Mazatlan Restaurants Reviews / Introductions

These 50 + Mazatlan restaurants introductions [not reviews] have been written by full-time residents. These Mazatlan restaurants may or may not appeal to you. Be sure to confirm their hours, and IF they are still open, on their FB page or their social media. MazatlanLife pays for all its meals, there is no quid pro quo. The “introductions” are freely offered as a fun service to the community – we hope you enjoy the introductions. MazatlanLife was launched in 2011 – prices and menus have changed, but the owners and chefs live on – once again, please check their social media for current prices, opening hours and new menus. If you prefer NOT to scroll down, click here for the complete list of introductions.

Introducing, Casa Lucila.

By Sheila Madsen, May 2024

It is a restaurant, but the proper name is Casa Lucila Hotel Boutique. For me it’s a bit nostalgic and I was happy to revisit it to see if there were major changes, as Grupo Arhe bought it in 2018.  I remember chatting with the owner Conchita Valadés in 2008 – she had just opened Casa Lucila in 2007. The hotel is named after her mother, Lucila Valdez de Valades and each of the eight hotel rooms are named after one of Lucila’s daughters. She was very proud of her renovation of the building, a mix of colonial and neo-classical styles, restoring it to its former glory.

During those ten years, from 2008 – 2018 it was a destination for both expats and Nationals– to meet on the patio for drinks, to attend private events and birthday parties and a special place to listen to musicians, such as Cheryl Gaudet perform. At one point, the trendy restaurant, Water’s Edge was located there – they have since moved to Sixto Osuna # 48. For some reason I kind of forgot about it Casa Lucila– even though it has one of the best views in the city – but meeting new friends who have recently moved to Mazatlan triggered a “let’s return, I want to show you this view.”

Monument of Pedro Infante Cruz -actor and singer, born in Mazatlan in 1917 and died in a plane crash in 1957. He made 60 movies and sang over 350 “ranchero” songs.

The patio and the drinks did not disappoint. It’s the perfect sunset and “people watch”. Locals and tourists adore to gather around the Pedro Infante monument and sit on his motorcycle. The interior is still beautiful -stylish, low key, comfy, with two dining areas. The walls are love letters to the famous Mazatleco artist, Antonio López Sanez [1936-2023]. Conchita collected his work over the years – some are originals, many are giclées, and they add heart and soul to this well-maintained relaxing interior.

So, what about the food and service? Four of us were there on a Tuesday night and at one point we were the only customers. I’m inclined to use the word haphazard. It wasn’t smooth sailing. The drinks were excellent – wine, gin and tonic, and margarita – no problem there. The crab pasta was just ok, and the burgers so-so. It could have been a slow night, but the four us agreed we wouldn’t rush back for the food. I sensed there was no captain, no one in charge. We would certainly return for a sundowner.

I suspect it’s very busy at breakfast with the hotel guests and more attention to detail is paid during that time. The breakfast menu: three “healthy dishes”, four “sweet dishes”, 12 egg choices and three specials: Lola Beltrán – carnitas in a green sauce, ++, $215; Pedro Infante, Mexican machaco ++, $215; Ferrusquilla, ranchero shrimp, $225. Liquids: seven coffees, seven Frappuccino’s – large or small, and smoothies. Casa Lucila has always been a popular place for breakfast – enjoy the ocean breeze on the patio, or have a private breakfast meeting inside.

Artwork by the famous Matatleco artist, Antonio López Saenz, 1936-2023.

The lunch and dinner menu offers: four appetizers – sauteed mussels with squash flower, $180; Pomodoro Bruschetta’s with Serrano ham, $210 are two examples. There are two soups, and three salads – $145 -$210. There is a decent choice of international mains – various pastas , shrimp risotto, salmon, chicken, steak, burgers, shrimp dishes and many other creative concoctions. I would venture to say several items would appeal to any group.

 

 

Social media continues to post rave reviews about the eight hotel rooms, the pool and the spa. Grupo Arhe seems to have protected and maintained what Conchita Valades so lovingly created.  It’s one of the most desirable locations to see the Carnaval fireworks. Try it – you could be pleasantly surprised and our foursome could have just experienced an off night, it happens in many restaurants around the world. At the very least , you’ll have a magnificent vista of Olas Altas bay getting dressed for the evening.

[ Casa Lucila Hotel Boutique is located on Olas Altas #16, outdoor seating on the patio with umbrellas or indoor seating with ac. Breakfast is served from 7 am to noon, lunch and dinner from noon until 10 pm. Handicap accessible. Credit cards accepted. For reservations call: 800 718 9670; + 52 669 982 1100; 669 918 0334. There are eight rooms, an infinity pool and a spa, available to guests only.The restaurant is open to the public, ideal for private events.]

Introducing, Café Bar 500 Noches – vinos y tapas.

By Sheila Madsen, May, 2024

Our trio is complicated when it comes to food. One doesn’t eat meat, one can’t eat anything that contains wheat and won’t eat anything raw [ that would be me] and the third party hates hot melted cheese. For some reason we all agree on adult beverages: gin and tonic and red wine, no problem there.

500 Noches was new to us and we were excited to try some different cuisine in a tranquil atmosphere. Before we have dinner, let’s start with breakfast which is served from 8 am until 1 pm. The menu is the size of breakfast tray, it’s huge and easy to hide behind. On offer: seven eggs dishes including two omelets; eight classical dishes – from chilaquiles to pancakes and waffles; 17 hot/cold coffees – you can start day drinking with a splash of Bailey’s, Amaretto or Kahlua if you desire; hot teas, cold teas, fresh juices, smoothies plus many other “otras beibidas”. I think you would need the five hours to make your way through this diverse menu. An example of pricing: chilaquiles, $160, omelets, $150, cappuccinos, $75, enchiladas filled with chicken, cheese red onion and avocado, $170; skirt steak stew/puntas de arrachera, $175; fruit platter, $120; the four smoothies are $90.  The menu is in Spanish and English.

Carajillo, $180 presented with a cinnamon stick on it’s own wooden stand.

Lunch and dinner are served from 1 pm. on, and again, the menu is in English and Spanish. There’s an extensive international wine list – either by the bottle or by the glass. There are at least 29 choices of beer and cocktails, never mind vodka, brandy, cognac, bourbon, rum, mezcal, gin, tequila, whisky and liqueurs. You can easily get high just looking at the drink menu. However, there are lots of non-alcoholic drinks too.

While sipping on your drink take your time reviewing the extensive menu – there really is something for everyone. There are: six starters, three charcuterie boards, two fondus [hola 1970s!] six-12 tapas choices, four salads, eight mains – from steak to chicken to salmon;  lasagna, arrachera, paella de marisco, hamburgers, crepes with shrimp, four sandwiches, five pastas, and six desserts. What a treat to see so many different choices.

Tabla Mixta, $510 – a true charcuterie. To the right is the carpaccio salmon, $260.

Our trio chose the table mixta – one of the very best charcuterie boards we had ever seen in Mazatlan. We also ordered the carpaccio de salmon and the raw lovers adored that. We thought we’d start with those and then order more. No need, we were completely full from various meats, cheeses, grapes – the grazing- style suited us. I was tempted by the Pulitzer salad, $320 with mixed lettuce, cherry tomatoes, chicken breast, grilled shrimp topped with a dressing of your choice. Next time.

Live music every night. Different groups, duo, trios and sometimes solos.

The live music was not too loud, and the lighting was just perfect and that’s always so difficult for restaurants to achieve. We all thought the service was excellent, and because of the relaxed atmosphere, and the variety of food, that we, the picky diners, would happily return to this charming restaurant.

[500 Noches is open every day from 8 am on, and is located on Av. La Marina #6107, handicap accessible, credit cards accepted. For reservations please call, 669 441 2146. You can request the outside patio, or inside. Breakfast is from 8 am. to 1 pm. Very clean baños.]

Introducing, “Marquesitas” or Yucatan cheese wafers.

By Maaike Hoekstra, April 2024.  [Maaike is the founder and owner of the popular food tour, Flavor Teller.]

Fusion cuisine is fashionable for food enthusiasts around the world. Marquesitas are an example of Mexican fusion cuisine. This sweet treat was invented in Merida, the capital of Yucatan state. It’s a rolled-up wafer with an Edam cheese filling. The story goes that marquesitas were invented in the 1930s by ice cream shop owner Leopoldo (‘Polito’) Mena and his wife. They tried to increase their sales during the winter season and made these with a sweet and savory filling. Marquesitas were recognized as intangible heritage of Yucatan in 2013.

If you’re curious and ready to plan a trip to Merida, no need to rush. You can find traditional marquesitas in the Playa Sur neighborhood in downtown Centro Historico. The food truck La Marquesa MZT is located right next to the Playa Sur taqueria. Mother Maggi and son Adolfo lived in Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche for 23 years and brought this idea to Mazatlan almost three years ago. “In Ciudad del Carmen we used to visit a taqueria that had a Marquesitas stand next door. We liked this idea and Taqueria Playa Sur was the best fit for us. At first, we just had one small gas burner, but now we have a cart with two burners”, says Adolfo. “It took us four months to fine-tune the recipe, before we were finally satisfied with it.” When asked about the ingredients, Adolfo was pretty tight-lipped. It is a batter made with wheat flour base and milk. It’s fascinating to see Adolfo skillfully spread the batter on the hot wafer grill, turning it over to give it an even consistency. Once the wafer is cooked he has to work fast to fill it, otherwise he won’t be able to roll it.

The menu is divided in four sections: sweet ($50-80 ), savory ($50-80 ), fruits ($60 ) and combos ($50-80 ). So what to order? “Our best-sellers are the sweet combos “Chango” with Edam cheese, caramel and banana and “La Waaay” with Edam cheese, Nutella, strawberry and walnut”, says Adolfo. We tried the classic “Don Polito” with Edam cheese, a fruit-filled marquesita and the combo “La Waay”. The classic marquesita was enjoyable but a little on the dry side, while the fruit-filled and combo were devoured within minutes. The test team’s verdict: it’s a great dessert after visiting the taqueria.

[La Marquesa MZT is located next to Taqueria Playa Sur on Carnaval street. Opening hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 5.00 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. Pesos only please. Call for more information +52 669 330 7305. There is limited seating available. You can follow La Marquesa MZT on Facebook and Instagram]

Introducing, El Montalayo

By Maaike Hoekstra, February 2024. [Maaike is the founder and owner of Flavor Teller.]

Mazatlan is a city where you can easily find fish and seafood, as well as pork, beef and chicken. But how about lamb? Is that not a Mexican thing? Well, lamb is a popular ingredient in Barbacoa. You’re probably thinking now: “Isn’t Barbacoa not the same as carne asada?” It’s actually a completely different dish. Let’s explore this must-try flavor and find out where you can eat it in Mazatlan.

 

The word Barbacoa refers to a pit-oven where meat is slow-cooked over charcoal wrapped in banana leaves or Agave cactus leaves and covered with earth. You can find this preparation style in the north of Mexico with Cabrito goat, in the Yucatan peninsula with Cochinita Pibil pork and in central Mexico with Barbacoa lamb. Historic data shows that it was already used before the Spanish conquest, although pork, lamb and goat were introduced by the Spanish. Barbacoa de Borrego or lamb Barbacoa, is famous in Hidalgo state, where it’s said it was invented.

Feeling hungry already? At El Montalayo restaurant you can find Barbacoa de Borrego where it is prepared in traditional Hidalgo style. The word ‘Montalayo’ refers to a lamb Haggis: pit-oven lamb stomach stuffed with insides. El Montalayo restaurant has been around for over 35 years. They source their lamb in Sinaloa. The preparation process takes about eight hours. You can order Barbacoa per kilo, three-quarters, half or quarter of a kilo. Choose between ‘barbacoa especial’ (selected meat) and ‘barbacoa surtido’ (mixed meat). We decided to get half a kilo Barbacoa especial (aprox. 1 pound) for $265 and it was plenty for three people! You get lots of tortillas, salsas, pickled onion, cilantro and limes. Make sure to ask for the small Consome broth ($30) with rice and chickpea as a side. The agua frescas are made in the moment and super refreshing (small $30, large $60). Don’t feel like going out? Call El Montalayo and you can have your Barbacoa with all the sides, delivered right to your door. It’s not a Speedy Gonzalez delivery though – usually it takes about one hour, but it’s worth the wait.

[El Montalayo is located on Avenida La Marina 438, across the street from Home Depot. Call to order at 669 983 0042 – Spanish only. Opening hours are Monday through Sunday from 8.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Credit cards are accepted and the venue is wheel chair accessible. Seating space outside fits 35 people and air-conditioned inside space fits 40 people.]

 

Introducing, Raw Oyster Bar

By Sheila Madsen, December 2023

 Raw = a wine bar, an oyster bar, plus, plus. All the wines are from the Guadalupe Valley and a different wine will be opened every day for you to enjoy with your food. You can even buy a bottle or can [yes, wine in a can] to take home. The idea is for you to experience all the wines from this famous region in Mexico. The oysters are all from Guerrero Negro Lagoon, Vizcaino Bay, Baja California.

Melissa Navarro, owner and chef.

Melissa Navarro is from Ensenada and chose to open her Raw Oyster Bar in Mazatlan because “Ensenada has so many wine bars and restaurants and I think Mazatlan will appreciate my concept and we will be very different from other restaurants in Mazatlan. And my cousin lives here.”

The decor is very Scandi with brick and light wood details. The wine bar chairs are comfy with wide white mesh seats. This could possibly be the only true wine bar in Mazatlan.

Oysters: Kumiai, Kordelia and Chingon, $250 to $350. There are 9 “crudos, entrandas y ensaladas – from sashimi, to aguachile de camaron, to ceviche, an octopus tostado, shrimp pate and a beet salad – $180 – $250. Melissa wanted to offer her guests cooked food as well -and currently the menu features: two soups, including a pozole verde, $250; flautas, tacos, an oyster hamburger, mushroom risotto, $250, octopus mole, pasta carbonara, gnocchi and a catch of the day. The pricing could change during each season but so far, the most expensive item is $300. Wine costs vary depending on the “wine of the day”. There’s a full bar too, it has a huge selection if you are not a wine lover.

This is the true meaning of an introduction. I’m sure social media will take care of all the comments about the food and drink now that Raw is open for business. We all know opening a restaurant is the impossible dream; please stop by and welcome Melissa Navarro and let’s hope Raw becomes the success that Melissa has been dreaming of.

[Raw is located in Centro on Heriberto Frais #1411, south of Hector’s Bistro, at Mariano Escobedo. Closed Wednesdays, opens at 2 pm. Accepts credit cards. Menus are in English and Spanish. In addition to “bar seating” there is also large area with tables and chairs for dining – away from the bar chairs, if you wish.]

Introducing, Seoullo – Korean Barbeque.

By Maaike Hoekstra, November 2023.  [Maaike is the owner and founder of Flavor Teller, Mazatlan’s original food tour.]

South Korea is a hot topic nowadays. And not because of its relationship with North Korea. South Korea has become a worldwide trendsetter in music with the famous K-Pop bands like BTS and on streaming platforms with ‘Doramas’ (Korean soap operas). But Korean food was largely unknown here in Mazatlan until Seoullo Korean Barbeque opened its door. Its original venue is in Culiacan and the Mazatlan restaurant is located on the third floor of Camino Al Mar mall in the Golden Zone. It has already proven to be a big hit, because weekend reservations aren’t available for several months ahead. It’s not a surprise because there are only eight tables seating a total of 45 customers in two-hour time slots. My family was lucky and scored a reservation on a weekday and had lots of personal attention. Be sure to make a reservation on the Seoullo website (https://seoullo.com.mx/mazatlan/) before you go.

So what does a Korean barbeque restaurant look like? Each table has a gas-heated grill built into the center with a smoke extractor above it. You get all the ingredients to fry your own meat on this grill along with lots of sides. If you are expecting a quick meal, this won’t be the case. But that’s ok, because Korean barbeque is all about cooking and chatting together with your table mates.

You are welcomed by a waitress who explains the beverages and two buffet options: the regular buffet has fewer sides and three types of meat ($250 pesos) and the premium buffet has nine sides: Japchaenoodles, Kimchi  rice,  white rice, Korean salad, kimchi (Korean sauerkraut), Pajeon pancakes, Kimchi fries and melted cheese with corn. There are six types of meat: pork belly, spicy pork, Hawaian,Bulgogi, Chadolbagi beef and fried chicken ($300 pesos). Once you’ve decided, you get two hours to eat as much food as you want. The oldest person at the table is named the grill Master, as by Korean tradition. Don’t think there are trays of food for you to serve, like a regular buffet. Once a dish is empty our waitress offered us to bring another portion and she kept refilling until we said stop.

We tried the strawberry lemonade ($85) and refill ice tea ($49), but they also have sodas. There is no physical menu to check the names of the side dishes nor the beverages. This turned out to be tricky when we wanted to order more side dishes and couldn’t remember the names (“give me another portion of marinated beef with red sauce”).

Starting the two-hour food fest, it seemed like there wasn’t a lot of food. But holy guacamole: we were all stuffed at the end. Even our hungry teenager said he couldn’t take another bite. Mission accomplished! We all agreed that it was a fun experience for an affordable price.

(Seoullo is located on Avenida Camaron Sábalo 500 at Plaza Camino al Mar in the Golden Zone. The opening hours are Tuesday through Sunday 1.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 1.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. Please note there is no alcohol allowed.Credit cards are accepted and the restaurant is wheelchair accessible. Walk-ins are not appreciated: make your reservation on the website https://seoullo.com.mx/mazatlan/)

 

Introducing, Alto Fuego, Terraza Culinaria.

By Sheila Madsen, November 2023

Alto Fuego closes on Saturday April 27 and will reopen next season – most likely November 2024.

Watching Chef Héctor Peniche hang his brand-new sign, for his brand -new restaurant with his son was exciting. More culinary choices in Mazatlan are always exciting and you know with Chef Héctor it’s not a passing fancy, it’s here to stay.

Héctor has brought the many exotic flavours of the Mediterranean to Alto Fuego. Imagine an al fresco evening with friends, lovers, family, under the stars with the stunning wall of water quietly falling. Between the beautiful décor and the 16 “meze y aperitvos” you really have taken a voyage to Mediterranean.

The idea of the appetizers [tapas if you will] is to order many to share – as one would do in the Mediterranean. Many are plant based and use only the finest olive oil. Examples: hummus; Babaganush, chargrilled aubergine, tahini, olive oil garlic, tzatziki; Mumamara, roasted peppers dip walnut cayenne, pumpkin dip – feta, walnut olive oil and pumpkin; Calamari fruiti, Gamberi Fritti, Passadaliere served with flat bread, caramelized onion, anchovies and olives; figs and prosciutto; chargrilled octopus, potato spread; burrata cheese, arugula dressing, cherry tomatoes smoked beetroot and mascarpone and there is catch of the day. Still hungry? Then you can order grilled asparagus, frites, zucchini fitti, mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables or pan roast polenta. Prices vary from $65 to 180, with the grilled octopus at $390.

The yellow and black squares are the wall of water. To very left is a large seating area with white banquets and tables designed for larger groups.

Héctor knows his customers well – after all, he’s been a chef in Mazatlan since 2009. Some customers come from Culiacan for his Arm Drip beef steak sandwich others want his beef tenderloin with green peppercorn sauce or his pan roasted pork chop. The main idea of Alto Fugo – terraza culinaria was to have a large terrace open to the skies so grilling could take place. Big grilling. “The menu is evolving, a work in progress, but I do plan to have fish, chicken and many more choices. At the moment, I am offering ribeye, tenderloin “certified black Angus Cowboy steak” and a braised lamb shank. These are easily shared by two people or even three if you have a few of my appetizers.”

It’s five-thirty and it’s cocktail time! There are 10 signature Alto Fuego cocktails plus the 10 classic cocktails that you may have sipped from Héctor’s Bistro. If you aren’t in the mood for a “Wild Turkey Manhattan” or a “Havana Club Daiquiri” there is also the Bistro’s innovative and varied wine list.

Go ahead, climb a few stairs and get tipsy on tapas. Get high on new flavours. Get excited about starting your evening with a Mediterranean adventure that combines cocktails, grilling and thrilling appetizers. Chef says, “that’s my vision – the popular dishes are still in the Bistro and now I have my al fresco restaurant upstairs.” Choices, so exciting for all of us.

[ Alto Fuego is located on Heriberto Frias #1505, enter through Via Condotti, up the stairs, railings on both sides, and you’ve have entered the land of Alto Fuego, closed Sundays, opens at 5:30 p.m., for now, reservations are accepted via WA – 669 147 0005.  Alto Fuego has its own kitchen, separate from Héctor’s Bistro, a full bar and modern bańos. Credit cards accepted, menus are in English and Spanish. Open from November to May. To read more about Hector’s Bistro please click here.]

 

Introducing, Pedro y Lola Restaurant.

By Sheila Madsen, September 2023.

It took them long enough. “Them” awarded the owner and founder of Pedro y Lola Restaurant, Alfredo Gomez Rubio, ” Empresario Restaurant del Ano” in June of 2023. For heaven’s sake he opened Pedro y Lola in the Plazuela Machado in 1997; it was the first bar/restaurant in the Machado. Mexican families, expats, snowbirds and tourists flocked to this lively corner in 1997 and they continue to do so today.

Alfredo Gomez Rubio

Why? Because of Alfredo Gomez Rubio. He’s a friend to artists and musicians. Artists were invited to display their work inside and musicians were encouraged to play outside. For 26 years P&L has supported, nurtured and been a home-away-home for hundreds of talented musicians. For many, P&L is the first stop when they arrive and the last before the fly home. One musician told me that “Mazatlan has more live music than any other city in North America, perhaps it’s equal to New Orleans.” And you can thank Alfredo for that honour. He had the vision to make the Plazuela Machado one of the most exciting and family-friendly squares along the Pacific Coast. Alfredo created and launched Dia de la Musica [now organized by Cultura] plus many jazz festivals.

Together, we have weathered tropical storms, hurricane threats, the financial crash, the pandemic- and yet, Pedro y Lola has been right beside us every step of the way. The name pays tribute to actor Pedro Infante and singer Lola Beltran. The kitchen pays tribute to typical Mexican cuisine. The menu is varied and regular customers have their favourite dishes. You can’t stop glib remarks on social media like “hot music, cold food” but you can go and experience the ambience of the Plazuela, the wonderful wait staff at P&L and sit back in a comfortable Equipale chair [Nahuatl for chair of the gods] and just be thankful that Pedro y Lola exists. We got Pedro and Lola long before “them.”

[ Pedro y Lola is located in Plazuela Machado, Carnaval, closed Mondays, opens at 6 pm. Handicap accessible. For reservations please call 669 982 2589. Ac inside, fans outside. If you wish to read a profile of Alfredo Gomez Rubio please click here.]

Introducing, three “cocina económica” restaurants.

 By Maaike Hoekstra, September 2023. In this exclusive article Maaike introduces you to three restaurants offering home-cooked affordable food. Maaike is founder of Flavor Teller, [2017],  Mazatlan’s original street food tour.

In Mexico you need a basic vocabulary to get around, like ‘Por favor’ and ‘Gracias’. Or how about ‘Una cerveza más’ or ‘La cuenta por favor’? Those who love food, learn additional words like ‘sin chile’ or ‘con cilantro’. Many of you will recognize the Spanish words restaurant or taqueria, but how about ‘cocina economica’?

Last month I read a request on a Mazatlan Facebook group about where to get frozen meals for a sick friend who couldn’t leave the house. It made me realize that there are certain things that don’t translate well from one culture to another. You see, in Mexico we are not used to frozen meals. We would rather order ‘comida corrida’ or day menu at a ‘cocina economica’.

The cocina economica loosely translates to ‘affordable kitchen’. It’s the homey place where you go for an affordable and complete meal. The concept is simple: every day there is a fixed menu with an starter, a main course and a beverage. If you’re lucky, it even includes a dessert. A cocina economica is usually open from 11 a.m. until 3.00 p.m. making it the perfect place to enjoy Mexican lunch or ‘comida’.

The roots of the cocinas economicas go back to colonial Mexico, when taverns and inns offered food and refreshments to hungry travelers. These places were referred to as fondas. In the 19th century the French word restaurante became fashionable and menus started to include imported products from Europe, in an intent to distinguish themselves from the common fondas. Nowadays, there is still a perceived class difference between a restaurant and a cocina economica or fonda, although the quality of the food isn’t any less at the latter. The majority of Mexican cocinas econonomicas are run by one or several women, usually of the same family.

What type of food do they offer at a cocina economica? It’s mostly traditional Mexican dishes like marlin, meatball soup, ‘milanesa’ (breaded beef) or ‘chiles rellenos’ (stuffed poblanos chilies), almost always with refried beans as a side. If you want to try home-cooked local food, this is the place to go.

There is one dish that might cause confusion. If you see ‘sopa’ on the menu, you might easily translate it as soup. You would think type vegetable soup or tomato soup. Here’s the catch: there are two types of sopa:  ‘sopa aguada’ and ‘sopa seca’. I can see some are rolling your eyes, reading this last term. How come there is such a thing like ‘dry soup’? Sopa aguada or watery soup is served as first dish (primer tiempo) and could be a chicken or beef broth sometimes with pasta. Sopa seca or dry soup is served as second dish (segundo tiempo) and it could be macaroni with a cream tomato sauce or cooked red rice.

Feeling hungry and ready to order? The majority of the cocinas econonomicas offer take-away and some even do deliveries. The order sizes can be charged per portion (‘orden’), per volume (‘litro/medio litro’) or sometimes per weight. There are plenty of options around Mazatlan. Here are a few eateries you might want to check out.

Restaurant Asian

Don’t be fooled by its name: this Cocina Economica does not serve Asian food. A favorite haunt for local chefs like Chef Andrea (Nao Kitchen Bar) as well as dock workers and taxi drivers. You can come here for breakfast or lunch. It’s located across the street from the Tres Islas brewery on Avenida Aleman. You can choose from seven main dishes (I loved the stuffed zucchini ‘Calabaza’) and a daily special for $100. This includes an Agua fresca (hibiscus tea or horchata rice water) or Coca Cola, pasta in tomato sauce or red rice and refried beans. There is no menu, but check the white board for the options.

(Restaurante Asian: Avenida Miguel Aleman 900, half a block from the intersection with Avenida Emilio Barragan. Opening hours: Monday-Saturday from 7.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Get your take-away at the counter or sit in the air-conditioned dining space. The venue is not handicap accesible and payment is pesos only.)

Cocina Economica Elsy – Las Mamuquitas

The passion for cooking runs in your veins, some people say. This certainly holds true for Elsy and her family who have kept up culinary traditions for seventy years. Her father “El Mamucas” was the pioneer for Mazatlan’s seafood culinary traditions. He built his ‘marisqueria’ seafood restaurant Mamucas at the old harbor Playa Norte beach in the 1950’s. It has since been replaced by a twelve-floor high rise. In honor to her father’s legacy, Elsy named her restaurant ‘Las Mamuquitas’ or the little Mamucas. This Cocina Economica has limited seating inside and some curb-side seating. Their daily menu is so popular [ the average price is about $100 and includes a beverage] that by 1.30 p.m. they are sold out (Mental note: arrive early!).

(Las Mamuquitas is located at Alejandro Quijano 605 between Guillermo Nelson and Benito Juarez. Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 7.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Payment is pesos only and the venue is not handicap accessible)

La Chilaca – by chef Momo

This restaurant is the new kid on the block, just across the street from supermarket Ley Centro. You might know its owner: Luis Rios, aka Momo. He is a trained chef as well as the creative mind behind the gowns of Carnaval queens as well as the monumental Catrinas at the Day of the Dead parade. He hasn’t left his passion for glitter and glamour, when he started La Chilaca with his sister Olga a few months ago. They grew up stirring big pots while helping their mother at her successful catering business. She retired many years ago, but Olga and ‘Momo’ wanted to bring back her fantastic home cooked flavors. The menu has an impressive variety of breakfast Chilaquiles, a la carte options, as well as day menu for $95. The beverage is not included in the package. The air-conditioned dining room has comfortable chairs, but the flavors have the unmistakably grandma’s touch.

(La Chilaca is located at Melchor Ocampo 924 in Centro. Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. The venue is not handicap accessible and payment is pesos only.)

Introducing El G Del Gato, Machado

By Sheila Madsen, August 2023

 The bright yellow bulbs in the Machado scream pizza. Many customers are attracted by the vibrant colours and are quite at home with the buzz. Other people think the façade is not compatible with the Plazuela Machado’s “historical look and feel.” Regardless of how you feel about the exterior, let’s go inside and meet the manager and part-owner, Raymundo Páez Peraza. This is fourth restaurant , so they must be doing something right – because the restaurant is packed with eager eaters.

Raymundo Páez Peraza in front of his wood burning pizza oven.

Ray has 30 years in the hospitality business. His young life was spent in LA living with his brother and American sister-in-law and Ray began his long “serving” career behind the counter at a local Taco Bell. Returning to his home town Mazatlan in his twenties, Ray was employed at Senior Frogs, the Guadalajara Grill [now La Viña Vineyard Community Center of Hope] and he did a 13- year stretch at The Shrimp Bucket – which is where I met him 11 years ago. Ray is “that guy” who gets it. He’s super organized, nothing is ever a problem and you can see his current staff of 30 adore him. He arrives for our interview at 6 pm.sharp and his young employees [75% women] greet him as if he returned from a long holiday. It’s all smiles, hugs, and fist bumps and then you see them snap to attention.  Ray is empowering these young people – he’s giving them not only a salary but a purpose, a real career.

As you can see from the photos the décor reflects “let’s have fun, we are a hipster family restaurant and we want you to have a good time and enjoy our excellent food and service.” The solid [heavy] wooden chairs are painted a Barbie pink and peppermint green. The chairs have the standard matching square wooden tables which allow the staff to create a table for two or for twenty. Modular is key to El G del Gato because it’s so popular. Inside, the décor – well, it has no theme. There are dream catchers hanging from the ceiling, deconstructed concrete walls, bright pink neon curved tubes, a neon cactus here and there, rock stars painted on the walls here and there and macrame lamps hanging over the bar. It’s as if the decorator was lounging in a “bean bag chair” enjoying a happy mellow high, saying “whatever.” The result? “El G Del Gato is a different concept where you can enjoy a pleasant atmosphere full of fun.” That’s from the corporate mission statement and it’s true. There’s music inside, and outside from the Machado; it’s lively, so if you are seeking quiet haven then I would walk on by.

El G del Gato is a corporation with a central kitchen, human resources and training. Chefs prepare all the home made/hand-made ingredients and they are delivered to each restaurant. This guarantees that food remains consistent and of the highest quality for all the restaurants. It’s an extensive menu and the central kitchen prevents individual chefs from going rogue. Top line: 7 snacks, including wings, from $105-$189; 3 aguachiles, $189-$275; 6 ceviches, $199-$294. 3 salads, $175; 3 pastas, $175-$185; a rib eye, $340; 2 salmon dishes, $310; 7 “smash burgers” – $119-$169, a “double smash”, two patties – $169-$219 – even the home-made buns are baked in the central kitchen. Pizza is the hero of the menu, there are 15 pizzanalities priced from $219-$299. Being Celiac, Ray was my “pizza guide” and says “we spent weeks testing thin crusts until we got the right balance of taste and texture. Then we tested all the toppings. All of the ingredients are fresh and are full of flavours you may not find elsewhere. The most popular, so far, are the Margarita, The Rolling Stone and the Meat Lovers. All of these are cooked to order in our wood burning oven.” Is Ray’s assessment, correct? Pull up a Barbie pink chair and you decide.

Of course, there’s a full bar and because it’s a family restaurant, there are also 16 non-alcoholic drinks on offer. Great news and bad news for wine lovers. The bad news: one red, one white, Concha y Toro, $99 a glass. The great news: bring your preferred bottle [s] of wine and there is no corkage fee. Cheers to that thought.

El G del Gato is an unusual name for a restaurant. It has nothing to do with cats [gato]. To make Ray’s long story very short the founder of this successful chain has an unusual first name – so different that even for Mexicans he said you pronounce it like “La G del Gato.” The brand is working, fast and furious for Señor -unusual -first -name and his professional, enthusiastic team. Distilling the mission statement “we want a place where it’s a pleasure to eat and to have a good time”. Mission accomplished.

[El G del Gato, Machado[where Café Pacifico used to be located] and El G del Gato, Marina, Sabalo #2205, El G del Gato, Olas Altas are open every day at noon, and on weekends they stay open until 2 pm. They are not handicap accessible. El G del Gato in the Plaza Galerias is open from 11-11 and is handicap accessible. All three accept credit cards, and the menus are in Spanish.]

 

Introducing, Mariscos Piquillas Centro

By Sheila Madsen, April 2023.

A family-owned restaurant for Mazatleco families to gather, visit and eat the freshest seafood – quite possibly- in all of Mazatlan. Enrique Espinoza along with his son Francisco [who is the chef], and daughter Pamela Espinoza opened this authentic restaurant in 2018. It’s paper napkins, plastic chairs and square wooden tables that get shifted with every wave of new customers. Chef Enrique wanted only seafood and conchas – shells. It was a busy Friday at 4:30 pm and I knew several families who were enjoying lunch. They said: “we all know one another, we went to school together, we love to come here and have the best seafood in Mazatlan. You won’t find this food anywhere else in Mazatlan, it’s gourmet, look we are surrounded by water, it’s all so fresh!”

On this festive Friday the tables were covered in tacos, tortas, oysters and glasses of the house gin made from nanchi, and naturally bottles and bottles of cerveza [Corona, Pacifico, Modelo, Ultra] on every table top. Piquillas also serves tequila, mezcal, rum, vodka and several cocktails. It’s not a wine bar, but there is one decent white wine

See food, and it’s a very large menu. In the shell – six offers, oysters, mussels, clams etc. from $260 – $75; there are 12 cold entrées from classic ceviche to sashimi to aquachile del pancho -prices range from $90-$230; five tostadas from smoked marlin to octopus and the special at $90 includes crab, octopus, shrimp with all its secret sauces; eight tacos – marlin, tuna, shrimp, octopus, from $70-90 and some are served with blue corn tacos; Nine hot dishes – our table savoured the three delicious crab cakes, $190; a giant serving of fish & chips [the only English words on the menu!], $200 and shrimp flautas, 3 fat ones for $120.

Piquillas is a happy place; the only music you’ll hear are the voices of families greeting each other and tables being pushed together to accommodate friends who want to join in this medley of seafood. The Spanish is flying fast so please don’t go there expecting to be served in English. Soak up the fabulous seafood and the Mazatleco joys of a lively lunch.

[ Piquillas Centro is located on Miguel Aleman #915, north side, east end of the Aleman, beside Tres Islas brewery. Open from noon until 8 pm, Wednesday to Sunday. Handicap accessible, credit cards accepted, full bar, menus in Spanish only, call 669 194 3379.Indoor and outdoor seating, about 80 seats. Mariscos Piquillas Marina is located on Ave. La Marina 2212, Plaza Bahia Marina, also open from noon to 8 pm.]

 

Introducing, Casa Hindie – it’s tea time, it’s about time!

By Maaike Hoekstra, September 2022 – founder and owner of the popular street food tour, Flavor Teller. 

It’s funny how the word ‘tea’ does not evoke the same sensation across cultures. Say ‘tea’ in Mexico and people think that you’re feeling under the weather. You cure yourself drinking herbal remedy tea which often has a nasty taste. Say ‘tea’ in colder climates and you think of the delicious hot beverage that you drink by the fire place. So, it was a pleasant surprise when the tea room Casa Hindie opened its doors here in tropical Mazatlan. With 25 different teas on the menu and more than 50 varieties for sale by the ounce, it’s always tea time! Hot teas are $55 and cold teas are $60. A more exotic tea, such as lichee blossom is $90.

Pink Velvet Latte

Casa Hindie is not only a tea room; you can also enjoy a good coffee, breakfast or lunch. The breakfast menu includes different dishes, ranging from toasts, chilaquiles, sandwiches, fruit bowls and scrumptious sweet options. For lunch be sure to try their ceviches, hamburgers, poke bowls or flat bread pizzas. All the ingredients are sourced daily at local fruterias around the city.The decor reflects the calming of drinking real; pendulum bamboo basket lights, whites and creams for tables and chairs, tile floors and comfy Eames-like chairs.

Meet the owners behind this new concept: Claudia Aguilera and Pau Vives. Claudia is a tea sommelier from Guadalajara and she has worked in the hospitality industry for years – and so has her Spanish husband Pau. They met years ago when they were working for the same hotel chain, opening new hotels and restaurants around the Europe and Latin America. In 2012 they started the tea company Hindie, selling wholesale teas to restaurants around Mexico with their main office in Monterrey. Tea-crazy customers insisted that they should open a tasting room there, which they did in 2017.

So why did these citizens of the world decide to settle in Mazatlan? Pau says: “I grew up on the Costa Brava in Spain, always being close to the ocean. I need the sea to surf, be outside and feel free. Living in busy Monterrey just wasn’t my thing”. Claudia adds: “My family has been vacationing in Mazatlan for years and we always enjoyed the city’s vibe. When the pandemic hit we made a decision: let’s get out of urban Monterrey and move to Mazatlan.”

Choices, choices – how many ounces for your tea pot at home?

It took lots of searching, and some luck, to find the perfect property in Centro Historico. Casa Hindie founds its home on Constitucion Street, about midway between Pedro&Lola and Topolo. Pau tells me: “This property just had a small shop in the front, but when we saw the whole building we just fell in love. I designed the interior in less than a day and our realtor happened to know a great architect to bring our dream to life in exactly 93 days.” Around the same time they found out that they were expecting their first child Lani, who is now an important part of their lives and Casa Hindie. So come and meet this young couple and their tea-team of ten staff and give yourself the gift of savouring a cup of tea – it’s about time!

(Casa Hindie is located on Constitucion #620, between Carnaval and Benito Juarez Street. Opening hours are Wednesday through Monday from 8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. (Closed on Tuesdays). Air-conditioned seating space for 50 people and a small terrace in the back. Casa Hindie is handicap accessible and credit cards are accepted. For more information you can call 669 9913499 or check the website www.hindie.com.mx)

Introducing, Atol Gastronomia & Mixologia.

By Sheila Madsen, July,2022

Chef Daniel, Sabrina and the smoker

The first surprise awaiting you at Atol is outside their front door. It’s a giant smoker, the size of a pulmonia. It’s massive and Chef Daniel Bernal Vega loves a good smoke and bbq. “We all eat with our eyes first – see it, smell it, taste it – and it’s like winning the lottery.” That’s the way Chef Daniel feels about the flavours of southern Mexico. He’s bringing the tastes of small pueblos and ancient family recipes to Mazatlan. You’ll savour flavours from Oaxaca, Yucatan, Puebla and Quintana Roo.

Sikil Pak

Be sure to try the Sikil Pak appetizer, it’s a Mayan toasted pumpkin seed and tomato dip, rich and spicy. Cool down with his wafer- thin slices of Mahi Mahi sashimi with a light orange sauce. Chef Daniel is all about sauces and everything is made in his kitchen. “The only thing we buy is butter because we don’t have the room for cows!”  You get the idea. He smokes his swordfish for three hours – so tender and tasty with another special sauce. Craving “real” mole? Then you may appreciate chef’s octopus with his secret mole sauce.

The menu is small – five “entradas”, appetizers, that are from $80 – $180, including a ceviche tres mares, and a smoked marlin quesadilla, $80. Four mains, the octopus mole is $250 , the smoked/bbq pork belly is $220 – to a soup of the day/sopa de mesa at $160. Just one dessert, marquesita at $140 -Edam cheese cheesecake, salted caramel with turmeric, vanilla wafer, and pitahaya cubes. As Chef says ,“you need to try it”.

Marquesita

After you’ve passed the giant smoker you walk into the main dining room with the long galley kitchen against the far wall. No screens or glass; it’s up close and personal. You can hear, smell and see how the dishes are prepared. There are bar stools running along the kitchen prep counter so you can chat with Chef Daniel while sipping on your adult beverage. There’s a smaller second dining area that could be used for private parties.

The décor is what is known as “anti-formal”. It’s not fancy, it’s basic wooden tables and heavy wooden chairs. It’s the typical look and feel you’d experience in the southern small Mexican towns – all the money goes into fresh food and spices.  “Atol is fine dining with the menu changing with the seasons; sea to table, farm to table.”  I met Jorge – he’s a fisherman by day and works in Atol in the evenings. You know your fish is fresh because Jorge catches it just for Atol, see -sea to table.

Chef Daniel and fisherman Jorge

Chef Daniel is from Culiacan and has been working in kitchens since he was 15 and like so many chefs, this vocation allowed him to travel and work in dozens of different restaurants. From southern Mexico, to Sahl Hasheesh, Egypt, to Basel, Switzerland. In 2020, Daniel returned to work in Hotel Punta Caliza, Quintana Roo and that stint cemented his love of southern Mexican cuisine.

Mushroom quesadilla with pumpkin flower.

On the road again, Daniel and his girlfriend, Sabrina, [you’ll meet her at Atol] spent a weekend in Mazatlan, met with various investors and they decided that with our booming restaurant scene, a new restaurant with a new concept would appeal to Mazatlecos and tourists. The name Atol, is to honour the pre-Hispanic drink atolli, atoll de elote  -a traditional hot corn masa based drink. Legend has it, atolli was also used by different indigenous tribes for healing or nutritional purposes.

The two chefs who inspire Daniel the most are David Muñoz from Madrid, and Jorge Vallejo who owns the restaurant Quintonil in Mexico City.  Combine Daniel’s vast experience, his culinary idols, plus his personal cooking secret “enjoy every moment and every ingredient” and you just may want to visit Atol and taste southern Mexico – Chef Daniel’s way.

[Atol is located on 21 de Marzo #1412, across the street from the CFE building [Comisión Federal de Electricidad].Open from 8:30 am. until 10 pm, open Wednesday to Sunday. Handicap accessible, unisex bathroom, credit cards accepted. Reservations are essential for dinner,  +52 667 144 1192.]

Introducing Cerveceria Barraza: a small step from biotechnology to beer brewing.

By Maaike Hoekstra, June 2022 [Maaike is the founder and owner of the popular Flavor Teller street food tours.]

What is the perfect density of craft breweries per square kilometer? In many cities around the US and Canada there are tap rooms in short distance from each other. Here in Mazatlán you can find local Pacifico beer or its competitor Tecate everywhere, but there are only three craft breweries (Tres Islas, Bichola and Navegante) in a city of 500,000 residents. That changed a few months ago when Cerveceria Barraza opened its doors.

You can find this small brewery tucked in between residences on Avenida Aleman in downtown Mazatlán. You will be welcomed by the owner Julio Barraza and his team. The property was originally a vacation rental, but in a year and a half Julio transformed it, with help of family, into a production space on the ground floor and a bar on the second floor. The entrance is a hallway with stairs leading up to the air-conditioned bar on the right and the roof top terrace on the left. There is seating for 15-20 people inside and for 30 people outside.

You can order your drinks and snacks in the bar. The team is generous to let you try a sample of all their beers, before you place an order. I tried their signature beers: Belgian Blonde, Oatmeal stout and English Bitter as well as the weekly special Pale Ale.  Prices are $25 pesos for a 5 oz., $45 pesos for a 10 oz. and $65 pesos for a 15 oz. The first order of popcorn is on the house. You can also get pretzels, empanadas or marlin dip.

A craft beer fan, like myself, will never say no when the brew master invites you into the production space. Julio Barraza proudly showed me around the facilities, from the lab to the tanks to the refrigerator space. He studied biotechnology in Guadalajara, worked in the pharmaceutical industry, was a teacher for a few years, before returning to Mazatlán in 2019. He caught the home brewing ‘bug’ in 2016, initially as a hobby. “My friends were amazed that I was able to brew beer, because they had no idea what the process is. But it’s really very simple. To make beer you need water, malt, hops and yeast and that’s it!”

It’s clear from the start that Julio isn’t in the brewing business for the money. When talking about beer he becomes a waterfall of information, walking back and forth between the lab, the fridge (“you have to smell these malts!”), the white board to explain terms and the brewing tanks. It was a real treat to get a sample right from the brewing tank, to try the fourth batch of Pale Ale which was ready to be bottled the next day.

Julio isn’t in this project alone. His father Julio Cesar Barraza, who is the captain of a tuna boat, helps out with the brewing process during his leave. He says: “My son Julio doesn’t just throw ingredients together. He is very meticulous about beer brewing and leaves nothing to chance. He is the scientist of craft beer.” When I asked if Julio had an investor to buy all the equipment, he proudly shared that it was the family who pitched in to make this dream come true.

[Cerveceria Barraza is located on Avenida Miguel Aleman #610. The brewery is open Monday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. The facilities are not wheelchair accessible. You can also get their craft beer to-go per six pack. Payment is in cash, pesos only.]

Introducing Marée, Love at First Crépe

 By Sheila Madsen, December 2021

[Updated September 2023: La Roosevelt had welcomed two new restaurants you may wish to try. The Beer Company, closed Tuesday, 6 pm, – 1 am; Il, closed Tuesdays, 4 pm to 12 am.; Mawe Vegan Restaurant, closed Tuesdays, 8 am, – 10 pm.]

 Please welcome Marée – it is the first crêperie in Mazatlan. I’m not sure if the four young owners know this, but crepes date back to the 13th century in Brittany, France. The story goes that a housewife accidentally dribbled some thin porridge onto a hot flat cook top. Back then, people didn’t waste food, so they ate it and voila, the crépe was born. It’s so popular in France that there is one day a year when everyone eats crepes and it’s called “La Chandeleur”.

Mazatlen Restaurants

At Marée, every day is La Chandeleur! Mazatlecas Luisa Planter and Maria Velarde, have been friends since they were eight years-old, they are now 25. They both worked in offices and hated being behind a desk. Here we go with another love story. Luisa met Emmanuel Zamudio four years ago, about the same time as Maria met Joel Carillo. All four of them decided they would like “to create something together”. Joel is from Culiacan and a friend there had a crêperie. Joel learned all he could and returned to Mazatlan. The team saw that the La Roosevelt Gallery was renting commercial space and they decide go for it. Joel spent a month practicing and perfecting his crepes.

Joel is the crepe chef, Emmanuel is the money guy and shopper for all the fresh fruit and other ingredients. Luisa and Maria are the baristas, cleaners, waitresses and whatever else is needed. Luisa said “our friendship comes first. We love to travel together, we just came back from LA and we knew we would have to work 24/7 for at least six months before we could hire a manager; longer hours than working in an office but it’s all ours. We used to go out dancing at Vista del Palma, dine at Hector’s Bistro and Mahi Sushi. That’s not possible now. We accept we need to be here and we really enjoy watching it grow and seeing happy faces.”

Emmanuel’s mother stops by everyday to bring them lunch and dinner. Luisa says “we were eating trash.” Luisa’s mother pops in and when it’s busy and she wants to help clear the tables – “no, mum I’ve got this covered.” They all have a little savings and the parents help out where they can. The atmosphere is friendly, even joyous.

 The decor is very French bistro; white bistro chairs, padded in a French -style fabric. There’s room for 15 and that includes a bar stools overlooking the lush grounds of La Roosevelt and patio seating as well. If you go to Marée in the evening you can buy a glass [or two] of wine inside La Roosevelt and bring it to Marée as a companion for your crepe. Ooo là-là!

“Love at First Crepe” – offers savory and sweet crepes – the most expensive being $139. You can choose your own ingredients too, such as: Nutella, peanut butter, cheese, mushrooms, strawberries, Oreos, Snickers and ice cream. Joel will make it your way. As for drinks – every kind of coffee you can imagine – from cold to hot,[$65] teas, [$45] frappes,[$80] and three milkshakes [$70]. Example: La Pizzeria savory crepe includes tomato sauce, three cheeses, pepperoni, mushrooms and ham. Bring on the wine for that one! Example: Manzane sweet crepe includes apple, nuts, vanilla cream, cinnamon with ice cream. Bring on the coffee for that one!

Crepes have been adored and consumed since the 13th century; with these four young hard-working entrepreneurs, the love of crepes is bound to continue. Let’s keep this love story going.

 [Marée is located inside La Roosevelt Art Gallery, Roosevelt #309 at Carnaval. It’s pet friendly and handicap accessible. The credit card machine is enroute, so for now, it’s cash only. Closed Tuesdays, open from 10 am to 10 pm. There’s a new stylish his and her washroom inside La Roosevelt. Gallery. If you wish to know more about La Roosevelt Gallery please click here.]

Introducing, La Brasa Asador de Barrio

By Sheila Madsen, September 2021

If you don’t eat beef no need to read this – if you want to know where some of the best beef in Mazatlan is, please read on.

Asador de Barrio, means your neighbourhood steakhouse. La Brasa is a family affair and the night I went, I met Perla Diaz the daughter and her father, Jesus Diaz. Other family members are in the kitchen, making deliveries, setting up the grill or handling cash. The all-in-family scenario seems to be working for them as the atmosphere is upbeat and very happy.

Father daughter team, Jesus and Perla Diaz.

The conversation started with “we’re not sure why we opened La Brasa, we still don’t know” – Perla smiled shrugging her shoulders and Jesus just kept laughing. It turns out they are both architects and Jesus still has his same office after 40 years. Although they are mazatlecos they have lived and travelled often to Guadalajara. They discovered many quality steakhouses in Guadalajara at reasonable prices. “Our family are carnivores and we thought we could offer the best beef [it all comes from Monterrey] at an affordable price in Mazatlan. We know there is good beef in the fine dining restaurants like Héctor’s Bistro, like Casa Country, like Gaia, but we wanted to serve customers the absolute best at family prices. We only charcoal  grill them and we only offer beef.”  So, there’s the reason why they opened La Brasa – the Diaz clan craves excellent beef.

La Brasa offers six steaks, grilled the way you want – they make it easy with a chart you just point to. That’s an important detail for the grill master. For instance, I wanted my vaccio [150 gr., $115] medium well done, and in Spanish that is tres cuartos. Guests often enjoy practicing their “restaurant Spanish” and this chart eliminates any language mix-ups. My friends had the rib eye [350 gr., $260] and what La Brasa calls a Tablita cut – 330gr for $195. Every piece of beef was perfectly grilled and super tender loaded with flavour. The New York cut is $240, and the rib eye is $260, both 350 gr.

Vacio Argentino or “Tablita, 330 gr, $195.

The menus are in Spanish and English with steaks on one side and appetizers and drinks on the other side. One language mix-up is that they have called their appetizers “entrees” – there are six of them- so perhaps look there first, then flip over to the steaks. The steaks are served with small potatoes or sweet corn with a small garden salad.

Perla was quick to acknowledge this is not fine dining – “just look around, we have picnic tables, no cloth napkins, or any table clothes. We kept it casual, so our customers can have large portions at a reasonable price. We opened in June and so far our customers really appreciate the quality of our beef.” Yes, La Brasa is a casual restaurant focusing only on beef, but in terms of service and quality it is a very fine way to dine.

[La Brasa is located on Carnaval #807, at Miguel Alemán, next to Oxxo, Playa Sur, closed Mondays, open from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. La Brasa makes deliveries, 669 441 5996 and that’s the same number if you wish to make a reservation. It’s handicap accessible and they accept credit cards. They have a very limited wine list – one red, Indigo Eyes, and one white, Luna Llena chardonnay – both are $85 a glass. Corkage fee ranges from $200-$300. You can buy a large glass of sangria for $65.The bar is well stocked with beer and soft drinks.]

Introducing, Charros Fuego y Parrilla

By Sheila Madsen, May 2021

[ Chef Miguel Angel has moved again!]

Chef Miguel Angel Alverez Peña

I first met Chef Miguel in 2016 when he was cheffing at Agatha Kitchen Bar. At that time he was enthusiastic about the restaurant, his job and living in Mazatlan. After all, he had been educated in New York at the Culinary Institute of America, worked in the prestigious restaurant Daniel’s and then moved to Mexico City to chef at Amalia. What a relief to discover that in 2021 Miguel is still in love with Mazatlan and has no plans to move.  It’s always refreshing to speak with a chef who is still excited and enthusiastic about his career and has a vision – and is willing to change that vision on a seasonal basis.

Miguel arrived at Charros in December 2020 [formerly Aca los Charros] with the attitude of offering “global dishes, casual dining using the best ingredients, I don’t want to mess with nature. Charros only buys the U.S.D.A. prime beef and of course I use all the seafood that we are blessed with in Mazatlan. I like to change the menu every four months; it keeps me interested and the customers return to see what’s new.”

Coco Bahia – raw scallops with mint and lemon served in a coconut shell on a bed of ice cubes.

The menu you see on Charros Fuego y Parrilla’s FB page is not current, but it does give you a taste of the “fire and grill” dinners. You can count on a fabulous selection of seafood – raw or cooked, delicious salads, several pasta dishes and living up to it’s name there’s a large choice of beef cuts. The ribeye, $569; New York, $480; Vacio, $359; Tomahawk, $1,650; pork shank, $280, and there’s even a good old fashioned hamburger for $280. It was my first time there and I asked Miguel what he would recommend. You have to adore a chef who responds “what are you in the mood for?”  Turns out I was in the mood for a small thinly sliced piece of prime rib and I chose grilled asparagus and Brussel sprouts for my greens. In my experience, so many restaurants in Mazatlan don’t really offer many vegetables and it was such a welcome change from potatoes or rice. That’s Miguel’s New York/Spain/Toronto experience being introduced to Mazatlan. We were dining with a Charros VIP regular and she wanted her favourite dish Coco Bahia [$265] which is finely chopped scallops in a coconut shell.

As you can see from the photo above the décor is funky and eclectic. The owners have also invested in comfort; the navy blue chairs are padded and you sink into them not really ever wanting to leave. The interior is so well done and filled with many visual surprises that you forget that Home Depot is across the street. My VIP regular says the best time for quiet dining is between 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. After that the music get louder and there is more of a festive spirit that the younger customers really enjoy. There are four tv screens which large groups appreciate – but you can find some tables that don’t face the tvs. When we left around 10 p.m. almost every table was filled with Mexicans in groups and the laughter and happiness was bouncing off the walls.

That really sums up Charros: laughter, happiness and a chef who is passionate about food and enjoys pleasing his customers.

[Charros is located on Ave. La Marina #400, opposite Home Depot, and is open every day at 1 p.m. It’s handicap accessible and fully air conditioned. There is an extensive wine list and a full bar just waiting to make the cocktail of your choice. To make a reservation call 669 986 8606. Chef Miguel is also the executive chef at the sister restaurant Todos Santos.]

Introducing, Mahi Omakase 

By Maaike Hoekstra, March 2021  

[Maaike is the founder and owner of Mazatlan’s original street food tour, Flavor Teller.]

Has it ever happened to you that you can’t decide what to choose at a sushi restaurant? Most sushi places have a menu larger than Panama’s and choices like natural, breaded and baked (yes, that’s a thing!). The problem is, I always end up choosing the same roll because I know I like it. Now if only there was a way you could explore the full depth of the menu and try new flavors? Guess what – it already exists and it’s called the Omakase dinner.

Before jumping into the Omakase experience I asked a local Japanese friend to explain it to me. He said “it’s a special menu designed by the chef and it includes entrees, main course and dessert. The direct translation of Omakase is “I leave it up to you”. There has to be a level of trust between the customer and the chef, so you’re sure that the chef understands what you enjoy.”

Walking into Mahi Omakase you’re welcomed with a resounding ‘Irashai mase’ (pronunciation: ee-rah-SHAY muh-SAY) by the hostess and chefs which means ‘welcome, come in’. The restaurant is divided in four areas: the bar-cooking station, the private room for ten people, courtyard patio with bar or the curb-side seats. The bar-cooking station is basically a front row seat to see what the chef is cooking. There is space for six people at the bar or you can get the same service at your table. Our chef Armando presented himself and asked a little bit about our preferences. You can go for the full Omakase experience [$500-$650 per person] or rather choose options from the menu: sashimi $200-$380; nigiri $25-$140; hand-roll $80-$160; maki $190-$240, as well as entrées and dessert.

Our family of four divided in teams: two of us did the full Omakase mix experience and the other two ordered from the menu. The Omakase dinner started with a sashimi platter with five different kinds of fish ranging from lean to oily. It was served with seaweed and home-made wasabi which was pleasantly mild and really complemented the raw fish. Chef Armando suggested that we should eat a slice of pickled ginger between each fish to cleanse our palate. He also added that the sashimi slice should be eaten in one bite.

The next course were the nigiris: it was a mouthwatering pleasure to see the preparation of three different flavors. The blow torch was used “to revive the flavor” as the fish is refrigerated and  it added to the wow-factor! Again, the chef was very helpful to show us how to eat a nigiri with your hands. No need for soy sauce or wasabi, the flavoring was perfect.

The third course was the miso soup with rice noodles or seaweed salad. We tried both and they were equally surprising. The fourth course was a hand roll, which is basically a sushi roll prepared without a sushi mat and eaten like a burrito. At that point Chef Armando had us mesmerized with his skills and flavor pairing, each bite was more surprising than the next. Separate of the Omakase dinner we asked for him to prepare another sushi roll, which had fresh tuna and marinated daikon radish.

Finally it was time for pastry chef Felipe to take the stage and present his two gelato creations: cream cheese ice cream with a sesame cappuccino crumble and avocado ice cream with candied orange slice and coconut crumble. We couldn’t decide which dessert was our favorite.

Now team two who ordered from the menu wasn’t as excited as team one. It must be said that team two included somebody who doesn’t like fishy flavors and doesn’t like raw things. It was much harder for Chef Armando to please them. But all in all, our verdict of the Omakase dinner was that we would do it again.

The energetic Mazatlan-born owner of Mahi Omakase, Cristian Moreno, was able to make room in his busy agenda to speak to me. He travels back and forth among the three locations where you can find Mahi Sushi: Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas and Guadalajara. The brand was born in Cabo in 2011 with a fresh take on sushi and they opened in Mazatlan in 2013. Christian was proud to share that many of his recipes are original creations, like the popular Curricanes or green curry sushi.

I asked Cristian why he decided to open Mahi Omakase in downtown Mazatlan in the middle of a pandemic. He immediately replied that Mazatlan is booming with growing numbers of tourists and an impressive rise in real-estate options. “Mazatlan is home to the freshest fish and shrimp, however to get a first-class culinary experience you had to go to Guadalajara or Mexico City. Now it’s the time for Mazatlan to reclaim its role on the national scene. Mahi Omakase offers an intimate, exclusive experience for those who appreciate real fresh products and skilled chefs.”

Mahi Omakase does not use frozen products; the tuna is brought in from Ensenada, salmon comes straight from Canada and the fresh wasabi root is sourced from Japan. In addition, chef can offer you fresh blue fin tuna, king crab, live deep-sea shrimp, abalone and traditional Japanese fish varieties like Hamachi, King kampachi as well as other seasonal fresh fish.But this freshness does not always sit well with local customers. Cristian says: “Many locals only know the flavor of frozen tuna and have a hard time accepting the taste authentic raw fish. It’s funny how customers in our Guadalajara or Cabo restaurants are more open-minded about eating catch-of-the-day fresh fish.”

So what’s next for Mahi Sushi? Sushi lovers who liked the original Mahi fusion concept, can still get their bellies full at the Acuario location, half a block down from the Malecon. Cristian gave me a sneak peek that he will be opening another Mahi Fusion Sushi in the Golden Zone or in the Marina… in the near future. Asking about which is his favorite location, among Mazatlan, Cabo and Guadalajara, he doesn’t hesitate at all and proudly says: “Mazatlan, of course!”

[Mahi Omakase is open every day, Belisario Dominguez #1410: Sunday through Thursday from 1.45 – 11.00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 1.45 – 12.00 p.m. Reservations are preferred at 669 136 0669. ]

Introducing, Casa Mayora Restaurant

By Sheila Madsen, February 2021

You take a building from 1846, and the dreams of four people over ten years and what do you get? Casa Mayora. The four owners have always wanted to have a restaurant together but life and work took them to Acapulco, Mexico City and Mazatlan. Finally, in mid 2019 the group began to build their dream. The owners are Ricardo Sánchez Núnez, Carlos Barraza, Luis Louiza and Angelica Morán. The restaurant has a lovely private dining area that seats 10 people with accordion wooden doors that can either be closed for privacy or left open to meander through to the private lounge. The team took time to sit down with me in the lounge area and shared their vision.

From left to right – Luis, Carlos, Angelica, Ricardo.

At first they were all a little shy, and we had a slight language problem but that was easily resolved by their manager Roberto who helped us through some interesting sentences. By the look on their faces I think they just couldn’t believe that it had finally happened; they actually did it and the restaurant was up and running. They were quietly bursting with pride sitting on the divine navy- blue banquette and chairs with a hand carved tree block tables. Slowly, the details emerged.

Luis and Carlos found the tree in the ruin and instead of tossing it away they made all these gorgeous tables and their designer decided on a colour palette of navy blue with hints of gold. The chairs are padded and well designed. Along the main wall there is a series of colour portraits of women with a name plate underneath. Roberto wanted me to know the history of these women and how the owners arrived at the name Casa Mayora. The portraits pay tribute to some of the most important female chefs in Mexico – some are famous, some are dead, and some were just well known in their establishments. They may not even have gone to culinary school but they dished out tasty meals. So far, the wall contains portraits of: Celia Floran, Benedicta Alejo, Patricia Quintana, Chepina Peralta, Susana Palazuelos and Abigail Mendoza. I asked several Mexican friends on the meaning of Casa Mayora and each one had a different take; regardless, they agreed it was a compliment to Mexican female chefs and it was a term of importance and endearment. Culinary girl power!

When I asked about the décor several words flew out – modern, rustic, vintage – we settled on modern vintage which really makes no sense until you see it. It’s the combination of the hand-carved wood tables, the exposed brick, 20 foot ceiling,  the light gold floor tiles and the modern lighting and chairs. Kind of a chic elegant feeling without being stuffy or snobby. You’ll feel comfortable there in jeans or a snazzy dress. They really have a low bar. Literally. It’s the first time I’ve seen a low bar area and I enjoyed the difference – no high stools, but comfy low seats with a curvy wooden shelf for your drinks. You kind of snuggle in and can keep your visit to the bar a secret. And serving up marvelous drinks is the one and only Sergio Torres – you may know him from El Presidio or Casa 46. He’s a great mixologist [I guess bartender is passé now?] and he’s created some delicious cocktails. I had the Susana made with all- natural ingredients – Sergio likes to boast about that – but it does include a beautiful blend of alcohol too.  Try Marta, Victoria, Celia – even the girls have taken over the bar! Casa Mayora invites you to sit at the bar, or the lounge and have a few snacks. There is no pressure to stay for dinner.

But if you do decide to dine…the chef is Guillermo Portillo. Chef “Memo” spent seven years at El Presidio, probably Diego Becerra’s right-hand man. Chef has created a large Mexican international menu. What sets Casa Mayora apart? The answer is chef’s smoked Chamorro, “we have a special machine that no other restaurant has” and the paella Mazatleca. All the paellas are made individually – not in a traditional large pan. Portillo’s paella contains mussels, calamari, octopus, shrimp and chilorio, for $250.

I had the smoked Chamorro [$300] and it was truly fabulous, not fatty or greasy and it did fall-off-the-bone. It doesn’t come with any salad or vegetables so if you want your greens order that separately. My husband had the pork belly tacos [$210] based on a friend’s lively description; “…the pork belly tacos were fabulous. Pork belly fat was rendered perfectly leaving a lovely crisp crust with moist succulent meat. It was served with four condiments, a guacamole, house salsa that was excellent a cucumber slaw.” The wine list isn’t large but it’s good value. I had a glass of French merlot, Pierre Jean, for $100. The list also includes whites, roses and even sparking wines.

The menu offers starters of tuna tartar, tiradito Olas Altas, chef’s ceviche and then flows into nine hot entrees, soups and salads, pastas and sandwiches, eight main specials, four seafood specials and five desserts. Casa Mayora also has its own taco station where all the tacos are fresh and handmade.

We concluded the interview with me asking why Mazatlan? Their answer read like a script from tourism – Centro Historico, the people, the ocean, the beaches, the local produce, it’s the place to invest in, we all wanted to be here together with our families. They’ve thought and planned for Casa Mayora for ten years and truly believe in the phrase “if you built it they will come.” Yes we will!

[Casa Mayora is located on Constitución #104 [between the Malecon and Venus] with parking in the back, $30 an hour, the first hour is on the house. It’s open every day at 1 p.m., and it’s mostly handicap accessible- easy glide into the main dining area and bar, but little steps in the lounge area and bathrooms. All credit cards accepted. For reservations call or WhatsApp 669 325 2560. The restaurant saves your reservations for 15 minutes. All Covid-19 protocols are followed – social distancing, masks, temp taken and hand sanitizer provided. There’s an entire second floor – when the time is right, that will become an event space.]

Introducing, La Mulata – casa tostadora de café

By Maaike Hoekstra, November 24, 2020. [Maaike is the owner and founder of Flavor Teller, Mazatlan’s original street food tour.]

Sometimes walking your dog can lead to great discoveries. That’s how I ran into the coffee roasting bar La Mulata. It’s located on the corner of Carvajal and Vicente Guerrero in downtown Centro in an early 20th century house painted bright pink and blue. To pin-point the location for you food-minded readers, it is only half a block from pizzeria La Mona Centro and the vegan restaurant La Ruta Vegana. The owner Isai Reyes, also known as ‘El Chino’, welcomed me in with a big smile. Some of you might know him from his previous job as coffee roaster and manager at Looney Bean Cerritos, where he worked for ten years.

Owner Isai Reyes with his wife Kathia Trias. They kindly removed their face masks for the photo.

One thing strikes you immediately about this local coffee shop is Isai’s passion for roasting and preparing great coffee. I asked him which kind of coffee describes him best; “Black coffee in a French press, for its honest flavor.” No doubt, he’s a man with a mission to spread the appreciation for good coffee.

The coffee roasting and distribution has been a regular activity for Isai, initially as part of Looney Bean. However, with the current change of ownership, he decided now was the time to venture out and start his own coffee bar. He is proud to share that he supplies roasted coffee to seven different coffee shops around town, which is currently his biggest income source. La Multata  has a complete and affordable beverage menu: hot beverages ranging from $25 to $45 pesos and cold options available from $45-50 pesos. Craving something sweet? No worries: they’ve got that covered too with brownies, cinnamon rolls, carrot muffins and S’mores.

So how did the coffee shop get its name? Isai told me that ‘mulata’ refers to the mixed -race ancestry of coffee: its origins come from Africa, but its preparation is European. Hence, coffee is mulatto in essence. The logo was designed by fellow architect and artist Alejandra de la Selva. “It illustrates exactly what La Mulata stands for: unique and colorful!”

Currently La Mulata only offers with Chiapas organic highland coffee, but in the near future Isai will be incorporating other coffee regions too. You can also buy roasted ground coffee; $130 pesos for 500 grams.[La Mulata opens daily from 9a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m [from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. the team is making coffee deliveries.] Seating space for seven people inside and two people outside. Payment with cash or bank card allowed. You can find them on Facebook as ‘La Mulata casa tostadora de café’ or ‘Lamulata.tostadora’ on Instagram. Call at 669 273 8025, English spoke).]

Introducing, El Presidio Restaurant, refreshed!

By Sheila Madsen, November 2023

[Updated February 24, 2024 – three of us arrived [with a reservation] at 7:30 pm., every table was taken, including a wedding event upstairs.  Everything that owner Rodrigo Becerra stated below is absolutely true. And it has always been one of the most outstanding spaces in Mazatlan. The service was excellent, the wait staff hustling and the food was perfectly cooked. We weren’t rushed, we weren’t kept waiting – just the way a Saturday evening in a busy restaurant should unfold. Welcome back El Presidio!  SM.]

 Owner Rodrigo Becerra startles me with his honest opening statement: “I acknowledge that during a particularly challenging time, the restaurant didn’t meet the high standards our customers had come to expect from us. The quality of our food and service fell short. I am grateful for the honest feedback I have received.

Rodrigo Becerra.

I recognized that changes were needed, and I have listened to the community. There is now a new service team in charge, and we all welcomed our new chef, David Agis. David brings a fresh perspective and passion for regional cuisine and culinary excellence.

El Presidio has always been more than a business; it was a community, a gathering place. I am renewing our commitment to being a part of the American and Canadian community life.”

I was impressed that Rodrigo addressed the unflattering comments immediately that have been drifting about on social media. Rodrigo is a serious man who has been in the restaurant business since 2007. The building, known as Casa Garcia, dates back to 1876 and it was his great grandparent’s house. He remembers playing in the house with his three rowdy brothers and he clearly remembers when it opened in 2012 as being the “in” place. Rodrigo was married in Casa Garcia in 2010 – it has a special place in his heart. And now he wants you to feel the heartbeat of El Presidio once more. He would like you to fall in love again – as we all did when it first opened. The bar area is a natural gathering place. For such a large space it’s somehow remains intimate with tables nicely spaced under the fig, laurel, mango and banyan trees that reach up to the stars. Many diners prefer the enclosed air conditioned restaurant – it all depends on your mood.

Chef David Agis.

Chef David Agis trained under Chef Gabriel Rodriquez [recent winner of Top Chef of Mexico] who wants to serve you “honest regional cuisine with generous portions.”

The breakfast menu offers eggs and omeletts any way you want, plus classics like Chilaquiles, chicharron en salsa roja, machaca de res and four “sandwiches”. Barbacoa de Borrego is available on the weekends only. The lunch and dinner menu offers four cold entrees and five hot entrees; three pastas and soups, and 11 mains. The Garcia House Specials are 12-hour smoked short ribs, zarandeado fish and beef rib eye. You will find vegan and gluten-free options too in this delicious regional menu.

Gorgeous space, wonderful food, but how is the service? “There are new teams and policies in place; your table will have a waiter, a helper and a runner – who brings the hot food from the kitchen to your table. If you are unhappy: speak to your waiter. If he/she doesn’t help you, you can voice your concerns to the two captains, Leo or Armando” says Rodrigo. Still not satisfied? Then ask for the floor managers Miguel or Lupe. And there’s one more step in the “satisfaction process” – feedback forms are given to each person before you get the bill. If the person in charge sees you are unhappy with the quality of food or service, then he/she has a chance to offer you a complimentary whatever or perhaps delete the charge. In other words, Rodrigo has built in the happiness factor into your experience – so please don’t ever leave El Presidio silent and dissatisfied. A romance is based on trust and communication and this new team really, really wants to hear from you.

Rodrigo Becerra’s sculpture.

Part of the refresh will be events especially created to appeal to the foreign community and to the loyal National El Presidio customers. They will be promoted on social media and on MazatlanLife’s event calendar. Absence makes the heart grow fonder – and now we all have an opportunity to fall in love again.

[El Presidio,/Restaurante Presidio Cocina de México is located on Mariano Escobedo and Niños Heroes, enter on the Niños Heroes side, and is open every day, 8 am on .When you call for a reservation please specify if you want to dine outside with fans and moonlight or indoors with ac via WA or call –  669 223 1021, all credit cards accepted. Handicap accessible. Breakfast is served from 8 am. until 12:30. The baños are huge and super clean – 11 stalls for women! Menus are in English and in Spanish. If you would like to learn more about the history of Casa Garcia, please click here. The sister restaurant, Compañia Minera – “Mexican modern cantina, – sports bar” is open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 am. From 11 am – 6 pm. fresh seafood is served, and after 6 it’s tacos, sandwiches and burgers. The kitchens are separate. To reserve your bar stool, or game time call or WA – 669 991 5751.]

 

Introducing, Restaurant Campestre, El Portal de San Juan.

Interested in gluten-free, sugar- free baking services? Read on!

[Updated, October 2022: Martha and her husband have opened a sister restaurant, Casa Feliz on Constitution and Benito Juarez – breakfast only, lovely courtyard]

By Sheila Madsen, September 2020

Martha Trejo and her husband Constantino Dimópulos have owned the restaurant with the same name outside Culiacan for seven years – campestre, meaning country. When they retired to Mazatlan – guess what? Like so many people they were bored and three years ago decided to open a mini El Portal de San Juan in Centro. Martha started with one table, then two and so on. The busy “retired” couple prepare delicious typical Mexican-style breakfasts and offer an extensive bilingual menu. Many egg dishes from huevos con Machaca, chorizo, chilorio, rancheros, omelets, crispy bacon, hot cakes, tamales, chilaquiles verdes/rojos, country steak, marlin ranchero, ++ – with regular coffee or Mexican coffee.

Two HUGE fluffy pancakes, $90

Normally, a small restaurant serving breakfast would not interest me, but it happen to catch my eye when I read two of my favourite words – gluten free. Being Celiac eliminates pancakes, scones, waffles, cinnamon buns, croissants, toast – well you get the picture – and I texted Martha daring to ask “do you make gluten-free bread?” I was expecting “no, it’s too difficult, there’s no market for it and it’s expensive, the humidity, blah, blah, blah.”

Martha’s English is perfect – she does have three adult children, one works for Microsoft [Washington], one for Heineken [Netherlands] and one for Deloitte Touche [Florida] and her response was “no problem, tell me what you want!” What? My fingers were flying across the keyboard – no garlic, no onion, love olives etc. etc. Martha delivered my bread the next day and it is just superb. Light, fluffy, holds together, you can slice it, toast it, freeze it and it has wonderful flavour and doesn’t taste like cardboard. Take that Whole Foods!

But enough about me. If you are interested in Martha’s Private Baking Services – all gluten free and sugar free  – WhatsApp or call, one day before you need it at 667 185 7600 and she will chat with you, send you her list of ingredients – you can say si/no and she’ll create your bread/dessert/scones – just for you. [often they drive to Culiacan to check on “big” El Portal, that’s why Martha needs a call in advance.]

gluten-free, sugar-free carrot cake.

My elliptical is calling to me – saying if you are going to see Martha and eat gluten-free pancakes with crispy bacon you’d better spend some time with me. I will, I have four more episodes of Grey’s Anatomy to watch. If you are a vegan or vegetarian – call one-day ahead and Martha will accommodate your breakfast cravings. Twelve years is a long time to wait for yummy gluten-free bread but Martha’s baking skills were well worth the wait. Weight?

[Restaurant Campestre “El Portal de San Juan is located in Centro, on Libertad #321, on the corner of Heriberto Frias and is open every day from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. There is a high step into the restaurant [oh, the rains in Centro!] otherwise it is handicap accessible, and they accept all major credit cards.There are two separate rooms – one with windows and a fan and another with ac. All tables are socially distanced. If you wish to reserve or desire something special call Martha 667 189 9212.]

Revisiting Diego’s Beach & Grill.

By Sheila Madsen, August 2020

In 2014, Chef Diego Becerra told me “I am an adrenaline junkie.” He had opened Diego’s Beach House in 2010, launched El Presidio in the elegant 1876 Casa Garcia house in 2012, opened a Mexican Cantina, Compañia Minera in 2014 in the Casa Garcia space, plus Diego owned a restaurant in Culiacan. “I was working 16 hours a day and with three brothers, there were four families to please, even for me it was exhausting. When this deadly pandemic hit I literally pressed the pause button. I realized that I wanted a restaurant that was just for me, for my family, a place I had complete control over. I took this time to think, to talk to my wife and two kids and we all decided it was best to return to what I love – to focus on food. It was a difficult but amicable separation and my brothers have all gone their separate ways.” Diego hinted that one brother would continue to run El Presidio but he declined to share any details. Presidio is like an ex-girlfriend [don’t kiss and tell] and now Diego has returned to his high school sweetheart, his one true love, – it was always there, but a man needs to explore.

Diego’s Beach House did a quiet morph into Diego’s Beach & Grill. A small name change but it’s a big deal for Diego. ” I didn’t want “club” in the name, I didn’t want an event space, I wanted a laid-back beach-front restaurant where people could bring their dogs, take their shoes off, even take their shirts off if they wish, and I really wanted to create a menu that appealed to both Mexicans and expats.” If you are familiar with Diego’s culinary skills you will know that he’s the maestro of smoke- it, grill- it, bbq- it , marinate-it and chill-it. Currently the restaurant has a seven foot bilingual chalkboard with the breakfast menu on one side and lunch/dinner dishes on the other side.

The kitchen has been gutted and completely rebuilt to accommodate Diego’s passions; a small bakery that serves up divine muffins and other pastries for his breakfast crowd, a charcoal grill for seafood, a charcoal grill for meat, five smokers and a massive roaster [or whatever it’s called] for his pigs – you know Diego and his roasted pigs. Now, he has the outdoor space to grill and smoke away. Back to the chalkboard – you’ll see three types of ceviches, Mexican-style fresh fish, shrimp and octopus cocktails, fish and chips and carnivore lovers will be in heaven with three burgers, pork shank, smoked brisket, bbq ribs and bbq chicken.

Brisket

I had the mahi mahi and it was perfectly grilled and flaky and my husband had the melt-in-your-mouth brisket. Both under $200. The bar serves over ten types of beer [around $33] and all mixed drinks are about $55. The wine list, what wine list? Concha y Toro and Happy Country but you are welcome to bring your own wine for a small corkage fee. In time, there will be a better selection of wines.

Diego will keep adding creations and specials to the chalkboard; he just opened on July 2 so he could reunite his family of 25 employees. “They’ve been so loyal to me, I wanted to give them a salary so they could feed their families. It’s a bit of mess right now as I am planning a large bar area, an air conditioned space that will seat 60 plus and I will be installing glass panels along both sides for weather protection and I want to update both bathrooms.” And, and, and, it’s a work in progress, but it’s better to have a little mess and keep people motivated and working. Besides, nothing messes with an ocean view. On this hot August night the sea breeze was keeping us all cool, no need for fans.

Speaking of fans – fans of the Brenster’s Beach Bash will be delighted to know that Diego feels “he’s a tradition, he’s a must, we all want The Brenster here every Tuesday as usual. There will be no other music, I just want to concentrate on the food. I love to see people enjoying themselves, talking, we have the view, we have the sunsets, music is not really necessary.”

Oh, how our world has changed in ten years. Diego is ten years older, now 47, and he’s had oodles of time to reflect on how he wants to move forward. No longer a bull fighter, no longer a cliff diver this adrenaline junkie has harnessed all his energy and passion for Diego’s Beach & Grill. Diego concludes our evening where we began, “it’s for me, for my family, I know what is important. I realize I am one of the lucky ones; I am able to re-create Diego’s and I will continue to invest and make the very best food.”

[Diego’s Beach & Grill is open from 8 a.m. to noon for breakfast, 1 pm. on for lunch and dinner, closed Mondays, it’s located off Camaron Sabalo, on Florida [opposite La Catrina.] Handicap accessible, accepts all credit cards. Because of social distancing, reservations are not accepted, seating is restricted to about 80 people but when this protocol is lifted you may call 669 986 1816 for a reservation. The restaurant and employees follow all the Covid-19 rules. It’s not mandatory, but it’s recommended you wear a mask when you enter the restaurant. In 2014, I interviewed Diego’s mother, the gracious Gabriela Rodriquez Garcia  here’s a snippet: When talking about her boys she becomes both animated and aggravated.[ From eldest to youngest: Roberto (engineer); Diego (chef); Rodrigo (sculptor, designer, architect, owner of La Mona Pizza); Rodolfo (business manager).] They drove her crazy as active teenagers always in various accidents, some serious, other just enough to make her worry. “The worst was when Diego took up bullfighting, OMG it was terrible, I was really mad. But now they have settled down and all married nice girls. I think they even cook and do the dishes, they are good husbands.”]

Introducing, La Molcajeteria Cocina Mexican

By Sheila Madsen, January 2020

Updated April 2023, SM: La Molcajeteria is dishing out blue corn pizza – which is excellent news for those who are gluten-intolerant, or like me, are Celiac. Chef Flor has created an elegant and cost -effective solution: blue corn tortilla base with all the traditional toppings. She bought a super large tortilla press and presses out these pizzas fairly quickly. One size, medium is $140 that includes all the toppings you can imagine and would easily feed two. I recognize it’s not a traditional thin crust or a thick crust pizza and won’t appeal to many picky pizza eaters but it’s a delicious alternative. Marco Bernal tells me the kids have been streaming in for six months to enjoy the blue corn pizza, kids like it too! A tiny detail; La Molcajeteria has no wheat flour in the entire restaurant, they have no use for it, so there is no cross contamination. Thank you so much, Flor and Marco.

Marco Bernal and Flor Juarez are the owners of La Molcajeteria Cocina Mexican. Their restaurant in Culiacan has been successful for nine years and family members persuaded them to open a sister restaurant in Mazatlan. Extended Mexican families are so resourceful because a cousin, an aunt, someone owned an ideal house in a perfect location on Constitución that needed a major gut. Marco claims the house dates from 1875 but had been abandoned for 35 years. He also told me it used to be a factory that made gloves for the fishermen. Now, after a major renovation Marco and Flor are the proud owners of the second La Molcajeteria Cocina Mexicana.

While the house is old, the molcajete is slightly older, like 6000 years old. Molcajete is the Aztec word for molli, meaning seasoning or sauce and the second part of the word is Aztec for caxitl meaning bowl. It’s an important pre-hispanic kitchen tool [like our newer mortar and pestle] and every modern-day Mexican kitchen has one. One of my Mexican friends has three – her mother-in-law has passed them on to her with the volcanic bowls all lovingly seasoned in different sizes. Just like a mortar and pestle, the molcajete is used for grinding spices and making salsa.

And that’s exactly where you begin in the restaurant. You are offered samples of three sauces; brown [some would say super-spicy, others would say “just right”], green – slightly spicy and a red sauce that is not spicy and has a tomato flavour. Depending on the sauce you chose,[don’t miss the opportunity to have a quick taste!] the cooks create a broth for your food. The molcajetes are heating up on the giant grilled waiting to be filled with your choices – chicken, shrimp, skirt steak, pork, cheese, onion, nopal – it’s a real mix and match. I ordered the molcajete trio for two persons [$440]- shrimp, chicken and skirt steak, and each item was perfectly cooked, nothing tough, or overdone. Flor oversees the grilling and timing is crucial; the food is quickly cooked on the grill and continues cooking in your bowl at the table. It’s easy to get it wrong and I’ve heard through friends that this sometimes can happen. Please let the wait staff know and they will re-do it.

Friends ordered fajitas [$145-$176] and enjoyed rolling the delicious food in the hand-made soft blue corn tortillas. Molcajete dining makes a refreshing change from fancy sauces and mashed potatoes. Almost “clean” eating and everyone gets to order exactly what they want, cooked the way they want. The most expensive “bowl” [except for the dinner for two] is $230 but most dishes are about $175. I thought Marco had lost the plot when he proudly showed me his freezer full of molcajetes – why were they not on the grill? Well, Marco and Flor also offer “Molcajetes below zero” for ceviches – tuna, shrimp, octopus, and various aguachiles. If you have children, they are prepared [having three children of their own] – look closely and you’ll see a section of “For the Little Ones”, five items from $82 – $105″. Kids will certainly respond to the brightly coloured chairs – purples, yellow, fusion, turquoise – heck even adults feel happy with these colours.

When did the mixing of spices become a receptacle for food, I ask Marco? He dates it back to the 80s when the Anderson family owned Señor Frogs and decided this would be a “hot/cool” way to serve food. Many restaurants since then have copied it, but none are as authentic or as dedicated as Marco and Flor. The molcajete is the main event, not an add on. There are also options for vegans – this thoughtful duo have been in restaurant business a looooong time, and have thought of everything. Are you craving Tepache – the pineapple fermented drink with only 1.0% alcohol? They also have/sell that, for $40 a bottle. Desserts are simple, flan, ice cream and brownies.

When you go you’ll notice the menu is round like a vinyl record. That’s a theme that’s carried throughout both the restaurants here and in Culiacan. Marco has been collecting vinyl records, LPs [remember those?] for 45 years and when he’s not busy he loves to spin them on his “gramaphone.” Adios Alexa! It’s a large restaurant, and although there is no dance floor, that doesn’t stop some people from dancing to some irresistible tunes from the past.

La Molcajeteria concept is fun and Marco and Flor have created a happy space with funky decor, funny sayings and just look all those LPs! The menu ends with “Full belly happy heart”.

[La Molcajeteria is located on Constitución #250 [east of Venus on the north side, beside El Recreo], closed Mondays, opens at 8 a.m. Handicap accessible – there’s a permanent gently-sloped concrete ramp  [ there is one small step into the baño]- credit cards accepted, full bar, and seats around 80 people, air conditioned. For reservations call 669 195 7652. There is a private room that seats 30 people, just call Marco and reserve it – he’ll spin the right tunes for you!]

 

Introducing, El Pargo & La Vaca Bistro Grill.

By Sheila Madsen, January 8, 2019

This is certainly a neighbourhood restaurant and for the three years it’s been open, Pargo & Vaca has earned a loyal customer base. People have been praising the food and service for years – not so new for many of you, but perhaps new to a few of you.

Betty Lizarraga and her family own the restaurant with son Ramon Lopéz as the manager. He was a nutritionist but now eagerly embraces grilling and managing El Pargo. Should you need a little assistance translating the Spanish menu or communicating your order, Nacho the head waiter, is ready to assist you. He’s been in the service business for 30 years in Mazatlan and enjoys speaking English and making customers feel welcome.

Snapper/cow – the menu is extensive and loaded with fish and meat choices. There are ten starters, six ceviche choices [$150-$170], and 10 cocina del mar dishes – ranging from tuna to salmon to zarandeado [$165-$215], and that doesn’t include the six ways chef prepares shrimp [$185]. Fish lovers will be thrilled and carnivores will be in heaven. A rack of pork ribs is $180 and could easily be shared – they are super tender, fall-of-the bone but I know people are very picky about ribs, so try them for yourself. The real surprise was the bbq sauce, a completely different taste. When I asked Ramon he was reluctant to share the whole recipe but he did hint there was coffee and chocolate in the sauce. He proudly showed us the filet mignon for $380 – it’s the size of large fist and probably 5″ thick. Notice the word petit is not included! Vaca also offers a rib eye at $310, and a top sirloin at $250. A “traditional” hamburger is $125 and a shrimp burger is $130. They have thoughtfully included a salad [vegetables and fruit] and two pasta dishes.

Regulars [“we have tried shrimp, ribs, salmon, fish fillet and everything has been very good including the service and we are picky.”] assure me the meat is always tender and grilled to perfection and the fish is fresh and delicious. Although this is an authentic Mexican neighbourhood restaurant it does have a full bar. It’s kind of nice to order a gin and tonic, or a glass of wine if you aren’t a beer drinker. You could probably go every week for three years to El Pargo & La Vaca and enjoy a different meal packed with love and flavour – be it fish or meat.

[El Pargo & La Vaca Bistro Grill is located on 16 de Septiembre behind the condominium tower Triana, between Guillermo Nelson and 5 de Mayo. Ample street parking. It’s open every day from 12:30 pm. to around 9:30 p.m. Because of the construction on Triana during the day it’s best to sit inside if you go for lunch; the noise stops at 5 p.m. so in the evening you can enjoy the terrace. There is no wine list, one red a Merlot, two whites a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chard., probably ok to byob if you asked first.The restaurant accepts major credit cards, is air conditioned, and has a ramp leading to his and her bathrooms – handicap accessible. If you wish to make a reservation, call 669 985 1222.]

Introducing, Cafferium – a “coffee culture” cafe.

By Sheila Madsen, January 2, 2020.

Gonzalo & Oscar

Gonzalo Cota and Oscar Parral are the owners of this new “coffee culture” cafe. They are both sailors in the Merchant Marine and being out to sea for six months has allowed them to dream big. They dreamed about coffee, art, culture, greenery and spaces where people would gather to talk, to share books, to see new artwork and to taste various coffees and teas.

They spent a year renovating the house on Belisario preserving the original tiles, beams and walls. The house suited their vision perfectly; there’s a tea salon, a courtyard, a bakery and large coffee area with a coffee bar plus a big modern kitchen.

Gonzalo enlisted the help of his sister -chef, Eliana Marlen Cota [1420 Cocina restaurant in Xalapa] and he said “she was very strict with us…she spent two weeks here and demanded a separate hot and cold kitchen. It’s a professional kitchen, she made sure of that.”

Gonzalo and Oscar left the details of the kitchen to Marlen while they focused on the coffee bar. When you order, you are asked in Spanish how would you like your coffee prepared? This is new to Mazatlan – if you don’t want an espresso or specialty coffees – they take the same beans that are roasted in Veracruz and offer to prepare the coffee at your table. Depending on how you prefer it, there’s a choice of six cups to marry- up with the six different preparations – such as French press, aeropress, Kalita and Chemex. If you are a coffee freak then you’ll know the way you want to go, but if this question is new to you, then let Fernando, the barista from Xalapa, show you the choices. Sixty pesos a cup. There are also 12 choices from the “barra fria” $50-$60, eight choices from “barra caliente” $40-$65. Gonzalo says the new coffee culture is very much like a wine tasting – the same beans taste differently [sometimes better] with different preparations.

And what about that Japanese-like tea salon? It’s almost finished – just a few chairs and artwork to be added – you sit under the charming Mexican version of a cherry blossom tree [ah, sailors at sea and their dreams] and there are six different teas to select from. There’s a breakfast menu and a brunch menu – all freshly prepared by master cook Abimael Parra from Topolobampo, Sinaloa [but created by the strict sister-chef] in the hot or cold kitchen. Cafferium is a large house with an inviting layout. You can easily walk into the bakery to buy your bread and sweets and leave, or stay for a coffee, or full breakfast. Gonzalo was definite about the balance of Cafferium – beautiful but casual, stay or go, he wants you feel at home. This is the dawning of a new age for coffee and the name Cafferium reflects that, a mash-up of coffee and emporium, complete with Neptune’s trident as the “u” Cafferium.

The Bakery

Eventually, there will be art exhibits, a private meeting room, the courtyard garden will be in bloom, and the ovens will be baking bread. These sailors are thrilled to be home from the high seas surrounded by their beloved coffee beans. Drop by and share Gonzalo’s and Oscar’s dream of this new- age coffee culture. It’s a wonderful opportunity to savour new flavours.

[Cafferium: Cafeteria-Panaderia-Arte is located on Belisario Dominguez #2006, [just south of Melchor Ocampo] and is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8-8. They accept all credit cards, it is not handicap accessible. There are two modern well -designed his and her bathrooms. These are proper baños- and not some afterthought stuck in a closest. Bread is not being baked yet, there’s a small selection of croissants, cookies, etc. Cafferium can seat about 40 inside, there’s air conditioning too. While there are ten employees, at the moment, none of them speak English – be patient, they are anxious to please and to share their love of coffee and tea knowledge.]

Introducing, La Marea.

By Sheila Madsen, May 2019

You may remember it as El Mirador where the stray cats draped themselves over the cannon [dating back to 1864, the cannon, not the cats] before you entered a rather down market restaurant to have a drink and watch the cruise ships glide out of the narrow inlet heading toward the mighty Pacific. Over these past 10 years it has been open, it has been closed, and we all longed for a decent Mazatlan restaurant so we could drink in the 210 degree view; Stone Island, El Faro and up the northern coast.

Finally new owners entered the scene and did a wonderful remodelling job. Ramps were built, new comfy chairs and tables were added and a lower lounge area was built for private events. You can choose to climb the steps and give yourself a cardio work-out from Paseo del Centenario or simply drive/taxi to La Marea on Calle Camino.

I would suggest you select a cruise ship day go around 5 p.m., watch the ships leave between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. and enjoy the view and sunset. The star of this movie is the view – the decor is low key to emphasis the outside natural beauty. The main restaurant is surrounded by glass that’s about 4 feet high and the rest is open air. The private lounge area is all open air with typical lounge chairs and sofas so you can have different groupings.

The wait staff is attentive and quick to please. They need to be because the menu is huge – it’s in English and Spanish with icons of peppers to indicate if the dish is spicy. Here’s a condensed version of the large menu. Entradas – 12 choices $71-$140; Tostadas & Ceviches – 15 choices, $65-$180; Barra Fria, 9 choices, $105-$255; Barra Caliente – 9 selections, $180-$260; Tacos – 10 choices, $50-$65; Hamburgesas & Snacks – 7 choices – tuna, shrimp, beef burger, fish and chips etc; Ensaladas y Cortes, 9 choices, $120-$300; Sushi – 7 choices, $105-$180; Rollos Naturales – 7 choices, $135 – $160; Rollos Empanizados – 3 choices, $95-$130; Rollos Horneados – 2 choices, $140-$160; Rollos Especials – 4 choices, $180-$200. I don’t care what lifestyle diet you are following there has to be something here for you! Or you could just drink one of the 28 cocktails that are offered. There is no wine list, house red or house white, $80 a glass. There are a few desserts, and they do offer cappuccino.

You could arrive to La Marea in shorts or dressed up. The night we were there it was filled with Mexicans celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, and people taking pictures for every angle. It’s casual with the emphasis on seafood. After dark, I suspect it’s popular for young Mexicans to enjoy as a place to hang out and have a few drinks. No matter the hour, one of the most breathtaking views in Mazatlan awaits you at La Marea.

[La Marea is located on Calle Camino #11 on Cero de Vigia. It opens every day at 11 a.m., 669 910 4123, handicap accessible, clean new bathrooms. Accepts major credit cards.]

Introducing, Raices de mar.

By Sheila Madsen, March 2019

[Updated October 2022: the menu has changed, bigger and better and chef has added three fabulous salads. Could be a full meal or a starter depending on your appetite. There’s also a small “German” menu; be sure to aks your wait person for it. There are six dishes, even meatballs with red cabbage.Decent wine list and a great cocktail list.]

 Not long ago this was an empty private house that you may have walked by every day and never noticed. Today, it’s the new home to Raices Gallery and Raices de mar [roots of the sea] restaurant. Do you know the gallery La Querencia located on Belisario Dominquez that runs right through to Heriberto Frias? The owners, one being the son David Osuna, have adopted that rustic -modern wooden-stone feel into the restaurant.

The open courtyard [yes, summer rains do need to be addressed] is so stylish and elegant with hand carved wooden tables inlaid with different stone; the entire space is surrounded by greenery, and every type of sculpture you can imagine Rafael [the sculptor] created in stone, in wood, in marble, in alabaster is buried in the lush greenery, on the walls, on the corners all with the most perfect low lighting. The entire restaurant is a work of art. It’s not funky, it’s super elegant and you’ll discover a new sculpture every time. And the chairs are comfortable! All with cushions so you can sit for hours and soak up the atmosphere.

David Osuna

Remarkably David Osuna, the chef Axel Gaxiola [ex La Fiera] and the parents Andrea and Rafael all agreed on the vision and the menu. “Our main goal is to rescue Sinaloa’s traditional food and serve it where it has to be served next to other Mexican traditions…because in Raices de mar the energy comes from the bottom of the sea, our Mexican land, from the mangrove swamps, from the hills full of ampana trees and fertile valleys and the infinite ocean of Mazatlan…that has been irresistible for the people of all over the world and cultures that anchor their roots to this beautiful place.”

Chochoyotas

With that vision you can expect a very different menu, probably nothing else like it in Mazatlan. There are four starters: Raices salad [$80], Chochoyotas [$95 for five small bowls] – they are made out of corn dough and come with different toppings – octopus, meat, shrimp and fish. My husband I shared those, delicious. Then there’s a spicy old-fashioned shrimp soup, Tistihuil shrimp, that owners claim the Sinaloa recipe is more than 500 years old – the waiter said “too spicy for you” so we didn’t try it. The last two starters are shrimp Aquachiles [$125] and Tiradito in tigers milk sauce, $125.

Beef tongue

The five mains range from seafood gordita [$120]; an order of three tacos with any toppings you desire [$150]; catch of day [ $195, that fellow diners raved about]; braised short ribs wrapped in “hoja santa”,[ $240] and the dish that my husband I shared was beef tongue served with shrimp over mole sauce at $200. Tongue perfectly cooked as were the two shrimp and just a hint of the mole sauce – not smothered, the thinly sliced tongue was the hero on this plate. The last main is seared octopus with black beans and chile and garlic sauce at $245. Just one dessert, corn bread served with leche quemade [burnt milk] ice cream and sweet potato chip, $90.

Non -meat eaters I think would find a few things at Raices – as the restaurant believes in the sea – so you’d have the catch of the day, octopus, and various dishes of shrimp, not to mention the chochoyotas – just ask for fish and no meat. The staff is in a learning mode but are delightfully helpful and seem very willing to make substitutions.

Go before 7 p.m. and have a look at the gallery, lots of tempting items! Then enjoy “rescuing a Sinaloa traditional food” in the garden of art under the stars.

Inside Raices Restaurant, Plazuela Machado.

 [Raices is closed on Mondays and opens at at 10 a.m. It’s located in Plazuela Machado, south side, beside the Machado Hotel. Accepts credit cards, not handicap accessible. the reservation number is 136 0439 – the restaurant seats about 50 people. Raices Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.]

Introducing, Rico’s Cafe & Bar on Olas Altas.

By Sheila Madsen, March 2019

The renovation of the old Copa de Leche took almost two years but the new Rico’s Cafe & Bar was well worth the wait. Owner Marianne Biasotti has the energy and drive of a 22 year-old. With two other restaurants – Golden Zone and  Marina – Marianne decided to open her third restaurant during Carnaval with her “extreme team”; Adriana Valdez during the day, Frank Felix in the evening. Crazy like a fox, but it worked and business is booming.

Along with her husband of 22 years, Rogelio Fontes, they manage over 107+ employees [40+ are at Olas Altas], and their new Mazatlan restaurant seats 125+. She can push tables together and add even more on the patio overlooking the mighty Pacific. Marianne took great care with the seating arrangements – they are at all levels, high, low, bar stools, comfy padded banquets, great for groups and perfect if you are solo. There’s even a private party room in the back that will be used for wine tastings and various other events.

Their vision was to make this cafe interactive. In the morning there will be “cold” juice bar with smoothies and fresh fruit – at night the blackboard flips to a cocktail menu. Coffee being the staple of Rico’s for years has now been incorporated into the most delicious alcoholic coffee drinks. If caffeine bothers you at night go in the afternoon and try the smoothest alcoholic coffee cocktail you’ve ever experienced – all original recipes. Rogelio has a masters in beer brewing and is a partner in the micro-brewery, Tres Islas. So you have it all: beer, wine, coffee, tequila, mezcal! Very soon, you’ll see pastries being made on the premises [sour dough bread etc. still gets delivered daily from “up north”] and you’ll also be able to watch “real” tortillas being made – the old fashioned way – nixtamalizar maiz criollo. Big, fresh, fluffy hand-made tortillas will be delivered to your table as you watch the waves roll in.

Marianne is from San Francisco Bay Area and is very familiar with the wonderful wines of Napa. She has an Italian background and enjoys Italian wines. She’s married to a Mexican. She thought and thought, she went back and forth and finally decided to focus on Mexican wines – the list is currently being developed. There are fabulous wines from the Baja, Valle de Guadalupe and at the recent Wine Festival at the Museo de Arte I tasted amazing wines from Chihuahua. [I was personally guilty of lingering at the Chihuahua kiosks for a bit too long!] The bottles are on order, and be prepared to be surprised by the quality; they are exciting wines indeed.

Breakfast begins at 6:30 a.m. – but Marianne didn’t want me to mention the menu – it’s all carefully thought out but being reprinted as I write this. It’s huge and mouth-watering and you’ll find everything you could ever want to eat for breakfast [or lunch]. Hint: eggs your way, bagels, crêpes, omelets, blintzes, waffles, panini, wraps, salads, soups, pasta and French toast. Combine that with the juice bar, the pastries and Rico’s famous coffee and you won’t be disappointed.

The dinner menu is available but also being reprinted. I had chicken curry [$190] full of flavour but not quite there yet, and my husband had the fish and chips – superb at $190. There are also ribs, chamorro, arrachera, a large selection of fish, salads ,soups and pastas. It’s a friendly menu, fairly priced and Marianne wants her cafe/bar to “be accessible for people, I want my customers to return again and again.” Speaking of friendly, she researched straws and decided on straws made of agave; she preferred those to the ones made from avocados. Soon, all the take-out parcels will be eco-friendly as well.

The gorgeous Olas Altas view with ac options in the summer, an excellent variety of food choices combined with coffee [remember the alcoholic cocktails – perfect for a hangover!] a full bar, and of course the Mexican wines – Rico’s Cafe and Bar, well worth getting excited about.

[Rico’s Cafe & Bar, Olas Altas, open every day from 6:30 a.m. Patio/terrace is handicap accessible and there’s a small step up to get inside.]

 

Introducing, La Olivia Casual Eatery.

By Sheila Madsen [December 2018]

[updated July, 2023 – since 2018 La Olivia has a new menu and lovely new terrace, check it out!]

Just opened in October, La Olivia is truly a breakfast /lunch restaurant that has something for everyone – vegans, vegetarians, the gluten-intolerant [Celiac] and the owners have embraced carnivores too!

Meet the owners: Barbara Gutierrez Cortar [from Chihuahua] is the chef and her real love is baking. She’s there at 5:30 a.m. baking [and training employees] so her guests will have the freshest pastries and breads. Barbara is a graduate of IMG [Instituto Mexicano Gastronomy] and the French Culinary school in New York. Plus, she has taken cooking courses in Thailand and other exotic places. “My passion is baking and I hate working at night, which is why I want to have a restaurant where I could create my pastries and be closed at 4 p.m.” Barbara also designs a daily special – such as a vegetarian lasagna. Every month she’ll offer her customers a theme night dinner with guest chefs.

Kurt Heimpel is Barbara’s husband and he has no chef training at all! But he has all the restaurant knowledge a bride [they just got married weeks ago in Ensenada] could ask for. His grandfather owns Las Floras Hotel, and Kurt started the Fish Market [in the Golden Zone] and sold it ten years ago. His family has also owned the fishing fleet Star Fleet, since 1955. Born in Mazatlan with so many family and business connections Kurt is at home behind the bar, and helping with all the thousands of details it takes to keep a restaurant running smoothly.

So, who’s Olivia? Their dog! Yup, the name appealed to Barbara, and the brand rolled out from that name. Also you’ll notice the slogan throughout the restaurant “great mood, great food”. All true.

Breakfast brings superb coffee with its espresso machine, all Barbara’s fresh baked goodies plus five offerings on “The Lean Side” from $75 – $110, and six dishes on “The Mean Side” from $105 – $115. You can have a fancy bowl of oatmeal, berry pancakes, egg biscuit, and a veggie omelette; that’s just a sample, there’s way more on the menu.

Summer Rolls.

Again, here’s sample of the lunch menu: three unusual starters – peanut broccoli [“roasted broccoli with peanut sauce”] summer rolls [ I had those, soooo good “veggies, avocado, coriander, mint with peanut sauce in rice paper”] and grilled cauliflower ceviche [again, so fresh and delicious], all three are $95. There are eight mains – a tasty Olivia salad at $110 or you can embrace your carnivore desire with an iron grilled sandwich [$160] “whole wheat sourdough, dijon mustard, Serrano ham, apple, onion marmalade, parmesan and goat cheese with green salad on the side”. Or how about “Lonche de carnitas [$170] – “pork, whole wheat sourdough, gouda cheese, coriander cream, pickled onions and fresh coriander with green salad on the side.”

Iron Grilled Sandwich

See what I mean? Something for everyone – and I haven’t even mentioned the tuna bowl, shrimp toast or Oli’s favorite.

Both Kurt and Barbara said ” we don’t plan on being absentee owners, we will always be here, at least one of us.” La Olivia is another wonderful addition to Centro so do drop in and say hello to Kurt and Barbara and don’t forget to look down for the cutest black and white Olivia. For sure, you’ll leave in a great mood.

[La Olivia is located on Belisario Dominguez #1216 [at Libertad] and is closed on Wedesdays, open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s not wheelchair accessible. They accept all credit cards except for American Express. La Olivia seats about 55 people; there’s inside seating and a charming outdoor courtyard that has a very Georgia O’keefe feeling.  Above La Olivia, Kurt has renovated three one bedroom apartments – they are all new and have state- of- the- art appliances, floors etc. Give him a call at 669 270 6365 I think they would be perfect for one person as they are on the smallish side. Kurt has spent years surfing in Newport, so his English is better than ours!]

Introducing, Casita Maria Restaurant [again].

By Sheila Madsen [December 2018]

I met Cheff Ja Llano in February 2017 when he had a small burner stove in La Trokeria. Even in his tiny kitchen he was dishing out divine plates all beautifully presented. Because of his two burners Cheff kept the menu small but now that he has a “proper” kitchen the menu has expanded. As he says, “Mexican fusion with a taste of Mediterranean and European flavors.”

Jamie, Ja, has given himself the moniker of Cheff [with two fs] because he is self-taught and didn’t want to assume the “proper” title of Chef. Born in Mazatlan, he left for the US [mostly California] 15 years ago and returned in September in 2016. “I’ve got my restaurant, I’ve got my wine, I’ve got my girl and I’ve got the ocean.” At 33 he’s a happy guy only to willing to please and share. Named after his grandmother, Maria, Cheff is proud of his larger space and now has a team to serve you; he really prefers to stay in the kitchen and prepare every dish. As far as Jaime is concerned, it’s all in the details.

If you visited the Trokeria you may remember the slowly smoked pork chop – that’s still on the menu at $255.

Salmon

Other mains include salmon a la plancha $255 which was cooked perfectly and served with asparagus and a buerre blanc sauce. There’s also pulpo Mayan, $225 [“chef’s own secret adobe sauce tops grilled octopus and a mixed cabbage salad with peanuts and soya sauce dressing” and the “we’re always selling this out” rib eye steak $260. Our friends both had and greatly enjoyed shrimp saltado, $195 “local fresh caught sautéed shrimp with gnocchi with a garlic parmesan cheese cream sauce”

Tuna tower with an “extra floor.”

My husband remembered the tuna tower from the Trokeria and sure enough it was better than ever at $85. All of us shared the thinly sliced beet salad, delicious. There’s lots more on the menu but that will be yours to discover.

Beet salad

While the concept of Trokeria [basically a food court] was not successful Jamie never ever gave up on his dream of having his own Mazatlan restaurant. It’s written all over his face – he takes such pleasure in cooking for others and pleasing you. He’s got the passion, and he invites everyone to visit Casita Maria and be part of his dream.

[Casita Maria’s new location is on Camarón Sabalo, beside Mary’s Place/Rico’s/F.I.S.H. and is open from 1 p.m. on. Patio seating and inside seating, wheelchair accessible. For large groups or a special dinner please call Jaime ahead of time at 669 176 2684. At the moment, Casita Maria is open every day and it’s cash only. You may bring your own wine, but Cheff has a decent selection. Years ago he purchased a small vineyard in Guadalupe Valley and very soon he’ll have his own boutique wines – named JA LLANO VINO ARTESANAL]

Introducing, El Veintiocho, 28, Bar and Grill.

[Updated June 2020, – the article below written in 2018 is all true! “Mazatlan Jack” captured the vibe well, the only thing that has changed is the music. Check the FB page for current live music, and perhaps prices have gone up slightly. SM.]

Stolen with permission from Mazatlan Jack, in the December 2018 issue of the Pacific Pearl.

A Hidden Gem in the Heart of the Golden Zone : Come as you are, let your hair down, dance in the street and have a good time! This neighborhood hideaway is a fun place to eat, drink and be merry, day or night. The address is 28 Calle Boca del Mar, hence the name “Veintiocho”. Owners Jim Taylor and Kim Schmidt, originally from the greater Seattle area, have been coming to Mazatlan for some 35 years, starting with weeklong vacations and gradually extending their visits more and more. “We’ve checked out a lot of other places, but we just love the Mazatlan people! We definitely like it here the best.” In 2018, they took the big plunge and opened a cozy restaurant/ bar on a quiet street corner they long had their eyes on, tucked away between the roaring Avenida and the Golden Zone beach. Once you find it, you’ll be back.

They started out featuring live music three nights a week, which proved so popular that this year they’ve extended it to every night (except Sunday), featuring top local acts such as Kamaleón, Mr Rio, Tanya Twain, Chain Michael and others, playing popular songs everybody can relate to. The dance floor can literally overflow out into the street, but a peace treaty with the neighbors keeps the volume at a tolerable level, so you don’t have to shout in each other’s ears to have a conversation.

The breakfast, lunch and dinner menus have something for everybody, seafood, steaks, ribs, European style sausages, and the house specialty: genuine chimichangas (a delicacy that is hard to find here in taco-land). The Eggs Benedict are a popular brunch staple.

Another attraction is a parlor (now sidewalk) game that Jim and Kim discovered on a trip to the Virgin Islands, Giant Jenga, which might be described as the rise and fall of the leaning tower. If you challenge reigning champion Romi C, good luck!

Jim and Kim put a lot of work into remodeling the old Veintiocho, expanding and modernizing the kitchen, refurbishing the roof, adding modern TVs, sprucing up everything. It cleaned up real good. There are tables inside and out on the fronded patio, and a good old- fashioned bar for those who like to rub elbows while watching sports or whatever.

They stay open all summer, thus hanging on to their dedicated crew, led by Kat the bartendress who hails from Vancouver, BC and bartender Ramon Martinez (Tito), a longtime favorite in the GZ. Their friendly demeanor makes strangers feel like old friends. The clientele is mostly regulars, and it’s an easy place to make new friends.

The owners have been active in local community outreach, including providing the beer for the last two Policeman’s Fiestas, which they joyfully attended. Always good to stay on the right side of the law!

Speaking of beer, Veintiocho offers the good stuff, that is to say, the Modelo, Pacifico and Corona family of brews, which discerning drinkers will appreciate. And of course, Kat and/ or Tito will gladly and expertly mix whatever beverage floats your boat. It’s not an expensive place, even by Mazatlan’s frugal standards, so you can afford to indulge yourself. They sell a lot of food to go, especially to folks who want a nice fresh ceviche to take to the nearby beach or some comfort cuisine to take home for later.

You can check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VeintiochoBar/ . On Trip Advisor’s web site, it has a top notch five star rating and nothing but rave reviews, including one titled “Best Restaurant Ever”. So don’t just take my word for it, come on down and see for yourself!

[Note: Hours are 11:00 am-11:00pm on Monday, Thursday, and Friday; and 8:30 am-11:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Where is it, exactly? #28 Boca del Mar, on the corner right behind the Bancomer bank in the Golden Zone. See you there!]

Introducing, Tótem Cafeteriá de Barrio.

[Updated: Totem is currently under a major renovation and is closed. They have a “pop-up” Totem at the Curado Art Galllery, Carnaval and Mariano Escobedo, across from Intercam Bank.]

By Sheila Madsen [November 2018]

Owner David Garcia Ferretis greets me with this statement: “we have the best specialty coffee in all of Sinaloa, and best espresso machine in the world -Victoria Arduino.” Sitting under an umbrella on his roof top garden he explains how he studied in Barcelona as a barista and modeled Tótem [sort of] after the Blue Bottle Cafes found in LA, San Francisco, New York and Japan. He’s proud of his coffee creation and he strongly believes that exceptional coffee unites a community.

He does know a thing or two about communities and people. David’s former occupation was as a clinical psychologist and his last formal position was as the director of Oceanica; psychologist, barista, bartender, he’s listening.

Tótem is an ambitious undertaking . Many pesos have been poured into the coffee machines, the kitchen, herbal teas, the brew bar, and tasteful decor. Downstairs is a combination of a community table, booths, and smaller spaces to sit and sip. Take the stairs and you’ll be on the roof garden that is on two levels; a sunken pit for a late night drink or tables with umbrellas. Centro doesn’t have many roof-top gardens and I have feeling people will flock there at all hours – for coffee, tea, breakfast, three salads, six tacos, four tortas and oh yes, alcohol. There is a selection of wine and beer and I suspect your choice of liqueurs will be added to your choice of coffee [cold or hot] or Tisanes – herbal teas. David stresses the emphasis of Tótem will always be on coffee but he’s not opposed to pouring some liquid spirits into it. Given that Oceanica clinic is Mazatlan’s equivalent of the Betty Ford Clinic there’s not a large selection of alcohol but just the right amount.

Shrimp tempura with soft blue corn tacos.

” We get our beans from Chiapas and Oaxaca and they are roasted by the masters in Guadalajara. Our beans have a specialty coffee ranking”. I certainly didn’t know coffee beans even had a ranking but that’s why David studied in Barcelona to achieve this special designation. [“speciality coffee refers to the whole process from farmer to cup using single origin coffee. It refers to the way the coffee is roasted and how it is extracted.”] Beans and breakfast unlike any other; egg white omelet with homemade panela cheese mixed mushrooms and season potato garnish, $125; fresh fruit bowl with Greek yogurt mixed berries, homemade granola and honey $110; French toast with churro cookie mixed berries sauce, peppermint and bacon, $120; Ricotta cheese hot cakes with mixed berries sauce and bacon, $125; Shakshuka stew – eggs in spicy sauce of peppers and tomatoes of peppers, $110. ” Our bread is homemade every day.”

The word totem means many things to many people; a special emblem, a spiritual guide, a symbol, a tribe, your family, but to David, Tótem simply means “origin” in any language. So gather your clan, your friends, your special symbols and visit this lovely space to sample its specialty coffees.

[Tótem is located on the corner of Heriberto Frias and Angel Flores. It is open 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday and on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 669 982 4254. It is not wheelchair accessible and conveniently there is a bathroom on the roof garden as well.]

 El Aljibe San Pedro closed in the spring of 2020 after 15 years.

Introducing, Esinti café – what’s your take on coffee?

By Maaike Hoekstra, October 2018. [Maaike is the owner and founder of Mazatlan’s only street food tour, Flavor Teller.]

[Updated January 2020 – due to their loyal customer base Esinti now has a beer and wine license and is offering a dinner menu at 5 p.m. During the pandemic the roof top garden is a very popular space.] [Updated June, 2019: on a gorgeous June evening my husband and I dined on the roof-top terrace. There was a gentle breeze, the terrace was covered in flowers and fairy lights and the owners, Monica and Pablo could not have been more gracious. The house that they had so  lovingly resorted was full on a Friday evening. Full of young people not interested in alcohol or their phones; but in each other and the vibe was inclusive, calm and full of conversations – Esinti is a place where it’s one long conversation and this makes for such a delightful change. As for the food? We had the complete opposite experience of the reader below [Nov. 2018] – the burger was perfectly cooked, the bacon crisp the wedge fries to-die for. The teas were as refreshing and flavorful as the Esinti atmosphere. We met their daughter Lu-Lu and like her parents, she aims to please. Monica and Pablo may call it the “house of breeze”, I call it the “house of conversation.” SM] [Updated November 2018: and here’s another point-of-view, once again proving all experiences are not the same… “Atmosphere and service, excellent.  Food, poor. My wife had a Philly steak sandwich that needed 2 or 3 times the meat.  I had a hamburger and fries.  The hamburger was a patty from a frozen bag at Sam’s or somewhere and was packed so hard it could have been used as a hockey puck and the fries were the same frozen fries we occasionally buy at Sam’s. I guess if I want a good hamburger I will just have to stay home and cook it on our infrared grill.”]

What does the perfect coffee bar look like? Are you a purist and focus only on the best quality coffee? Or are the pastries the perfect excuse to come back? Do you look for cozy artsy spot? Whatever your preference is, Centro Historico has just become home to a new coffee bar with a unique style.

The founders of Esinti Café, Monica Avila and Pablo Garcia, worked and lived abroad for a decade, but always dreamed of opening a café where people would feel at home. After returning to Mazatlan from Kansas City, their dream became reality when they purchased the property on the corner of Libertad and Heriberto Frias (“It’s one of the 80 historic monuments in Centro Historico”). They thought through every little detail, from the name to the crafted tables and the pastries (“Monica makes the best scones in town!”.) During the 18-month reconstruction period, Monica and Pablo used their painting and carpenter skills (“…and a very patient architect…”) to build the perfect location, including several must-have’s: a mezzanine, roof-top terrace and a spiral staircase. They were never discouraged by restrictions imposed by the INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History). Finding the perfect name was a meaningful exercise. While living far away from the Pacific coast, Mazatlan’s tropical breeze is what they missed most. ‘Esinti’ means breeze in Turkish, one of the first countries with a coffee tradition. The word also refers to softness and communication. This is what Esinti Café is all about: a place where you can sit back and take it easy.

The building is divided in three separate areas: the open high-ceiling ground floor, the mezzanine (“Perfect for book clubs”) and the roof terrace if you want to enjoy the tropical breeze. With help of Pablo’s uncle who is a retired chef, they assembled a varied menu starting at breakfast: hot and cold coffees ($28-60) and teas ($38-42), smoothies ($48-58), fruits, eggs ($86-98), omelets ($110), Mexican favorites like chilaquiles ($110-115), bagels ($47-88) or sweet options ($75-85). For lunch and dinner you can find salads ($92-98), baguettes ($95-138), hamburgers ($125-138) or wraps ($68). Don’t miss out on their Reuben sandwich ($138) or how about a scrumptious Philly cheese steak ($138)? Esinti café has the best of both sides of the border. If you have any dietary restrictions, make sure to let the chef know and they can adjust to your needs.

Monica proudly shares that her father, a retired pianist, plays live every day from 9-12 a.m. Fair trade is close to their heart, that’s why their hot chocolate is created by women’s cooperatives from Veracruz and Chiapas and the coffee beans are sourced nationally. Esinti Café will be displaying art works of local painters, giving them a space to showcase and sell their works. This neighborhood café will welcome you with great coffee and good vibes!

[Esinti Café is located on Calle Libertad #401, on the corner of Calle Heriberto Frias in downtown Mazatlan. Opening hours are from Monday through Saturday from 7.30 a.m. – 10.30 p.m. Phone number (669) 176 2727. Follow Esinti Café on Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EsintiCafeMX/. Seating space is for 60 people, among the three levels. Credit cards accepted.]

Introducing, Los Arcos – from sea to fork.

By Sheila Madsen [October 2018]

Yes, it’s a bit ridiculous to introduce you to a local Mazatlan restaurant that’s been around since 1977. And most likely you’ve already been there and tasted some of best seafood in Mazatlan. With 70 employees the service is superb even during their remodelling phase. You’d never know there was an expansion going on. It’s a true success story with 15 Los Arcos Restaurants throughout Mexico.

“Our mission is to enhance our regional cuisine’s style. Seafood and fish always prepared with freshness variety and the highest quality. Our vision is to reach new markets in Mexico and the US – to the most important cities in the next few years. Go on for generations to come as a family-based business, never losing our essence. We follow the philosophy of achieving the highest place in the gastronomic scene as “the best Mexican seafood cuisine” with the unique seasoning from Sinaloa’s Pacific Coast.”

It was my first time there [better late than never] and we went with Mexican friends who go to Los Arcos every week and know their way around a seafood platter.

Just look at the photo and conjure up all the wonderful food adjectives and apply them to this plate – tender, succulent, fresh, delicious, well you get the picture, literally. The octopus, sea bass, langustas and shrimp plus another fish special of the day are all prepared with rice and vegetables. I wanted the three langustas for myself, but that would have been rude and I was forced to share. Next time – because that “lobster” meat is oh, so sweet and the kitchen cooks everything perfectly.

It’s always been a local “hangout” [because it’s super- fresh and reasonably priced] and it doesn’t score high on the decor front [that is what it’s being refreshed so I haven’t seen the final outcome] but certainly Los Arcos gets five stars for quality and service. There’s a fine selection of National drinks and beer, but really no wine, except for a L.A. Cetto rosé, which was a perfect complement to the seafood.

Los Arcos honours their mission statement in every single way.

[Los Arcos Restaurant, Ave. Camarón Sabalo # 1019 [in between El Cid and The Palms Resort], reservations often accepted for groups, call 669 913 9577. You may not be able to obtain a reservation on Sunday afternoon – you could try calling ahead. Open every day from 11 a.m. on – there’s a huge parking lot [valets standing by] in the back, handicap accessible, credit cards accepted.]

Introducing, Nao Kitchen Bar.

By Sheila Madsen, June 2018

Another update! In September 2023 Andrea won the best young chef of the year in all of Mexico.Out of 32 chefs the Cámara Nacional de la Industria de Restaurantes y Alimentos Condimentados [Canirac] were considering Andrea was the winner. Congratulations Andrea!

Since this “introduction” of June 2018 Chef Andrea’s Nao’s Kitchen Bar was named one of the 250 best restaurants in Mexico, by Larousse Cocina Mexicana in January 2023. Congratulations Andrea!

[Updated March 2022 – revised menu, way more choices with the new larger space and now open Monday to Saturday , noon on, use WA to make a reservation or call 669 244 4617]

[Updated, and a different opinion, July 2018 by reader MH: “Have your tastebuds transported to tantalizing oriental flavors, while sitting in this hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The name Nao refers to the Spanish trading ships which linked the Philippines to Mexico during the 17th and 18th century, when both were part of New Spain. With 16 seats outside and air conditioned seats for 10 people inside this tiny hidden gems offers a spectrum of starters and three main courses. We went all out on the appetizers, since everything sounded so good. Between four people we tried the pork belly Baos, the gyozas, won ton dumplings and chow fun noodles. The Baos that I’ve tried in other countries are round steamed buns. Here they were served as folded pancakes. Tasty nonetheless but the presentation was not what I expected. The gyozas looked beautiful and with the home-made sri-racha sauce absolutely mouth-watering. The won tons had a strong ginger zing which I love, but it might be overpowering for some. We had two portions of Chow Fun noodles, because the waitress warned us about the spiciness of the other noodle dish. Tender beef and noodles with peanut sauce: who wouldn’t want to repeat? All in all the food was great and the decoration was stylish and sleek. The big down-side of Nao is the reduced space. With only limited seats with air conditioning you’ll be sitting very close to other dinner guests. You might be lucky or in our case sit next to a group of noisy men which made us feel a bit uncomfortable. I would go back to Nao but maybe book the whole inside space, just for a peaceful quiet meal.”]

Andrea Lizarraga Osuna, possibly Mazatlan’s youngest chef at 26 years old. Andrea is from Mazatlan, interned in a culinary school in Japan and worked in several restaurants in New York. Chef keeps returning to Japan; she’s always adored Asian food and wanted to bring “the real thing” to Mazatlan. At 26 she’s full of passion and energy but smart enough to start with a small menu.

Nao [pronounced “now”] offers 12 choices all with a delicious Asian sauce or an Asian twist to the flavours: tuna tostados at $80; crispy nights at $120; pork belly at $100; gyozas at $80; shrimp won ton dumplings at $80; chow fun – rice noodles with beef, oyster sauce and soybean spouts at $180; egg noodles with peanut sauce, red Thai chili and rice vinegar, $100; Korean ribs [ I had those, divine, sous vide-cooked tender, slightly spicy sauce] at $230 for 7 ribs!; black octopus at $240; rib eye served with ssamjang sauce, sautéed green beans and garlic chips at $280. That list does the food absolutely no justice but you get the idea of the variety and how well thought out the choices are.

So go Nao and taste it all for yourself.

[Nao has a new location on Belisario Dominguez[between Dulce Mama and Banorte], open from closed Tuesdays, open from 2 pm. on. Credit cards accepted, full liquor license. Call to reserve 669 244 4617]

Introducing, Tortas La Republica – a journey through Mexico, one sandwich at a time.

By Maaike Hoekstra, May 2018. [Maaike is the owner and founder of Flavor Teller, Mazatlan’s only street food tour]

Mexico’s favorite ‘any-time’ food is the torta, a bread roll filled with a varied stuffing like ham, cheese, chicken, breaded beef (milanesa), braised pork (pierna) and of course, lettuce, onion, tomato, avocado and pickled chili. Most varieties can be found nation-wide, but others are only available in a specific state or city. Carlos Vega, the owner of Tortas La Republica has made it his mission, to make these specialties available in Mazatlan. Get ready for the culinary journey…

Carlos Vega is a practicing architect with a passion for food. His culinary roots runs deep: most members of his family own restaurants in Puebla, a city southeast of Mexico City. Two of his uncles have ‘torterias’ (sandwich shops) and he grew up in the kitchen, amidst the smell of chocolate and mole. Carlos confesses to be a true street food fan, eating a small food stands wherever he travels. He started Tortas Republica six months ago, to show locals that there is more on the horizon than pulled pork tortas. In the future he hopes to offer Tortas La Republica in other neighborhoods, as well as opening a Pulqueria (Mexican tavern serving a fermented maguey-cactus beverage called Pulque). The location on Avenida Aleman (used to be home to Picantón) in Centro, is small but cozy with colorful umbrellas and wooden benches for 25 people outside and five people inside.

Take your pick

Walking into the food-truck stall, you have 12 sandwich options to choose from, ranging from the standard flavors like ham/sausage ($55), ‘milanesa’ ($65), ‘pierna’ ($50) or ‘molletes’ (open-faced roll covered with refried beans and melted cheese) at $40 pesos. But what to think of Guadalajara‘s specialty Torta ahogada ($55), which is drowned submarine sandwich filled with fried pork and submerged in chili sauce. Or how about Mexico City’s breakfast Torta de Tamal ($40), which is a tamal in a torta roll (yes, that’s a real dish) to keep you going all day long. For the vegetarian foodie you can find the Torta de Chilaquiles ($45), a roll filled with tortilla chips in green sauce or Torta de huitlacoche ($65), a roll filled with a corn fungus (also known as Mexican truffle) and Oaxaca string cheese.A real delicacy you should try! The house specialty is the Torta Republica, a sandwich combining most meats on the menu: breaded beef, pulled pork and ham. It’s also known as a ‘Cubana’ or Cuban sandwich. There are various theories where it got its name: 1) the sandwich shop which first created the Cuban sandwich was located on the street ‘Republica de Cuba’ in Mexico City; 2) the juicier version says that this sandwich refers to Cuban women who come with everything, especially lots of leg!

Apart of the sandwiches you can get local soda or Hibiscus tea ($15), French-press coffee ($25), churros ($35 for six) or soup of the day ($15). Stay tuned on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/tortaslarepublica/) for theme festivals like Cinco de Mayo, Carnaval with live music and fun surprises.

A last piece of advice: bring a large appetite!

[Tortas La Republica is located on Av. Aléman #220 next to Ceviche Los Especiales, it is open from Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. through 10 p.m. For free home delivery in Centro Historico, call cell phone 669 193 6887. Credit cards and cash pesos accepted.]

Introducing, La Antigua Mazatlan Restaurant.

By Sheila Madsen, March 29, 2018, please adjust pricing to 2023/2024 levels.

[Updated April 5, 2018: Such a tranquil place with so many different rooms you are never overwhelmed by noise. All the food is made fresh and the crepe was light and fluffy. My eggs were a bit cold and staff is aware that the foreign community prefers their food hotter. There’s an espresso machine and the cappuccinos are delicious and hot. La Antigua is truly a family affair, since 1994, with four locations in Guadalajara and one in Ajijic. Everyone is commenting on the low-low prices but the family has piggy-backed on all existing materials – the passport menus, the boarding passes, even the bill is delivered in an air mail envelope. They have not started from scratch, they’ve owned the passport theme for 24 years. No loud music [classic Italian or French ] and you can reserve any size room for your breakfast meetings. They are not scrimping on employees nor refilling your coffee. Isa and her team are paying attention! Take a trip to La Antigua today and do your own taste test.]

This is truly an introduction, as I have not eaten there but just popped in to take a look. La Antiqua is new [just opened on March 17] and adorable with a huge menu designed to please all customers. Just perfect for breakfast and lunch, quiet too. It’s where the old Blue Smoque was and some of you may remember a series of rooms but the young owners, Isa Gomez and her partner, have given La Antiqua their very personal touch, all cozy with fresh flowers and different nooks to choose from.

Each menu is presented as a passport to culinary wonders. Centro and MazatlanLife embrace all new ventures and we wish them every success. 

over 20 to select from and 6 egg dishes.

over 60 to choose from including 18 salad waffles.

26 salad choices, 17 sweet selections.

But wait,there’s still more: Chilaguiles, 4; hash browns, 13; Baguettes, 7; sandwiches and lunches.

[La Antiqua Mazatlan is open every day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Belisario Dominguez #1201, call 669 985 5465. The second location is Av. Sabalo Cerritos, 669 688 4015 Full English and Spanish menu, Isa is fluent in English.Delightful courtyard with umbrellas. What happens after 2 p.m.? Isa rents it out as an event space for birthday parties, private dinners, business meetings. etc. etc.Credit cards accepted, not handicap accessible.] 

Introducing, four new country style restaurants.

Country style restaurants – nostalgia brings out the flavor

By Maaike Hoekstra, February 2018. [Maaike and her family have spent weeks investigating and tasting all the flavors these new/old country style restaurants have to offer. Maaike is the founder and owner of the only street food tour Mazatlan offers- Flavor Teller ]

 Ask any local about their favorite childhood memory and they’ll most likely paint a picture of grandma’s house in the countryside, boiling brown bean, a of pot coffee on a wood fire stove, hand-made tortillas and chickens and goats scampering around. It might seem that this reality is far-gone, but guess what?: you can still experience the ‘good old days’ at the country style restaurants. A successful example is El Meson de los Laureanos restaurant in El Quelite that is 45 minutes from Mazatlan. But there are other rural restaurants in the outskirts of Mazatlan, which may have a simple decor but great food.

El Carrizo

The wooden fence and domed bread oven is the first thing you see when entering El Carrizo. This family-run restaurant has been in business for two years and brings the ranch feeling to Mazatlan. It’s open from 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. for breakfast and lunch. With the tiled roof and adobe walls you feel Pancho Villa will come around the corner at any moment. No chickens or goats in this restaurant though : “Health inspection didn’t allow it, but we used to have them.” The detail that sets El Carrizo apart is the freshly baked sweet bread. The wood fire oven is heated with mauto wood [also known as palo blanco] for 1 ½ hours, before the actual baking can begin. They make delicious ‘conchas’ (shell-shaped sweet bread) and empanadas ($10 a piece) and serve them hot from the oven. Make sure to order the café de olla spiced sweet coffee [always served in a traditional clay pot] with it ($15). We ordered the quesadilla with carne asada ($85) served with guacamole, as well liver with onions ($80 ), bistec ranchero ($85 and chicharrón guisado($80 )* which were served with a generous amount of refried beans. The taste was amazing, so it might have a secret ingredient (ssshh… lots of lard).

[Restaurant El Carrizo is located on Av. Libramiento II #11009, about two blocks from Plaza Sendero mall. It’s open every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Phone number is 929 59 61, reservations are not required. The restaurant seats about 50 people, fans, rustic restrooms , cash, pesos only* Chicharrón is a dish generally consisting of fried pork belly but may also be made from chicken, lamb or beef.]

Los Guamuchiles

Wedged between a rooster farm and tree nursery you find Los Guamuchiles. The scent of humid earth and crowing of roosters will make you feel miles away from the city, but it’s only a five-minute drive from Galerias Mall. You’ll want to rise and shine early for a real Mexican breakfast. There is limited seating, so during the weekends you might have to wait for a table and the service is a bit slow. But the flavors make it all worth it: there are a dozen breakfast options ($50-$85) and also lunch ($80-$110). We tried chorizo with scrambled eggs ($80), chicharrón in tomato sauce ($70 ) and liver with onions ($60 ), with hand-made tortillas, refried beans and queso fresco. Never miss the chance to drink sweet café de olla ($15) or freshly squeezed orange juice ($30 ).

[Restaurant Los Guamuchiles is located on Av. Perez Escobosa, Fraccionamiento Real Pacifico. Click <here> to see the location on Google Maps. It is open Tuesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Cellphone number is (044) 669 159 4669, reservations are not required. The restaurant seats about 60 people, fans, rustic restrooms , cash, pesos only.]

El Ranchito Feliz

The scent of wood fire welcomes you to El Ranchito Feliz. Its rustic layout and earth floor set the stage for the scrumptious food that’s served here. This is a true “open-concept” kitchen: you’re sitting right in the middle of it. Tortillas are swiftly being baked on the ‘comal’ griddle, while on the other side they create your breakfast or lunch with the staple boiled beans on the side. With five breakfast dishes: machaca, chicharrón, marlin, nopales or eggs for $60 or seafood lunch options (breaded, grilled, garlic or ranchero shrimp, fried fish, ceviche or aguachile) any choice is a tasty one. We tried the fried snapper ($100-$150 depending on the size), chicharrón ($60 pesos) and shrimp ceviche which were both mouthwateringly good. Don’t miss the ‘agua fresca’ or flavored fruit water: I absolutely loved the ciruela water made with local plums[aqua de ciruela].

[El Ranchito Feliz is located on Av. Camaron Sabalo #109, across the street from Quintas del Mar. It’s open every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Reservations are not required. The restaurant seats about 30 people, fans, rustic restrooms , cash, pesos only.]

Mi Ranchito Los Osuna

You know that you’re talking to a local if their last name is Osuna. This restaurant’s premise is: if your last name is Osuna you eat for free. Another reason to make local friends….

Mi Ranchito Los Osuna is the most centrally located of this list. This quaint white restaurant serves both a tasty breakfast and lunch. Apart of the regular breakfast options (scrambled eggs of choice) you can try the chilaquiles combos ($95). We went for lunch and tried the carne asada ($125). The meat is very tender and the refried beans are plentiful. We also ordered a guacamole that was served with panela cheese, but it would have been nice to have additional side dishes on the menu. Other lunch options range from $125-$135. The children’s menu is $79. The desserts ($25-35 ) are a delight with local favorites like banana cream pie (pie de platano) or caramel custard (leche quemada).

[Mi Ranchito Los Osuna is on Av. Rafael Buelna, in front of Soriana (previously Comercial Mexicana). Click <here> to see it location on Google Maps. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. For information call 669 983 0628, Reservations are not required. The restaurant seats about 80 people, fans, ac, clean restrooms ,cash, pesos only.]

Introducing, Restaurant El Rincón de Nasha.

By C. Michaels [stolen with permission from the December 2017 issue of The Pacific Pearl. C. Michaels is an author living in Mazatlan. You may enjoy her Facebook page]

Cozy Dining in Sabalo Country: There is a fun restaurant in Sabalo Country on Av. Camarón Sabalo #1936. Its name is Restaurant El Rincón de Nasha. Nasha’s story is like a fairy tale. Many years ago, she came to Mazatlán to vacation. She was mesmerized with the town. Within one week she had a job, and rented a house… oh, and she bought a horse.

Labeled an entrepreneur nearly all her adult life, she owned several restaurants for 24 years prior to owning El Rincón de Nasha. Nasha has been entertaining patrons since 2014 at this site, but I never understood what the name meant until the other day when I sat down with her. Translated, rincón means corner or nook. Throughout the restaurant, there are private and semi-private rooms to dine in.

A delightful woman, she laughed at my expression, and said, “Come on, get up and I’ll give you a tour. Then you’ll get it.” The restaurant has different levels for various types of entertainment, and throughout the building, you’ll find alcoves everywhere. By the time we finished the tour, I began to laugh. “Nasha, I feel like I’m Alice in Wonderland. This is just so much fun.”

Nasha is in the middle.

I couldn’t help but notice all the art and Mexican craftwork throughout the restaurant. Local artists have used her walls and counter space to display and sell their work. As a result, the color is an amazing exhibition of Mexican culture.

When you enter Nasha’s, you will always be greeted with smiles, a wonderful silent invitation to an eventful meal. The wait-staff truly wants you to enjoy your experience.

The breakfast menu is spectacular with equally wonderful prices. A popular plate is the chilaquiles for 60 pesos. Huevos rancheros are a delightful choice, my favorite… a grand slam for under 100 pesos, thick cut French toast, eggs benedict, omelets… as I said, it’s quite a menu.

Lunch also has many options on the menu. One of her specials is a wonderful choice of hamburgers. Nasha added, “The hamburgers are made from fresh meat, not those frozen patties you get in stores.”

Dinner is a mouth-watering treat. Ribs for 150 pesos, or for two… 240 pesos. You can purchase a kilo of carne asada for 179 pesos that comes with tortillas, beans, and salsa. This dinner menu is loaded with choices such as fish, steak, seafood, Mexican dishes, chicken cordon bleu, and more.

Save room for desert! Drum roll please… FRIED ICE CREAM. Whoa, “You had me at hello.”

Nasha smiled and said, “Folks should come in and give us a try… the food is great, the restaurant is clean, we have a friendly atmosphere. This is why they come back.”

Starting in December, it’s traditional for Nasha to have live music starting at 3 p.m. She prides herself on hiring bilingual singers.

On the third floor, you’ll find a pool table in one room, and a large table for cards in another. Darts are another favorite. Groups can book these rooms for their own private fun.

Finally, the special of the week, Tequila Tuesday. Each shot is 10 pesos, plus you will receive 20% off the entire menu (promotions not included). Already out and about in Sabalo Country? Your fun can be extended on this special day!

Get a great meal… family or friends, or grab some bodies for a get-together on the third floor. This place is for everyone. As Nasha put it, “Come give us a try… You’ll understand why our clients come back!”

[Restaurant el Rincón de Nasha is located on Camaron Sabalo # 1936, open every day from 7:30 a.m. on [closes on Sunday at 4 p.m.], credit cards accepted. Full bar, only Conchoa y Toro wines. If you are handicapped, help is on the way! Your wheelchair will be lifted to the terrace and you’ll be able to enjoy all that Nasha has to offer .P.S. The ribs are awesome, I had them on December 14, 2017 and will go back. It’s such a lovely, fun, funky atmosphere, SM ]

Introducing, Papagayo restaurant – Inn at Centro Historico.

By Maaike Hoekstra [May 2017]

[Updated May 30, 2017. Friends went for brunch on Sunday May 28 and they had a completely different experience from Maaike’s. For years this couple has enjoyed the brunch/buffet at Inn at Mazatlan GZ and were expecting the same great quality. It was not to be. There was no sterno in the chafing dishes, all hot food was cold, and children were running about. The decor of tiles and marble just enhanced the noise that the kids were making. A glass of oj was served in a carafe [no glass provided] and it was impossible to drink out of. There were no cooks at the food stations, everything came out of the kitchen. They would never return to Centro’s Papagayo. A one-off bad morning? As reported to Sheila Madsen.]

[Maaike is the founder and owner of Flavor Teller – quite possibly Mazatlan’s first street food tour. She’s also the author of Child’s Play – 25 ideas on what to do with the kids. When she’s not enticing her Flavor Teller guests, she leaves the Centro food carts behind and enjoys family meals in traditional Mexican restaurants.]

A fascinating vibe is floating around downtown Mazatlan, breathing new life into battered buildings. The recently renovated Papagayo restaurant at Hotel Inn at Centro Historico with its neoclassical French design and tropical touches, invites you to enjoy a Sunday brunch, cappuccino or dinner. Walking in the door, I felt I was immediately transported to a café in Guanajuato or Mexico City.

The Inn at Centro Historico has a completely different feel than its bigger sister in the Golden Zone, the Inn at Mazatlan. Located on the corner of Belisario Dominguez and Angel Flores it fits in perfectly within the new street outline. The interior has an open seating space for 60 people, with a mix of wrought iron and geometrical ceramic tiles. The Papagayo restaurant is a local favorite for its breakfast buffet and especially Sunday brunch – so you might want to book beforehand. The breakfast buffet is available from Monday through Saturday at $150 per adult and Sunday brunch is $210 adult. Children (under 12 years) eat for $110, either buffet or brunch.

The shiny and spacious buffet area makes for easy maneuvering and has lots to offer. From Monday through Saturday enjoy Mexican breakfast classics like chilaquiles, machaca, marlin, beans and eggs, as well as a salad bar, yoghurt with toppings, French toast, hot-cakes, waffles, coffee and fresh juices. Be sure to try the fun veggie juice shots and desserts too! The Sunday brunch serves all the above and on top of that mimosas, champagne, a seafood bar with ceviches and the famous Sunday must-have – tripe soup or ‘menudo’. The courteous staff seems to enjoy this new space just as much as the guests, eager to answer any doubts and accommodate your needs.

The lunch and dinner menu includes appetizers ($70-$155 ), ceviches ($130-$170 ), tacos ($80-$110 ), soups and salads ($80-$140 ). The main courses offer something for every taste from fish to chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian ($140-$210). For all of you with a sweet tooth remember to dive into the delicious desserts! ($45-$55)

[The Inn at Centro Historico is located on the corner of Belisario Dominguez and Angel Flores, across the street from HSBC. The Papagayo restaurant is wheel chair accessible. Opening hours are from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and the breakfast buffet is open until 2 p.m. For reservations please call 982 1866. There is a full bar and credit cards are accepted.]

Introducing, Palomar and Palomar de los Pobres.
By Maaike Hoekstra, March 2017

[Maaike is the founder and owner of Flavor Teller – quite possibly Mazatlan’s first street food tour. So far, all rave reviews. She’s also the author of Child’s Play – 25 ideas on what to do with the kids. When she’s not enticing her Flavor Teller guests she leaves the Centro food carts behind and heads for popular traditional Mexican restaurants.]

Want to try the food that locals eat? Then you’ll surely run into ‘carne asada’. Sinaloa is a beef-crazy state: served on tacos or on a sizzling hot plate with beans on the side, lunch or dinner. We can never get enough of it!

Essential components for a good meal, according to Mexican mothers, are beans, tortillas and meat. And a spicy salsa too, por favor! No worries about eating your veggies; just have a few slices of tomato and cucumber. It isn’t a surprise that the Palomar restaurants are so popular. These small restaurants serve a limited menu of appetizers; main courses and desserts, with lemonade or local fresh drink, Tonicol.

It’s a curious coincidence that two restaurants in town have almost identical names and similar menus. Palomar translates to pigeon house and by the chatter on tables filled with families, you can only imagine why.

‘El Palomar’ opened its doors in 1963 and remains at its Playa Norte location since then. The restaurant has stayed within the family, with the third generation at the helm now. After a few slow years, the restaurant has been nicely upgraded with a wonderful terrace overlooking the Playa Norte beach. An interesting detail is that one of the waiters was part of the initial crew and continues to spice up the service with great anecdotes and stories. Another waiter has ‘only’ worked at El Palomar for 15 years, but says that the restaurant’s secret lies in teamwork and fresh ingredients. Everything is made from scratch every day, giving the food a wonderful homemade flavor.

Favorite appetizers are different kinds of grilled cheese or ‘queso fundido’ ($150- $185 pesos) and guacamole (ask for the price). We tried the house specials: Carne Asada especial Palomar ($320 large – $280 small) with queso fundido, and Carne Asada Palomar ($230 small – $275 large) with fries, salad, bean soup and hand-made tortillas. Both were generous portions and great to share. You can also sample Chicken Palomar ($150), tongue ($165), fish ceviche ($85-$115), shrimp ($190) or fish ($140). Fresh drinks cost $23 lemonades/orangeades are $32 pesos per glass or $90 per pitcher, beers range from $30 to $45 pesos. For those left with room for dessert, don’t miss the flan or corn soufflé ($35 per portion).

palomar

‘El Palomar de los Pobres’ started in Culiacan in 1957 and opened its doors in Mazatlan about 10 years ago. The interior continues to have its fonda-style feel with wooden chairs and plastic tablecloths, but the company has grown into a venture with eight locations. Mazatlan’s centrally located restaurant in the Golden Zone is open for breakfast (buffet: $100 per adult, $75 per child), lunch or dinner. The appetizers ($49-$105 pesos) range from fresh cheese, guacamole, cactus salad to queso fundido.

A nice touch is that every customer gets a bowl of bean soup, courtesy of the house. That’s a little different than tortilla chips and salsa! The menu is extensive and there are options for everybody; grilled beef cuts ($189-$249), pork ($139-$189), chicken ($139), or street cart-style tacos ($89-$109 per dish). Their specialty is the ‘parrillada’ ($415-$529) with a variety of grilled meats, cactus leaves and spring onions that serves 4 people. Don’t forget to look at their dessert menu too: you’ll find your favorites from flan, gelatin to tres-leches cake ($55-$65). Quench your thirst with fresh drinks ($35), lemonade ($33) or beer ($45 for national beers, $55 for international beers). If you come in with a group, order a pitcher for $88 pesos.

[El Palomar is located on Paseo Claussen #1500, almost in front of the fishermen at Playa Norte. There’s an outside covered patio with space for 50 people and the air-conditioned inside area fits up to 70 people. The restaurant is handicap accessible and opening hours are from noon until 10 p.m. Call for reservations: 669 146 7194 or find information on their FB ‘Restaurant El Palomar’.]

[El Palomar de los Pobres is located on Av. Camaron Sabalo#308. The location is not handicap accessible and opening hours are from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. For more information call 913 4376 or visit their website www.palomardelospobres.com.mx. ]

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Flavor Teller, a new tour of safe, street food launched in February 2017 – it’s all about connecting you to the real food of Mazatlan. “Real Food. Real Stories. Real People.” Now you can meet the people who create Mazatlan’s culinary magic and take a break from being a tourist – eat like a local! All the details on Flavor Teller’s site.

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Introducing, Casa Arabe.

By Maaike Hoekstra [November 2016]

[Maaike is the founder and owner of Flavor Teller – quite possibly Mazatlan’s first street food tour. So far, all rave reviews. She’s also the author of Child’s Play – 25 ideas on what to do with the kids. When she’s not enticing her Flavor Teller guests she leaves the Centro food carts behind and heads for popular traditional Mexican restaurants.]

Arab music is softly playing while you walk into the simply decorated setting of Casa Arabe. Its unassuming facade hides a wealth of authentic flavors. The owners are a mix of cultures: chef Assem was born and raised in Jerash, Jordan, his wife Anna who is working the front of the house is originally from Mexico City with a Columbian father. They both have a masters degree but decided to start this family-business in 2014.

Their passion for cooking and good company has led this self-taught couple to venture into the restaurant business. The third child of six, Chef Assem grew up helping his mother in the kitchen where she passed on the recipes he is using today. Chef Assem went on to study agriculture and specialized in livestock – sheep and goats. cropped-brochetta

Beef, chicken and lamb skewers [mixed plate] family size.

This knowledge comes in handy when hand-picking the best lambs for his specialty dishes – Kebab and lamb skewers. He brings most spices from Jordan, but luckily he can find some in Mexico City too.

On the menu you’ll find some of your Middle Eastern favorites: hummus, falafel (alone or in home-made pita bread), tabbouleh, dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) or the scrumptious eggplant dip Moutabal. Ask for a sampler plate to taste them all: you can order a vegetarian version ($95) or the regular Mixto ($110 ). casa-cropped

Regular sampler plate [plato mixto], this version has meat samplers.

You can also order more elaborate dishes like the Arab taco or Kebab served with pita bread and tabbouleh. Any special dietary restrictions can be catered for. My favorite is falafel in pita bread ($35) with loads of yoghurt-mint dressing. I always have two portions: absolute heaven! On Fridays and Saturdays Chef Assem prepares his famous lamb or chicken skewers marinated in a yoghurt-garlic sauce. cropped-mixto

Kebab, for this chef it means lamb [give him some notice and Assem will make you a beef Kebab] includes tabouleh salad.

The lamb is so succulent and perfectly spiced that you’ll devour every last piece. Don’t arrive late, because he only makes a limited amount. Alcoholic beverages are not available, but you can bring your own bottle and there’s no corkage fee. Try the tasty mint lemonade ($25) to accompany your dishes and don’t forget to sample Chef Assem’s Arab coffee with cardamom ($25) and home-made baklava ($35).

The restaurant is perfect for lunch and offers an intimate air-conditioned seating space for 30 people, with cushioned booths and wooden chairs. You can peek into the kitchen to see Chef Assem in action. The images on the wall emanate Chef Assem’s love for his homeland. He proudly explains that in Jordan people spend their afternoons smoking water pipe (or shisha) and drinking coffee on outside terraces. His dream is to install a shisha area at Casa Arabe, but the heat and humidity of Mazatlan make this a difficult goal to achieve.

Special dishes are available for bigger groups. Chef Assem explains that Jordan’s national dish “Mansef” can only be made for many and takes two hours to make. This upside-down dish has three layers: vegetables, lamb and rice on the top. It’s left to simmer until the meat is tender and served by turning the content upside down into a flat dish.

[Casa Arabe is located on Cinco de Mayo #1917, almost across the street from Asilo de Ancianos, close to Plazuela Zaragoza. Call for take-away orders: 910 3659. The restaurant is not handicap accessible, because of two steps at the entrance and no restrooms on the ground floor. However, tables and chairs can be placed on the front patio instead. Casa Arabe opens from Monday through Saturday from noon until 7 p.m. but if the food finishes, they might close earlier. Cash only, no credit cards accepted.]

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A reader on Find it Here Mazatlan asked “where can I find the best thin crust pizza”? Eighty-five people offered their opinions, proving once again, people are picky about their pizza. La Mona was the big winner; six said Marina, six didn’t indicate Centro or the Marina location, two said Centro, that’s 12 recommendations for La Mona. Villa Italia had eight votes, and Mi Casita and Last Drop tied, both had seven. Nando Centro and GZ got six thumbs-up. Tied were Via Condotti and La Rustica at five recommendations. Several mentioned a new pizza joint Piazza Al Taglio Da Venzi [on the Malecon between the aquarium and Lola Beltran.] By the time you read this these numbers won’t be accurate either, but if you are searching for thin crust pizza now you have a few ideas. These recommendations were captured on November 22, 2016.

Introducing, Agatha Kitchen Bar.

By Sheila Madsen [October 2016]

[Updated May 2021 – Chef Miguel Angel Alverez has left Agatha’s.Please adjust pricing to current day.]

[Updated November 2017: Agatha’s now has a new brunch menu, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It’s a concise well-priced menu offering everything from tacos filled with short ribs, lobster, duck, oysters, shrimp pork shank, crab, the most expensive is $75 to tempuras, oysters in-many-ways, a French dip “au jus” sandwich and a rib eye burger. Five tostadas are on the menu ranging from $48 -$75. There’s a raw bar too. If the brunch menu doesn’t take your fancy the full menu is offered too. Chef Miguel Alvarez is still at the helm. You can dine inside with ac or outside under a large awning with twirling ceiling fans From December 2016: friends reporting in..” lunch terrible, all the tvs were on, so noisy we couldn’t talk, like a sport’s bar, I’d never go back….had the best dinner…nothing appealed to me on the menu…I really enjoy the fact that you can order so many side dishes…” Updated Nov. 4, 2016, returning with two hip men from southern California: some enjoyed the gin, others the Mar del Sur cocktail,$115, light and lively – Kettle vodka and a bunch of other fresh juices. Naked and Famous [mezcal, chartreuse Amarillo and two other liquids] got a thumbs up [$110]. New for us tonight was the nostalgic 1950/60s wedge salad. Remember iceberg lettuce? This was crammed with candied nuts, dried blueberries, croutons and cherry tomatoes, $125, some of us thought a meal on its own. Grilled salmon, $200 perfectly cooked as were the camarones gigantes again. Chef Miguel displayed a beautiful prime rib just out of the oven but we declined. Service continues to be zippy and friendly. All of us would return.]

Chef Miguel Alvarez describes the food as “international, Pacific fresh food.” Miguel is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he then worked at Daniel’s for five years in New York and his latest cheffing gig was at Amalia in Mexico City, also for five years.

Chef Miguel Alvarez

Chef Miguel Alvarez

This is a big city boy who has been recruited to Mazatlan to jazz-up our taste buds.

Let’s start with cocktails! There are 24 to choose from – “naked and famous”, “dark and stormy”, “Mexican Rude” and a good old fashioned dry martini. The bar has been thoughtful too in offering six virgin cocktails. Speaking of the bar, it’s huge; probably seats 40 people around the plexi-glass illuminated agate repeat graphics. Another thoughtful detail is that the designer had discreetly hung tv screens in strategic areas – you can watch tv at the bar, but you can’t see them in the main restaurant area.

bar

Chef is right about all the food being fresh. Once again, Chuy Lizarraga’s Organico Fresh Produce[you may enjoy a profile on Chuy and his wildly successful organic/pepper farm] is the main “green/vegetable” supplier. There are 25 starters to select from – crudas/cold, calientes/hot, and Oriental – sushi rolls. You could dine on this page alone: from sashimi [$170], to crab cakes [$120], soups [clam chowder, “wonderful, fresh, great texture, the vegetables are crunchy,” $95] to salads to tacos to tostadas.

Camarones Gigantes on a bed of hot Himalaya salt, $190.

Camarones Gigantes on a bed of hot Himalaya salt, $190.

Then there are the mains: salmon [$200], catch of the day [$170], tuna, [$195] and pargo [red snapper, takes 45 minutes, $295], and eight meat/chicken offerings: steak your way, to chicken, to the New Zealand rack of lamb. Agatha’s made another thoughtful decision – your main includes one choice of a side – but there are 12 to choose from. If you desire a second side, it’s $40. Our taste buds are indeed jazzed-up.

Pulpos, octopus with a side of creamed spinach, $230.

Pulpos, octopus with a side of creamed spinach, $230.

Three of us all sampled the sashimi de Nueva York, “joes rolls”, the giant shrimp on the Himalayan salt bed, rack of lamb in a wine/vinegar reduction and the octopus. All absolutely delicious and perfectly cooked or perfectly raw. Pace yourself, because you’ll be presented with three kinds of bread [baked on the premises] along with a lovely fresh pesto sauce when you are seated. This is a white-cloth napkin restaurant, no guac and chips here.

Rack de cordero, New Zealand rack of lamb with a side of baked potato, $290.

Rack de cordero, New Zealand rack of lamb with a side of baked potato, $290.

My Mexican professional friend believes Agatha’s was designed for Mexicans between 30 – 55 years old. The décor is sleek, slick, urban, modern; there’s nothing old about it. The walls are bare brick, no artwork, the ceiling is black ice with pin lights and the floors are a beige slate. The banquettes are navy blue, and that theme marries up with the bar graphics. It’s all super-clean lines with a splash of blue. Excellent snap-to-it service, nothing is a problem.

You will only have one problem at Agatha’s – deciding on what to eat.

[Agatha’s is located on Av. Playa Gaviotas #225, in front of the Ramada Inn. The owner of the Ramada Inn owns Agatha’s – The Ramada Inn does not own it. The restaurant is handicap accessible and is open from 1 p.m. on. There are approximately 35 employees and room for 210; outside on the terrace or inside with air conditioning. Call for a reservation: 669 990 3202.]

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Meet Dario Veliz, the creator of Casa Country.

Perhaps you are thinking about going to Casa Country, or perhaps you already are a fan, you may enjoy this profile of the owner, Dario Veliz. [October 2016]

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Introducing, Gaia Bistrot. Celebrating seasonal offerings with a sprinkling of international flavours.

By Sheila Madsen [March 23, 2016]

Gilberto GaiaML

[Updated September 2023]

“On February 22, 1988 I decided to become a chef” says Gilberto del Toro owner of Gaia Bistrot. The 17 year-old abandoned his mechanical engineering studies [“I hated calculus”] and began his culinary career. His family was supportive; they owned Oceano Palace and the Don Pelayo Hotel so they knew all about the adventures that were waiting for an eager chef and sent him packing with this upbeat message – “you’ll get to travel and you won’t starve.”

With passion and determination the young Gilberto did indeed travel. To New York’s Culinary Institute of America [CIA], then to the CIA in California followed by a six-month internship in Jesi, Italy at the Istituto Superiore di Gastronomia. Throughout all of Gilberto’s education, the famous Mexican chef Enrique Olvera remained his inspiration. The success of Pujol restaurant in Mexico City [The Wall Street Journal ranks Pujol as the best restaurant in Mexico City and the 17th best restaurant in the world] was motivation for Gilberto – if a Mexican chef like Olvera could have his own restaurant then some day, “I will too.”

That some day turned into 28 years. He briefly returned to the city he was born in, Guadalajara, and was a pastry chef at Camino Real where he routinely served 500 people on a Sunday morning. Moving back to his beloved Mazatlan, he spent ten years as executive chef at Pueblo Bonito and then another ten years with his own catering company. While Gilberto is at home with large numbers he’s enjoying the smaller scale of Gaia [from the Greek, ‘mother earth’] with seating for 22 inside and 32 on the terrace.

    Gaia Bistrot has the best of both worlds. Dine outside underneath the 19th century portals overlooking the lively Plazuela Machado, or dine inside for a more intimate evening. The interior was completely revamped in September 2023.

Chef’s fresh, beautifully cooked food is supported by a dedicated wait staff. Gilberto’s is not about to disappoint customers with haphazard service. Oh, no, he’s not. Twenty-eight years is a long time to wait but at last he’s in the right place, at the right time. Gilberto’s dream has become a reality and his vision is crystal clear – to celebrate seasonal foods with a sprinkling of international flavours.

[Gaia Bistrot is located in the Plazuela Machado.Open every day from noon on. Breakfast is served from Tuesday to Sunday from 8 am to noon. Sundays Gilberto cooks paella on the terrace starting at 1 p.m. Please call to make a reservation, 112 2525. The paella is ready around 2 p.m., but do call to reserve your portion and that includes a bowl of gazpacho soup – have it to go, or to stay.Credit cards accepted, handicap accessible with street level seating.]

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Don’t worry be MAHI.
Japanese fusion awaits you at the Mahi Sushi Bar

By Sheila Madsen [November 2015]

No Name Rolls

The delicious “No Name” roll

Mahi Shushi Chef

The Sushi Chef

Owner Carolina Perez opened Mahi several years ago on the Malecon and in April moved the restaurant to the Golden Zone’s Lomas Plaza. The pristine décor of white and celery provides a cool backdrop for the presentation of all the colourful food. Each dish is served on bone-white china and you feel as if you have been presented with a delicate origami sculpture. “You’d find this plate and quality of sashimi in Mexico City.” Surprise! The chef was trained in Mexico City and Carolina lured him to Mazatlan.

Mahi Sashimi

Sashimi “the way it should be”

The insanely fresh salmon and tuna sashimi [$150] “tastes the way it’s suppose to.” All the delicious rolls [27 of them, ranging from $60-$155] “have the exact right balance – the ratio of rice to fresh ingredients is perfect. ” The snobs went on to order a shrimp tempura [$95]; gently battered in rice flour they were beautifully cooked and as light as a meringue. A real melt-in-your-mouth delight. If you are gluten-intolerant, be sure to alert the staff, as many of the items are battered but they will happily switch it to a rice flour batter.

Because every dish is hand made, hand cut, and prepared just for you, these food sculptures take time. Beer and white wine are available while you wait. If you have a special request, ask Carolina’s father-in-law, Crisoforo Ayala, he’s more than willing to accommodate you. Two tiny observations: one, the lighting is super bright [I think that is on purpose to show you how fresh the food is and to send the message “we are not hiding anything, our restaurant is white-glove clean”] and two, the menu is in 3pt type, so bring your reading glasses.

Califirnia Rolls

California Rolls

I left with my tummy full of California rolls and shrimp tempura. My two snobs left wishing they had ordered more sashimi. Don’t worry. We’ll be back.

[Mahi Sushi Bar is located just off the Malecon at the aquarium and a second location on Belisario Dominguez #1410, opposite the big parking lot – now morphed into Mahi Omakase in 2021 – see introduction  above.   It’s open every day from 1 p.m. on, call 913 2070. Credit cards accepted.]

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Introducing, Héctor’s Bistro, again!

By Sheila Madsen, August 2023

Héctor’s Bistro needs no introduction. It’s a stormy Monday night in August and all the tables are full. The rain is pouring down and the customers are pouring in – all with reservations. I have known Héctor since 2009 when he had a small successful restaurant on Belisario Dominguez called Molika. In 2014 he made the leap into a larger space, The old French Reynaud Building, 1847, and rebranded himself as Héctor’s Bistro. The purpose of this new introduction is a refresh; a lot has changed since my last formal sit down with Héctor in 2014. Yes, prices have gone up. For instance, the tender rack of lamb was $295, now $695, the ever-popular steak frites was $195, now $450, and the divine Duck Magret was $195 is now $450. During these nine years all prices – everywhere have increased but so has Héctor’s Bistro with three new dining areas.

Chef Héctor Peniche

Years ago, the bistro was jammed, the large U shaped bar too-  instead of turning customers away Héctor and his team created three new rooms. The Speak Easy, The Chef’s Table, and the Map Room. All share the same menu and his staff of 65 easily glide through all the rooms with hot plates of delicious food.

“The Speak Easy”

When you text your reservation, 669 981 1577, you can request the main bistro – and reserve the popular burnt orange banquette corner, or The Chef’s Table or the Map Room. The Speak Easy was created for private events and wow was that a smart decision. Customers need to book The Speak Easy way in advance. The room holds about 20 people – it’s dark, it’s sexy, it’s cozy, it’s everything you’d want for a private event.

The main Bistro

Has Chef’s vision changed since 2014? “The seed for the idea of a bistro was planted while living and working in the beautiful Guadalupe Valley, the wine country of Mexico. It began germinating in Europe during my years of working for some of the best traditional Italian and French restaurants in London. I fell in love with the European craftsmanship – so full of passion, pride and patience. I decided to reproduce these values here in Mexico. After five years my dream is slowly blossoming with the opening of our new venue, Héctor’s Bistro.”

The luxurious burnt orange corner booth in the bistro.

How does Héctor feel in 2023?  “I support everything I said and today I am more stimulated and excited than ever. After nine years my regular patrons – Mexicans, Canadians, Americans, and British come to eat their favourite food, they count on that dish being on the menu. I do have specials, but the main thing for me is to please all my loyal customers. I would never take the popular Arm Drip beef steak sandwich [$380] off the menu – they come time and again for that taste nor would I remove the beef tenderloin with green peppercorn sauce [$395] – there would be a munity! Even though I have a large staff, I am the chef; I plan the menu, I taste everything, I do all the costing, I am constantly in the kitchen with my Chef de Cuisine, Juan Carlos, who has been with me since 2010. However, the very best part of my job is talking with my customers, I love to chat with them and many have become very good friends.”

The succulent pork chop.

Most of you know the menu, but let’s do a quick review. Eleven starters: from mussels, to the French Platter, to the grilled octopus, $175-$450. From the Deli: four designer sandwiches and a cheeseburger – $295-$340. Pastas and salads: four creative pastas [ravioli filled with provolone, sundried tomato, basil with a tomato sauce, $245] and three salads – I love the roast chicken salad with vegetables a parmesan cheese, $220. The Mains: Chef says “the mains are meat heavy and I have no intention of changing that.” There are 10 choices, two are fish, a pan roasted salmon fillet, $360, and pan roasted seabass, $445. “The pan roasted pork chop with mashed sweet potato, $310, remains one of the most popular dishes.”

Sticky Toffee Pudding.

One of Héctor’s first jobs as a young man was a pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mexico City. He’s famous for his desserts and many customers break their diets for his sticky toffee pudding [$115], and my personal favourite, the chocomania – a flourless chocolate cake brownie with chocolate ice cream [$190]. The Bistro offers 3 tarts, 3 cakes, and 3 “others” – $95 [ that would be the crème brulée] to $190.

We can’t leave the bistro yet without discussing the bar where people love to hang out and often have their dinner sitting on the comfy high bar stools. Before we get drunk on the massive selection, there are 23 non-alcoholic choices.

Victor so happy to be tending his well-stocked bar.

Very few restaurants in Mazatlan offer such a large selection of liquor. Victor and his two bartenders can shake up any cocktail you can imagine but if you are seeking a “neat” sip there are: 9 single malt whiskies; 6 blended whiskies; 4 bourbons; 8 vodkas; 11 gins; 18 tequilas; 19 liqueurs; 10 rums; 13 mezcals, cognac, brandy and of course, 11 kinds of beer. Victor curates [and tastes] a small but upscale wine list. Again, you probably won’t find these wines in another restaurant – there are 11 reds ranging from $740 – $7000 a bottle and 8 whites, $740 to $2,250. There are three lovely red wines by the glass for $150, and 2 whites at $150, and one at $210. Yep, pricy but it isn’t your standard Concho y Toro – these are to savour.

Via Condotti’s patio.

Are you ready now for breakfast at Via Condotti? There are 7 Mexican offers, with chilaquiles being the most popular at $150. If you want a more traditional breakfast Via Condotti offers omelets, French toast, a full English breakfast, a selection of egg dishes, a fruit platter and a bagel and smoked salmon. Prices range from $95-$235. Remember no reservations, so get there at 8 am.and grab your chair on the patio but if you sleep in, there’s lots of room inside with air conditioning. At noon, the wait staff bring out the lunch/dinner menu. It’s Italian all the way – from 7 thin-crust pizzas [$180-$350], to lasagna, meatballs [$180-$225] and 3 fresh salads, $105-$130. This Roman street in Centro is super popular with families and informal celebrations. Bada Bing!

Just as I am wrapping our refresh, Héctor says, “but wait there’s more!” Really? The building has an immense roof top. Many plans/events have been tried on that terrace over the years and rejected for various reasons. Finally, one has gelled, and it’s a new restaurant called Alto Fuego. And finally Alto Fuego is open, to read about it, please click here.

[Héctor’s Bistro is located on Mariano Escobedo #409 at Heriberto Frias, opposite Casa Haas, open every day from noon. Reservations are highly recommended, reserve via WhatsApp, 669 981-1577. All the rooms are air conditioned. You can’t reserve a seat at the bar. Via Conditti is open every day from 8 am until 11 pm. Breakfast is from 8 am. until noon, and lunch is served from noon on. Reservations are not accepted at Via Conditti. There is outdoor patio seating on Heriberto Frias or inside with air conditioning.Handicap accessible. Alto Fuego is open at 5;30 pm, closed Tuesdays, and is not handicap accessible. All menus are in English and Spanish, and credit cards are accepted. If you are interested in watching Héctor’s lively cooking shows please click here.]

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What’s up with Surf’s Up? Everything is up and upbeat!

By Sheila Madsen, December 2013, please adjust prices to 2023.

[Updated January 25, 2015: Same great ten dishes, just a slight price increase, all $45. Personal favourites are our table – #6, Coconut chicken curry, and #4 The Bourb. The place was packed and it’s obvious people come for the food, the music and the ambience. Leanne continues to excel in customer satisfaction.]

I’m probably the last woman standing who has not been to the beautiful beachfront café, Surf’s Up. Before you go, please do two things: make a reservation and let Leanne Wright (owner, chef) know of any food allergies you have. Give her the time and she’ll make you gluten-free empanadas as she did for me. My first empanada ever! She’s a micro-manager too. I overheard her briefing her staff on various tables and who likes what and when and how. She cares about us, she really, really cares about us.

If you read my lead-in to restaurant reviews you’ll understand I don’t really believe in them. That shipped has sailed with social networking; think of this article as a FB post, just one of many opinions that you can choose to disregard! I was spoiled living in such a diverse restaurant city as Toronto. Friends began conversations about dinner with the country: Thai, Caribbean, Indian, French, Ethiopian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Polish, German, Danish, Middle Eastern, Canadian or Fusion then you nailed the location and time. All of our kitchen drawers were stuffed with take-out menus of every imaginable cuisine. Obviously that selection is not possible here in Mazatlan, so my eyes popped out as I inhaled the different flavours on Leann’s Caribbean Tapas Menu. At $40 per item, our trio was in a frisky mood and said “what the hell, let’s order all ten.” Big deal, a total of $400 and you get one taste sensation after another.

Here are Leanne’s descriptions: #1 Panamanian Beef Empanadas – baked in the oven this sweet dough is a pocket of goodness with a savory beef filling with onions, peppers, and cilantro inside, served with chipotle aioli; #2 Caribbean Beef Patties – a delicious curry-flavoured beef pasty, made with chives, thyme and chili peppers, served with sweet chutney; #3 Garden Groove – cool citrus gazpacho salad with grapefruit, oranges, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, red onions, cilantro, garlic tossed in a zesty sweet and spicy dressing; #4 The Bourb – smoky bourbon glazed pork with pineapple that has been slowly roasted to tender perfection; # 5 Jamaican Me Crazy Jerk Chicken Skewers – chicken marinated in a spicy jerk season and lime juice, serve with curry yogurt sauce; # 6 Coconut Chicken Curry – Caribbean blend of curry spices with coconut milk served over rice; #7 Leanne’s Surfin’ Salad – mixed green with onions, peppers, carrots, raisins, almonds and homemade kiwi dressing; #8 One Love – (chimichanga) rolled flour tortillas stuffed with a mix of chorizo sausage, beef, onions, peppers and lightly fried, topped with chipotle aioli; #9 Zion Roots – homemade mac and cheese bites lightly deep fried; #10 Papas – they were the size of a smart phone and just beat out Morena’s for the best potato wedges in Mazatlan.

surfs

Vegetarians won’t care but our favourites were the #4, The Bour (oh, that tender pork!), #6 Coconut Chicken Curry (Thai meets the Caribbean), # 8 One Love.

All of this tasty tapas happens on Saturdays. Sit in the shade (or in the sun) watch the waves roll in and listen to the ten piece band, Rootsterford, entertain you with the best reggae music. There is a cover charge for Rootsterford of $80 but it includes one drink. Ten piece band, live music, a free drink, $80 is a bargain for that level of professional music. Have a listen. Surf’s Up does serve breakfast and lunch too from Wednesday to Sunday, as the café also caters to the four room B&B, El Sol La Vida. Everything is up and upbeat at Surf’s Up.

[Surf’s Up Beach Café/El Sol La Vida are located on Avenida Ernesto Coppel #52 – go past Emerald Bay, veer right and you’ll hit a dirt road which will take you to Surf’s Up, call: 988 0951 or e mail Leanne Wright at: surfsupmazaltan@gmail.com. Handicap accessible, major credit cards accepted (just not American Express]

redpepper

Introducing, Andy Cook – the new owner of Topolo.

By Sheila Madsen, October 2023

This marriage began on an airplane. On a flight from Houston to Michigan. By pure chance a Mr. Cook sat next to the beloved owner of Topolo Mexican Restaurant and Wine Bar for 15 years, Eileen Moore. Houston, we have solved the problem.

No, no, Eileen is not marrying Mr. Cook Senior. But she did manage to find the absolute right buyer for Topolo, Mr Cook’s son, Andrew, “just call me Andy.”

It was a whirlwind romance. A blink. Only 34 years-old Andy has extensive restaurant experience – creating, owning, managing and selling a successful bbq restaurant in Vale, and later owing a food truck in Holland, Michigan. He’s also managed to squeeze in a solid financial services experience when he worked in San Francisco. “I’ve been working since I was 10 years-old, I’ve lived in 10 states, I’ve done prep work, I’ve worked the front of the house, I was a wedding planner for three years in Boulder, I enjoy meeting and connecting with people.”

Andy had just sold his boat business [and his food truck] in Michigan and was looking for the next opportunity when Dad suggested that maybe Mazatlan’s wildly popular restaurant Topolo was for sale. “I jumped on a plane to Mazatlan, met Eileen, met her wonderful staff – many who have been with her for 15 years – and felt an immediate connection. I was impressed that it was important to Eileen that her 15+ loyal employees liked me, and wanted to partner with me. Without them, I know I would have been lost. I returned to Michigan and started doing serious research into Mazatlan and decided, yes, I am in. Over the summer we completed the paper work and I arrived in September. I am not an angel investor, I’m not going to dump some money and run; I want to be part of the community, part of the family, this is it for me. Perhaps I’ll tweak a few things, maybe some structual improvements during the summer when we are closed, but everything that Eileen has built and nurtured will stay the same.”

This bubbly, enthusiastic, energetic man loaded up his Jeep with: his trusty husky Nova, his surfboard, all his fishing equipment, his bike and his moped. “I’m ready for it all – surfing, deep sea fishing, walking the Malecon, Mazatlan is gorgeous, I love seafood and my family can’t wait to visit me.”

If you know and love Topolo, rest assured the same great service and dining experience continues – the pretty petit blonde – that would be Eileen – has not left the building. She’s in the background gently helping Andy with the transition.

If you are new to Mazatlan then I apologize for the long preamble but that was vital for existing fans. No doubt you’ve read all the positive reviews online where customers have praised Topolo’s ambiance, the attentive service and consistently delicious food – and it’s all true! But you can’t read about the wow factor. When you dine at Topolo you enter an oasis. The large courtyard with palm trees wrapped in fairy lights reach the sky and tables are discreetly placed in secluded nooks. Or, if prefer a private room with ac, they offer that too. There’s even a cozy wine bar.

One of the unique experiences is the roasted tomato salsa prepared at your table. Martin happily blends the salsa – mild, medium or spicy and that’s on the house. Guacamole is also made table-side and is $170. Topolo offers a variety of cuisines [be sure to ask for vegetarian-friendly, vegan or gluten-free options] – there are 8 starters, 2 soups, 6 salads, one Fettucini Alfredo pasta with chicken or shrimp and 14 entrees or platos fuertes and 9 desserts. Fish, shrimp, meat, pork shank, typical Mexican platters, tuna tartar, and a personal favourite the crab and shrimp salad – Topolo has it all and does it your way. Many regulars pop in [with a reservation] for the Bananas Foster flambeed at your table and a fancy Spanish coffee. Alcohol – yes, they serve it and a house wine pour is generous, $170. There are bottles and bottles of wine from Mexico, Chile, Australia, USA, Spain, France and Italy.

Often, Topolo is top of the list for date night, a birthday, an anniversary, a promotion, a welcome back, or to simply show off  “look what dining is like in Mazatlan.” Topolo really is the perfect marriage of atmosphere, service and delicious food. With Andy at the helm I feel sure this marriage is secure and likely to last and last. And in Mazatlan years, that’s a very very long time.

[Topolo Mexican Restaurant and Wine Bar, one block from the Plazuela Machado, Constitucion # 629, closed Mondays, open from 2 pm. to 9 pm. Handicap accessible. Major credit cards accepted. Reservations are essential, please call 669 136 0660. Menus are in Spanish and in English. Romantic background music.]

Mazatlan Restaurants