77500, (52)(998) 848 7400
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