As frequent tourists to Isla for several years and now homeowners and part time residents, we have seen many changes in this tropical paradise. Many of the changes are a welcome sight, while sometimes the removal of old buildings full of memories and Mexican charm is a bit “hard to swallow.” However, we recognize that transformation is inevitable as this island rapidly grows in its popularity.
In a world that is inundated with cooking shows, books and foodies, the island has welcomed “something for everyone“ in the world of cuisine. We have watched restaurants bridge the gap between simply feeding tourists to becoming destinations for the guests. Eateries have begun to put their personal stamp on dishes and presentation and attention to detail have become top priorities. Yes, Isla Mujeres is quickly becoming a foodie destination as local and foreign chefs defy traditional expectations. Island visitors expect the unexpected and this new generation of chefs have begun to deliver just that.
North Garden, located close to Playa Norte, is one of the island’s newest additions. Proprietor, Fernando and Chef Luis have embarked on a personal journey of innovative dishes, serving only the freshest ingredients, yet keeping it simple. Their extraordinary culinary vision is undoubtedly just the beginning of what is to come!
Head five miles south on the island and keep an eye out for the hard to find, but worth the search , Mar Bella Fish Market. Located directly on the white tropical sands with excellent views of the mainland, Mar Bella offers a wall of the freshest catches (yes, I’ve seen it brought in by boat) for your dining experience. Most of their choices are local catches, but if not local, flown in daily. King crab claws, while not local are as delightful as if just plucked from the sea. Mar Bella’s attention to every detail and extraordinary service, not to mention its heavenly setting, is without question, a foodie destination.
Not to be missed is Javi’s Cantina tucked away on Juarez, between Hidalgo and Medina. Javi and his wife, Marla have created the perfect combination of fine dining with casual, laid back cantina vibes. Local grouper is delivered daily and can be prepared in a variety of ways to satisfy any taste buds. The wedge salad can be topped with grilled shrimp or eaten along side a tempura asparagus spear. Javi’s culinary skills are alive and well is this island cocina.
Luna Grill, located on “the beach road," is the perfect spot to put your feet up or bury your toes in the sand. The grill’s energy is contagious and the food is abundant. A table of four might enjoy their legendary seafood combo, prepared by Julio and the other talented hands in the kitchen. Luna Grill is a great place to end your island experience, while waiting on your catamaran.
Only the beginning, these few eateries have begun to transform island cuisine into ISLA artistry. Each place has its own interpretation of traditional and non-traditional bites and that uniqueness is the lure for more and more visitors with their “must eat lists.” New twists, visions beyond the norm and attitudes of excellence.. this IS Isla eats!! -E