Isla Mujeres is quickly becoming a culinary getaway. A destination of sorts. Foodies are gathering to satisfy their culinary taste buds. Simple, elegant food is abundant, fresh and mouthwatering. The chefs take great pride in their preparation skills, food quality and stunning presentations. This is the new Isla. No worries long time taco, guacamole and marquesita fans... the old favs are alive and well, with fresh avocados or that undisputed local delight of a crunchy crepe, filled with Nutella and bananas, at the local street cart. But a new age has begun and is becoming a way of life here. As the local chefs explore new culinary techniques, with the sweeping, ever-changing caribe as a backdrop, I delight in sharing just a few of my favorite Isla style eats!
Mar Bella, an excellent example of seaside dining at its best, is located at the island’s south end, hidden behind stucco walls. This is “feet in the sand” dining. The yachts dock offshore, and Mar Bella’s dingy transports the hungry seafarers to the sandy shores. The catamarans dock at the pier and the parched, hungry, day-trippers gather to delight in the magnetic charm of the hanging bamboo chairs and the swaying palms. Dreams do come true! Head to the chef’s window and select your iced down catch of the day. Most seafood here is locally sourced, but those that are not, are flown in daily just across the bay to Cancun. The seafood is then brought to Mar Bella on a tiny panga filled with crushed ice (yes, I have witnessed this) and all the staff hustles to quickly unload the seafood and put on display in the iced down seafood window. Piles of ice are shoveled in and the choices are abundant! In past visits, I have selected boquinete, hogfish, red or yellow snapper, stuffed or grilled shrimp, snow crab claws, king crab and, when in season, the occasional decadent lobster.
Head north a bit to the Salina Chica, mid-island area and look for the new hidden gem, Mayuki Asia Fusion. Vegetarian, spring rolls or the deep, satisfying flavor of their sweet and sour chicken, served atop a veggie filled steamed rice. This perfectly created dish boasts great depth and is a crowd pleaser for all ages. Or try the mouthwatering, melt in your mouth chicken wontons with, yet again, great depth of flavor. The chef has created a lovely balance between wonton and the satisfying chicken in this kid-friendly choice. Photos of these two Asian dishes courtesy of Allison Ball.
On the Caribe road again, head north to El Centro, the bustling downtown area of the island. Luna Grill on Medina (and beachside) is actually a favorite haunt of mine. Their fresh catch boquinete never disappoints and can be served individually or on the beautifully crafted seafood platter... a real crowd pleaser. Need a chicken fix? Try their chicken fajitas, full of intense spices and surrounded by pico de gallo and guacamole.
Across from the post office and the Mercado, pull up to Rubens, anytime of day, for a superb culinary delight, authentic to Mexico. My go to dish at Rubens is the light and tasty chicken tostados or in the evening, choose from one of the several pasta or fish entrees that will guarantee sweet dreams.
Isla eating is not just your typical, tourist taste treats, if you are willing to search for authentic seafood, dynamic chicken fare or a touch of Asian fusion. It’s here... waiting for those willing to look around this treasured setting with its basic simplicity and its Caribe detail! Buen Provecho! --E