These 40 + Mazatlan restaurant introductions [not reviews] have been written by full-time residents. The restaurants may or may not appeal to you. The pandemic has had restaurants scrambling to stay open and to please its customers. Be sure to confirm their hours on their FB page. 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.
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.
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, Brocher Charcuteria Restaurant
By Sheila Madsen, January 2021
At first I thought Brocher was going to be a deli selling various meats, cheeses and wines. Peeking inside the doors it looked like a European deli shop, select and go. But no, it’s a proper restaurant offering a unique concept to Mazatlan. Owner, Martin Santaella [of Wing’s Army and German Beer Garden] felt this deli-like bistro twist was missing in Mazatlan. Martin is right; there’s nothing else like it.
Vegans and vegetarians you can stop reading this now and spend your time on information that relates to your chosen lifestyle. Carnivores and cheese lovers read on! Brocher has such a European feel; all the “plates” are served on large wooden cutting boards. There are so many choices that we let the manager, Eduardo Martinez and his team, design a platter for four [$700] .The recipes [many are thanks to Bernardo Brocher who is from Argentina] for curing the meat are international – German liverwurst, Polish sausage, French pate and that’s just the tip of the selections – but all the meat is from Mexico. It’s spiced and cured by Brocher’s various Mexican vendors. When our platter arrived it was overflowing with cold meats, figs, dates, pecans, pickles, tomatoes – and ooh la la cheeses galore. The hard cheeses were full of flavour while the soft cheeses were ripe, oozing and so creamy. All of them are from Mexico too – surprise! Lots of happy groans and “try this one, try that one” at our table. There are generous side baskets of bread and crackers.
Currently, the wine list is not impressive and it’s a work in progress. Eduardo is aware of this shortcoming and will do his best to offer you a wine you can enjoy. There is only one option for white wine by the glass and two options for red wines by the glass. I have to believe because the platters of food are divine that what I would consider a “wine problem” will be resolved quickly.
Many of us think our Plazuela Machado is magical – I certainly feel that way – and Brocher is another jewel in the crown serving yummy cheeses and tasty deli meats. Hola European flavours – all made in Mexico.
[Brocher is open every day around 5:30 p.m. Patio seating on the square and inside, to reserve a table please call 669 990 5638. Handicap accessible, credit cards accepted. It’s located in our Plazuela Machado on Constitución, where La Tramoya used to be]
Introducing, Olibong – Thai takeout has arrived!
By Sheila Madsen, December 9, 2020 – see below in italics for delivery and pick-up details. Olibong now has dine-in service from 3 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday + full bar!
If MiBong and La Olivia had a baby it would be called Olibong. What? This birth is a result of passion for Southeast Asian food. The mash-up name is easy to explain. Owners of La Olivia, Barbara Guiterrez Cortazar and Kurt Heimpel have partnered with Luis Rochin and Lis Maiz from MiBong restaurant in Mexico City. When the pandemic hit, Luis and Lis decided to return home to Mazatlan. Barb and Lis are the chefs [both studied and trained in the culinary arts in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam], and the guys, Luis and Kurt, stay out of the kitchen and manage the business side.
Both the chefs love the Thai/ Viet/ Malay influence and since the La Olivia kitchen is available in the afternoons why not have a baby brother, Olibong. Barb told me: “we think so alike, in so many ways; we both want to work a little but I want to have time for my son, and Lis missed the cooking and planning – neither of us want the long hours. The four of us can share the work load. We have a great feeling of starting a relationship together and most important sharing our passion for the food we want you to enjoy in your home. Because of the pandemic we hope our customers will be comfortable with takeout, I think everyone is used to that now.”
Yes, Barb and Lis, we are certainly used to takeout and we can’t wait to visit you at the Olibong window or call/WhatsApp at – 669 240 5232 – after 3 p.m. As you can see from the menu above there are ten delicious dishes to choose from and two desserts. If you know you are having an event or a small gathering you can call or WhatsApp your order ahead of time – just after 3 p.m. The owners have brought from Mexico City special organic biodegradable containers for your takeout. If you are a gardener you can reuse them to plant seeds!
[Olibong is located on Libertad at the corner of Belisario Dominguez, and is open every day from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. [Closed on Wednesdays]. Call or WhatsApp 669 240 5232 to place your order after 3 p.m.– English spoken! Please use the convenient numbering system, 2 of #5, 3 of #10 etc. If you choose to pick-up, Olibong accepts credit cards. Olibong delivers to all of Mazatlan – depending on your area the delivery charge is between $30 to $50 pesos and please have exact cash, pesos only for the delivery man. If you wish to tip, that goes directly to the driver, not to the restaurant. La Olivia is closed on Wednesdays – from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. as Olibong.]
Introducing, Metl Mezcaleria – imbibe the Mexican vibe.
By Maaike Hoekstra, December 2020. [Maaike is the owner and founder of Flavor Teller – Mazatlan’s original street food tour. All photos in this article are courtesy of Shamuel stories.]
Quick question: what is Mexico’s most traditional liquor? Most of you will immediately say: tequila! Now what if I corrected you and said it’s mezcal. This might sound familiar to some or maybe it’s a total question mark for others. So what is mezcal and why is it so important for Mexican culture?
Mezcal is a liquor distilled from agave cactus. This makes it a cousin of tequila, which is exclusively made from blue agave. The difference between mezcal and tequila is the alcohol percentage. Mezcal has 45 to 50 alcoholic degrees and is made 100% of agave; tequila has from 36-38 alcoholic degrees and is made with 60% agave and 40% other sugars.
Mezcal distilling goes back to Aztec times between 1200-1500 or possibly even earlier. Mezcal was served to high priests and rulers during ceremonies, while the common folk drank Pulque which is a lightly fermented cactus sap. After the Conquista the Spaniards called mezcal a devilish drink and its production and consumption were quickly prohibited. The reason was that the new rulers found out many indigenous workers would get wasted on mezcal, making them less productive as a work force. This prohibition lasted until Mexican Independence in the early 19th century. The south of Sinaloa then became a lively mezcal production center, with tens of ‘vinaterias’ or mezcal distilleries. In the 1960s Jalisco state started the process to register tequila with Denomination of Origen. Sinaloa state government simultaneously instigated a ban of mezcal production which as you can imagine was met with great resistance. For many years you could not sell mezcal, but only barter with it. In 1992, mezcal was legalized again and sales have been increasing ever since.
In the last decade, mezcal has seen a real revival nationally and internationally. Mazatlan has been part of this movement too. Since June 2018 the city’s first ‘mezcaleria’ or mezcal bar opened its door. The name ‘Metl’ (pronounced: MET) translates to maguey cactus in the native Nahuatl language. The owners, anthropologist Barbara Nava and biologist Rafael Valdez, decided that it was time to educate people about artisanal mezcal and show the craftsmanship that goes into it. They found a warehouse on Mariano Escobedo between Benito Juarez and Aquiles Serdán and transformed it into a bar. The space is an intimate lounge with beautiful black-and-white images of ‘Maestros Mezcaleros’ mezcal producers and it has become a podium for the alternative music scene. “We’re all family here, says Barbara, we have lots of regulars who enjoy a good mezcal, relax and hang out. Our average client is 30+, because they are more into discovering new flavors. Unfortunately the younger generation is more about doing shots and they don’t have the patience to drink mezcal with respect. Our menu includes mezcales from Oaxaca, Guerrero, Michoacan and Sonora, as well as mezcal-based cocktails made with fresh fruit and home-made ceviche. We only offer artisanal mezcal, to support the small mezcal producers who don’t sell in bulk.”
How did this young couple get involved in the world of mezcal? Barbara shares with me: “My family comes from Michoacan and we’ve been ‘charanda’ (a sugarcane liquor similar to rum) and tequila producers for generations. So I’m familiar with the distilling process. While I was studying in university I investigated the symbiosis between maguey cactus and indigenous corn in traditional farming. Maguey or agave isn’t just used for making mezcal. It’s also used as fence around the corn fields, the leaves are used for fiber, the flower stem is used as beam in construction, and the pulp is used for compost.”
“During my research I met several mezcal producers in my home state Michoacan and we became friends. I offered to sell their mezcal and they agreed. Then I went on a road trip to Oaxaca and Guerrero to explore the mezcal scene there and made more connections. Initially I would just offer the artisanal mezcal to friends and family, but as time went by I realized we had to scale up to something bigger. And that’s how Metl Mezcaleria was born.”
There is a small but unique menu – check their FB page for food alerts such as this: “Today we will have sliders of piggy Pibil and beans black, with brioche bread from @panbachia. We are waiting for you!!”
Barbara and Rafael have found just the right vibe judging by these positive comments. “Great people who take care in serving you very interesting boutique mezcals.” “This is the place to go if you are serious about tasting unique productions from named master makers.” “They only have a few food items on the menu but they do them so well!” “Great atmosphere. I loved the music. It’s a younger crowd which we enjoyed.” “Beautiful place, rich mezcals and excellent vibes!”
[Metl mezcaleria is located on Mariano Escobedo #6. Opening hours are Wednesday to Saturday from 7 p.m. to 1 p.m. Due to COVID-19, restrictions seating is reduced to 15 people and cash only. Perhaps call ahead to get a seat at the table, 669 441 5135. Follow on Facebook or Instagram as ‘Metl Mezcaleria’.]
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.
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).]
El Presidio, revisited.
By Sheila Madsen, November 4, 2020
Rodrigio Becerra has reopened Casa Garcia, El Presidio Restaurant. This elegant space is a family affair – it was his great grandmother’s house and dates back to 1867. Like so many restaurants, it was closed during the pandemic and Rodrigio took that down time to recruit Chef Gabriel Rodriguez from Mexico City.
Chef’s vision is to keep the menu small and change it often. Being from Mexico City [ex Pujol, ex Máximo Bistro and winner of “Top Chef Mexico 2017”] he’s excited to be near the ocean and wants to create innovative seafood/fish dishes. Currently there are five starters – tuna, tuna tartar, pearl scallops, ceviche, arugula salad and roasted cauliflower, $129 – $245 and nine mains – seared tuna, $305; two catches of the day, $295; shrimp risotto, $285; duck Magret, $290;
chicken mole, $239; braised pork shank, $349; beef rib eye, $405; and beef steak, $349. I’ve left out a few details – the dishes of course come with fabulous sauces and vegetables. I had the chicken mole – the mole had the right zing for me [some prefer less, some prefer more] and the two chicken breasts were moist – one for dinner and one for lunch!
My husband enjoyed the tuna tartar in a creamy, delicate red pepper sauce. There’s a dessert menu but we didn’t look – yours to discover.
Gabriel is thrilled to be cheffing in such a gorgeous space and he’s determined to start small, and dedicate himself and his staff to excellence and service. He’s been to Mazatlan often on holiday and is honoured to be at the helm of this respected restaurant.
For now, the bar area is closed due to Covid-19. It was a natural gathering place and impossible to manage the social distancing. For such a large space it’s somehow more intimate with tables nicely spaced under the fig, laurel, mango and banyan trees that reach up to the stars. When El Presidio opened in 2012 we all fell in love with the elegant space and the different food offerings. Yes, there have been ups and downs and Covid-19, but do try it again and have a taste of Chef Gabriel’s “new” El Presidio.
[El Presidio,/Restaurante Presidio Cocina de México is located on Mariano Escobedo and Niños Heroes, enter on the Niños Heroes side, closed Mondysmopens at 1p.m. ish. When you call for a reservation please specify if you want to dine outside with fans and moonlight or indoors with ac – 669 223 1021, all credit cards accepted. The baños are huge and super clean – 11 stalls for women! If you are wondering where Chef Diego Becerra is and what’s he’s up to please click here.]
Introducing, Restaurant Campestre, El Portal de San Juan.
Interested in gluten-free, sugar- free baking services? Read on!
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.
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.]
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.
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 11 p.m, 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
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 1 p.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, Seven Dreams Restaurant Bar & Sushi.
By Sheila Madsen, January 16, 2020
There’s a reason for the name Seven Dreams. The owner, Pepe Sánchez and his wife have five children and right there you have your seven dreams. The original Seven Dreams [the restaurant, not the family] is in Tijuana and the concept is so successful Pepe sought out Ernie Juarez [ex Ernie’s Tomatoes] to be his partner in Mazatlan. The restaurant opened in April 2019 and Mazatlan has embraced the family-international dining experience in a big way – often all 300 seats are booked.
When you walk into Seven Dreams you’ll be greeted with a wraparound video screen that projects everything from underwater scenes to your name if it’s a birthday or a special occasion. Depending on your mood, it’s visually pleasing and fun to glance at the jumbotron-like screen, or it can be distracting if you are seeking a more intimate experience. The ceiling also reflects the Sánchez family – look up and you’ll see a repeat pattern of seven large flat lights in various sizes – the family is lighting up your life!
Clearly this is a restaurant geared towards families. Many mums drop their kids off at school and gather at Seven Dreams for coffee and breakfast. There’s a large room with its own coffee bar – coffee is having a moment in Mazatlan and gone are the cups of Nescafé with Carnation Evaporated Milk. There are two full-time baristas ready to impress you with specialty Veracruz beans and their various drip coffee makers. Espresso too, of course. If the coffee room becomes full, well, it’s easy to move into the main restaurant. Seven Dreams has its own bakery and Ernie says “we have the best sweet rolls and cinnamon buns.”
Ernie and Pepe sent the chef, Samuel Bastidas, to Le Cordon Bleu Mexico, in Mexico City where he refined his chef skills. Chef Samuel has been with Ernie for many years in Mazatlan but they wanted to raise the bar. The family that eats together stays together. The teenagers may want sushi, Dad may want a steak, Mum desires a salad, and the young kids are craving a cheese burger, chicken fingers or pizza. This trio, Ernie, Pepe and Samuel, have got it all covered. It’s a huge menu: nine starters, $130-$250; three pizza offers, $160-$180; four soups, $90; three salads, $140-$280; six items on the Kids Menu; 13 mains, $190-$300; ten steak choices – from a skirt steak [$260], to a rib eye [400 gr, $345] to a tomahawk at $1400. You could always try “grill of the house” – lobster, skirt steak, shrimp and octopus at $1330. Seven desserts that are bound to be dreamy.
Our table of four ordered the sealed salmon with basil and fennel sauce [$290], delicious, cooked perfectly; Seven Dreams Fish [$270], moist,flaky white fish served on fluffy puffed pastry with sautéed shrimp; Stuffed Chicken breast [$220] served on a bed of pureed carrots, stuffed with squid and shrimp; Seven Dreams Sashimi, tuna and salmon,[$200], and California rolls, $80 for ten pieces. The quality of food was outstanding, as is the service. The wait staff has been properly trained and are on point. They aren’t standing around talking to each other or looking at their phones – they are there for you, and they do make you feel special. For instance, a charming female wait person introduces herself and then the mixologist appears asking how you would like your martini prepared. When’s the last time that happened?
Returning briefly to the not-so-brief sushi bar menu – it’s five pages long, with 23 “entradas”; 16 “natural rolls”; four “batter-fried rolls”; five “breaded rolls”; ten “baked rolls”; plus a large Yakimeshi, Teriyaki and Teppanyaki selection.
Should sports enthusiasts become restless, Seven Dreams has thought of that too. There’s a room with large screens to watch your game, and have dinner. Kind of a mini sports bar – but not in the main dining room, thank you.
Going to Seven Dreams for dinner is almost like leaving Mexico. It’s a hip modern decor with international cuisine and a very decent wine list: 25 reds by the bottle, three by the glass; 15 whites by the bottle, five by the glass. Put your name in lights and sip some bubbly – Moet, Dom, Mumm, or order a less expensive Prosecco. Depending on your dreams, they could easily come true here.
[Seven Dreams is located on Av. Camarón Sábalo #1200, Marina, 669 331 3232, it’s open every day from 8 a.m. on, with a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. It’s handicap accessible, limited parking outside and valet parking. Credit cards accepted, air conditioned, reservations highly recommended. Seven Dreams is lively, really fairly noisy – not suitable for a night of quiet conversation, or you could try sitting out front where the acoustics are better and you are away from ever changing graphics.]
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 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.
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 Chocolata Restaurant.
By Sheila Madsen, December 29, 2019
[Updated February 2020 – repeat customers continue to rave about the beet salad, the duck and lamb tacos, the deep fried oyster, and really -so far -no one has complained about a single thing. It continues to be an elegant, quiet atmosphere with a friendly bistro feel.]
La Chocolata opened at the end of December 2019 and takes its name from the chocolate coloured clams that are prevalent in the Baja area – “seafood candy.” The team behind this new venture is all from Mazatlan and the group of four made all the decisions on the decor and the menu. The restaurant is all soft pinks and browns with flattering dim lighting and pearl drop-like hanging lamps. The muted wall scone lights add to the relaxed atmosphere; the colour pallet is pale pink and soft browns – there’s the seafood candy theme. The tables are curvy like a clam, the chairs are padded, the banquettes are comfy all resonating a friendly upscale bistro with Mexican cuisine.
Chef Victor Jara, also from Mazatlan, has created an interesting menu, but oddly there are no clam dishes being offered! Cold starters include: fresh oysters, $28; swordfish crudités mixed with asparagus, pickled cauliflower dotted with avocado and cilantro, $160; traditional shrimp Aquachile, $160; fish tiradito – thin slices of the catch of the day served over a sherry reduction, $160. Hot starters: deep fried battered oysters with Tzatziki sauce, $38; braised lamb served in a corn tortilla with habanero cream, pickled red onions and cream avocado, $45; duck confit served in a corn tortilla over a sauce of raisins, cranberry and chipotle, $45; roast beet salad, $90, and an iceberg lettuce, salad $95.
Plato Fuerte, mains: catch of day served with sautéed vegetables in a green pipián sauce – a type of mole made from pumpkin or squash seeds, $240; tender grilled octopus served with smashed black beans, chorizo powder, sautéed mixed vegetables, mashed lentils and smoked bacon, $240; tender braised lamb over a bed of puréed squash and roasted vegetables, $280; perhaps you are in the mood to share the Don Simón pork shank – slow roasted pork shank over a bed of black beans and homemade chorizo, topped with picked onions, $280; there are three steak options all designed to share – prime rib eye [450 gr], $699; New York steak [450 gr], $659; El Vacio, Argentinian beef [220 gr], $299. All of these steaks are accompanied with roasted vegetables. Two desserts: corn bread served over smashed cranberries with Baileys, toasted coconut and crème fresh, $68; or how about the goat cheese flan with a smoked Jack Daniels caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream, $68.
Tanit, the charming hostess, said vegan and vegetarian dishes are being developed and will be available “soon.” The bar is still being stocked but even today there’s a large selection of spirits and designer drinks. The wine list is a work in progress and currently you can enjoy a glass of red Rioja for $99. There may not be a white wine by the glass yet. “Soon.” Time will tell if the wait staff is organized and willing to please. It’s way too “soon” to judge a restaurant that’s only been open for five days and while we are all quick to embrace something new in Centro let’s give La Chocolata the breathing space a new venture deserves.
Friends dined there on December 24 and here’s their report: “We ended up at La Chocolata on Christmas Eve; we walked around looking for an open restaurant and passed by La Chocolata. The funny thing about it was we had tried three times before and they always said “we are not open yet, but soon!” They gave us a round of drinks on the house for coming back so often, waiting for them to be open. We had Fidel as our waiter and he was excellent. They gave us shrimp broth as an amuse bouche. M. and I shared the swordfish starter with asparagus and cauliflower which ended up being our favorite dish of the evening. B. ordered the shrimp aguachili but liked our swordfish better. We would all order it again. M. and I shared a beet salad and each had a lamb taquito which was a soft taco and delicious. B. had the fish of the day which was Mahi Mahi. The skin was seared beautifully and nice and crisp. We were stuffed and both M. and I took home our beet salad as we couldn’t finish it. The presentation of each course was excellent. The first time we stopped in to see if they were open they invited us in to see the restaurant and took us back into the kitchen. It was large and spotless.”
[La Chocolata is located on Niños Héroes # 1508 [was the old La Mona, opposite El Presidio/Casa Garcia], opens from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m, closed Mondays. Credit cards accepted, except Amex. One small step to get inside, otherwise handicap accessible. For reservations call: 669 105 4722]
Introducing, Piccola Roma.
By Sheila Madsen, July 2019
[Updated August 2019 – If you don’t go, you don’t know – One reader would never return because ” All our dishes were tasteless” … and this was posted on “Foodies in Mazatlan” – “For over a decade, we have long awaited a small, authentic Italian restaurant with limited seating and imported Italian ingredients. Piccolo Roma is IT! We waited a long time to try it, because we have so often been disappointed by other Italian restaurants in Mazatlan. But when I saw the owner, Giovanni, in the kitchen overseeing the food preparation, I knew that we would not be disappointed. 6-year-old ——- had the ravioli, and loved it. —– had the gnocchi and described it as “a true taste of Italy… pillowy soft, held its shape, great texture.” The sauces for both were excellent flavor, good quality, and perfectly balanced with the accompanying pastas. I had the chicken scallopine with prosciutto. My choice of prosciutto over mushrooms made Giovanni look at me slightly askance because that is not really a true Italian choice, but it was absolutely delicious. Next time, I’ll go with the traditional mushrooms. Chicken Scallopini can be a deceptively challenging dish because it is pounded very thin. When overcooked, one expects to find “Adidas” stamped on the bottom of cutlet. That was NOT a problem here… tender, moist, juicy and delicious – with Italian flavor coursing through to the center. I can’t say enough good things about this place. It made —– very happy to speak a bit of Italian to Giovanni, whose roots are also in Sicily, and we learned a little about his life as an Italian Expat in Mexico, South American and other places around the world. We are all very lucky he has chosen to open this amazing and authentic Italian restaurant along Olas Altas, right next to Posada Freeman. It is the first time we’ve had Italian food in Mazatlan and not come away at least slightly disappointed. If you love authentic Italian food, Piccolo Roma is the place for you.”]
A little slice of Rome arrived on Olas Altas in November 2018 and the family named their delightful trattoria Piccola Roma. Giovanni Mancuso [owner and chef] is from Sicily, lived in Rome and worked as an engineer and it was always his dream to have a trattoria serving modest food with original flavours from Rome – not Sicily, not Venice, not Florence, Giovanni is very specific – “all the flavours are from Rome.” Along the way he met Lourdes, a Mazatleca woman, they married, had children and Giovanni decided to fulfill his trattoria dream in Mazatlan. Serving Mexican food was never an option; it was always to be the taste of Rome.
The menu is purposely kept small but the portions are huge; they are designed for you to share or to take home. There are four appetizers – a typical caprese [$160]; antipasto selection [$180]; focaccia with Serrano ham [$130] and a smoked salmon plate [$230]. Alessendro, Giovanni’s son, suggested that my husband and I order a half portion of the prosciutto and half portion of the caprese salad. The tomatoes were smothered in mozzarella cheese and fresh basil with a snappy oil and vinegar dressing and prosciutto was filled with flavour. Although Alessendro referred to it as prosciutto, Giovanni corrected him and said “it’s Serrano ham from Spain.” Giovanni carves it right off the bone at the chef’s station. It has so much more flavour compared to the stringy vacuum packed “prosciutto” [stuffed with preservatives] that you buy in the supermarket. Yummy, so tasty!
There are eight pastas ranging from $140 to $210. I had the puttanesca on a bed of gluten-free penne, superb [really enough for three] and my husband had the smoked salmon cream and parmesan with fettuccini. Everything was as Giovanni promised – fresh, original flavours, nothing fake about these sauces. Chef makes two types of gnocchi [$180]; plus ravioli [$180]; scoglio [ kind of a seafood pasta $250]; lasagna ; chicken Cacciatore [$180]; gamberi [shrimp, $310] and chicken Scaloppine [$180].
Now we head into Alessendro’s hot, hot area where he makes all the pizzas himself. The duties are clearly divided; Giovanna is the boss, the chef and Alessendro has the glam job of flipping the dough and creating thin crust pizzas in the wood-burning oven – “so delicious you’d think you are in Rome.” There’s that Rome theme again. Alessendro is definite; “pizza from Rome is a thin crust and it must be crispy all around the edges. That’s why we’d never consider a pizza delivery – it would be dry and not right out of the oven – it’s important to go from pizza oven to your table.”There’s a choice of seven toppings [$180-220], and just one large size. If there are not many customers at Piccola Roma, I bet Alessendro would create the toppings of your choice. The whole family has the Italian/Mexican philosophy -they want to please you and they want you to come back. Often.
The trattoria has comfortable padded chairs [always worth a mention in Mazatlan], and is decorated simply with big windows that open onto Olas Altas. You are in Mazatlan with the surf pounding against the rocks, the pulmonias honking their horns, the red trucks blaring music, the kids on the Malecon are drinking 99 bottles of beer [what happened to zero tolerance?] but you do leave Piccola Roma humming the tune from Moonstruck. A delicious slice of Rome now awaits you on the mighty Pacific.
[Piccola Roma is located on Olas Altas #81, just past the Freeman, 981 2168. It’s not handicap accessible, accept credit cards, air conditioning was installed in August, 2019, has full bar, wine by glass or the bottle, clean his and her baños, and depending on the season the restaurant could be closed on Mondays or Tuesdays – call ahead, opens between 3 and 4 p.m. Often, Alessendro has gluten-free pasta in stock, but call to double check and if you wish a gluten-free pizza Alessendro requires two days notice. Piccola Roma seats about 28 people so if you have a large group please call for a reservation.]
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
[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. Raices is not on social media yet, but here is the posted breakfast and lunch menu below. -just drop in – the reservation number is 136 0439 – the restaurant seats about 50 people. There really isn’t a wine list, one red, one white. Beer is served, as well as a few traditional Sinaloa cocktails. 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, German Garden/Bier & Garten.
By Sheila Madsen, February 2019
The name says it all. Beer and garden. Baja Style faded out and Bier & Garten[slight name change in 2020 to German Garden] rose up in March 2018. Under the watchful eye of general manager, Brian Washington [don’t let the name fool you, he’s from Mexico City], the service is snappy and happy and the food is delicious. But I know you are reading this for the beer. There are 104 kinds of beer. Fourteen from USA, 3 draft, 27 from Mexico, 6 from England, 9 from Spain, 6 from Croatia, 2 from China, 21 from Belgium, and 16 from Germany.
The garden as you can see is mostly picnic tables and a “soft’ area with black cushions. Lots of umbrellas and some of the garden is in the shade. The menu is large featuring many snacks – croquets, cheese bites, papa waffle, potato salad, grilled vegetables, pickles, fish and chips, pulled pork and on it goes. Turn the page and you’ll do a deep dive into a huge selection of burgers, chicken wings, and ribs. People like to ask: where are the best ribs, the best fish and chips, the best burger – and each question receives many answers. One answer to the best ribs question could be Bier & Garten. Charcoal grilled baby-back ribs, super tender, fall-off-the bone, but you may not agree! In keeping with the German name, the hero of the menu is THE sausage, wurst -all 100% meat with no fillers. You have choice of five: cochiwurst, bratwurst, weinwurst, weisswurst haus and kuhwurst, all $95.
When you want a change from Mexican food and margaritas head for the Bier & Garten and let the friendly staff pour you a cold one and try the ribs, the bratwurst, heck sample it all under the blue blue skies or stars – depending when you arrive.
[Located on Av. Camarón Sábalo #1520 [just north of Vancouver Wings, Los Zarapes] opens every day at 2 p.m., handicap accessible, all credit cards accepted except Amex. Clean his and her bathrooms. Call to reserve, 913 1678]
Introducing, La Olivia Casual Eatery.
By Sheila Madsen [December 2018][Updated December, 2019 – new!]
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.
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.”
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.
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”
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.
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.
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? It’s on the corner right behind the Bancomer bank in the Golden Zone. See you there!]
Introducing, Tótem Cafeteriá de Barrio.
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.
” 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.]
Dining in an eclectic art gallery – El Aljibe San Pedro.
By Sheila Madsen (originally introduced in January 22, 2012)
(Updated November 2018 – just reopened! José says the menu has stayed the same with two new items “but a lot has changed in the decoration.” Updated December 2014: Taking guests from out of town is like seeing El Aljibe again for the very first time. This time around a 23, a 26 and a 30 year-old were wowed by the food and the space. One was a strict vegan and José served a springtime-time fresh vegetable plate – not on the menu. We ordered shrimp cooked two ways, oxtail stew, chicken dish (too large to eat) and spaghetti Bolognese – the 26 year-old finished that! The food is lovingly prepared and there’s just one attitude – to please you. José still does not accept credit cards or make margaritas! Updated November 2013: Over the years owner José Pérez Garcia has tried adding specials, he just keeps experimenting. This year he has decided to return to this original menu (extensive, varied) and perfect those dishes. So far, all our food has been delicious – from pasta to shrimp tacos in a creamy sauce. The food is as creative as the space. José is a gentleman, a gentle man; when El Aljibe becomes busy, please remain calm and gentle.)
When you are longing for a cool atmosphere -think Paris underground circa 1950, then head to Centro’s newest restaurant, El Aljibe S. Pedro. It’s difficult to pull yourself away from an ocean view, or our wonderful Plazuela Machado, or the beautiful interior courtyards of La Bohemia, and Topolo, but when you eventually tire of that, do venture downstairs into the 150 year cistern of El Aljibe.
Eleven years ago owner, José Pérez, pumped four feet of water out the building and then spent two years renovating and restoring this space into an art gallery – unlike anything you have seen before. Perhaps it’s his Spanish heritage, perhaps it’s just his eye as an collector, but this is one far out collection of: old sewing machines, a red leather barber’s chair, dolls heads propped on wooden beams, lasts hanging from the ceiling, sconces with shades and sun glasses, saxophones dangling on thin wires,and ancient wooden chairs suspended, The table of six beside us of commented “it is organized chaos, we feel that we are in Europe somewhere (Paris or Spain) and we think the place is unique and so different from any place in Mazatlan.” Even the bano doors are completely different. One is covered in thousands of multi coloured buttons, the other is plastered with comics. Who thinks like this? José does, and continues to add to his vision.
Chunky tables and chairs – both antique and modern – await customers. Not too close, not too far apart, and the cylindrical ceiling acts as a natural baffle for noise. The rough concrete walls also display a fascinating selection of paintings so you won’t get bored while waiting for your meal. Although we didn’t have to wait at all. We were greeted warmly, shown to our table, and were allowed to try two Spanish red wines – a Rioja and a Rivera de Duero. We chose a glass each of the Rioja and it’s a generous pour for $40. Heck the whole bottle is only $140. With our wine arrived a complimentary tapas of fresh mushrooms stuffed with bacon. Very tasty. I ordered the catch of the day, my husband Soren, filet mignon. Fifteen minutes later our meals arrived, hot and at the same time. That’s a good sign. My white fish (corvina?) was perfectly grilled, moist and flakey served with fresh chopped veggies crowning a bed of rice. Two large pieces for $120. Soren’s beef was cooked as requested, medium rare, and arrived with a red wine sauce and heaping scoops of mashed potatoes. No greens, price, $130. Soren is very fussy about his tenderloin and said it was acceptable, but wouldn’t order it again. Next time he has lots to select from: six starters, all different from $40 – $80, two salads at $80, four mains the most expensive is $120, and six grilled offerings ranging from $100 – $130.
It’s a large menu with something for everyone. From gorditas topped with smoked marlin, to spaghetti with sea food, or maybe you are in the mood for pozole with chickpeas. Both of us had two tiny complaints. The music should have been a light jazz not disco/technopop (and José did change the shuffle for us) and for such a European feel, lose those small square paper napkins. Let’s take it from the top. Where you actually walk down to the exciting environment of an old cistern where the service and quality of food is excellent. The attention to detail is rated high and that always gets confirmed in the neatness of the restrooms. We’ll return often, there’s more I want to see, and there’s more I want to eat. Then again, there’s a great bar area where I can sip on my Rioja and inhale this wild art collection.
(The second time around was even better… excellent service, all meals served hot and at the same time. Friends applauded the pozole with chickpeas – I had a sip and it was velvety soup with a rich meaty flavour. My friend claimed it was the garbanzo beans that made the difference. Rave reviews for both the spaghetti Bolognese and spaghetti with seafood; spaghetti was el dente, Bolognese packed with flavour with extra sauce on the side, and the seafood, shrimp and calamari in a cream sauce, was perfectly cooked. I had the grilled chicken Caesar salad – the dressing was tangy, all ingredients were fresh, even the tomatoes – which is a little odd for a Caesar salad but did not detract from the dish. All portions were huge and could have been shared. Pozole $90, pasta dishes $80, Caesar salad, $80.)
[El Aljibe de San Pedro, Constitución # 710, please make your reservations via FB or e mail: elaljibedesanpedro. (facebook) jopega123 @ hotmail.com, open Tuesday to Saturday from 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.]
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.
Their vision and mission fits exactly with UNESCO Gastronomy’s team who is considering Mazatlan as a UNESCO Gastronomy city. “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[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 Tuesday to Saturday from 6 p.m. on. Credit cards accepted, full liquor license, handicap accessible if you wish to sit outside.]
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
[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.
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 985 5465. 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.
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.]
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.”
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, La Fábula. Food + Books + Beer.
By Sheila Madsen [May, 2017]
La Fábula just opened in the space where Mazatlan’s oldest bakery was, on the corner of Constitución and Niños Héroes. I remember the bakery from eight years ago and shortly after my visit it closed and various pub-like places moved in and out. Now the space is rented to two co-owners – Raul Campos and Lalo Robles – whom you may remember from the Shrimp Bucket. You may also remember these two men fully understand customer service and have what it takes to service English and Spanish-speaking customers.
Lalo’s father was an author; Eduardo Robles Boza, sometimes known as Tio Patota and he wrote many children’s books, four novels and a book on how-to write. Lalo grew up in a sea of books and wanted to celebrate the importance of books and combine them with food. Oh yes, beer too! Fábula means fable in English and if you bring a book [and leave it] on Thursdays between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. you’ll receive a free beer or a glass of wine. The books blend well with the deliberate rustic bohemian decor. Lots of wood, fun graphics and art work, and little homey touches here and there.
Raul and Lalo teamed up with chef Santiago [ex Diego’s Beach house] and created a traditional Mexican menu. There are four starters, wings, salads, hamburgers, grill
specials [beef medallion, arrachera, chicken mole] and from the sea – grilled octopus, fish and chips, mahi mahi zarandeado and of course, various shrimp dishes. The lunch and dinner prices range from $110 to the most expensive, beef medallion at $190. The breakfast menu is large and full of surprises such as a choice of six chilaquiles or how about flank steak stew on a baguette or hot cakes, perhaps a delicious fruit bowl, or six egg choices. Breakfast prices vary from $55 to $125 with most dishes in the $100 range.
La Fábula has survived the worst of the street construction, it’s almost finished on their corner. The owners opened their doors to all the workers and fed them breakfast, lunch and dinner at a discounted price. Please try La Fábula and say hello to Raul and Lalo who have such big hearts. They can’t wait to serve you. [updated May 6, friends are reporting “the arrachera was truly delicious”…the octopus was really good, as was the chicken mole…]
[Updated August 2020: La Fabula opened in Golden Zone, on Playa Gaviotas #205. La Fábula is located on the corner of Constitución #217 at Niños Héroes, and is open every day from noon on, the bar remains open until 1 p.m. Call 669 910 5399 to reserve or e: firstname.lastname@example.org.Seats 72 people, a bar with room for ten stools, it has ac, fans, and one small tv screen. Limited wine list, it’s being built slowly… Outdoor patio seating as well. Two new clean washrooms, credit cards accepted, full bar.]
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).
‘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. ]
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.
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.
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 ).
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.
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.]
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]
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]
Introducing, Gaia Bistrot. Celebrating seasonal offerings with a sprinkling of international flavours.
By Sheila Madsen [March 23, 2016]
[Updated November 15, 2017 : Gaia is now open every day from noon on]
“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 24 inside and 32 on the terrace.
Taking a break from a busy evening he pulls up a chair and shares a few memories; “back in the day I was a diva, a drama queen, I was yelling and throwing plates just like you see those celebrity chefs on tv. I had wild ideas too; once I served a rooster crest on top of beef fillet. I’ve waited 28 years to have my own restaurant and I’m calmer now, more peaceful, no more yelling. I like cooking everything and with my four cooks I am able to concentrate on different dishes. I don’t think I’ll be serving food garnished with a rooster crest but I am determined to keep changing the menu with seasonal offerings.”
In the past ten days friends have dined there several times, adding up to about 14 different dinners. I’ve enjoyed the six jumbo shrimp dish [$215] with a light jalapeño sauce twice, the chicken breast infused with fresh coconut with a side of chorizo and potatoes [$165] is popular, as well as the salmon [$215] and the catch of the day, often sword fish, [$180] and nothing but rave reviews for the rib-eye steak, [$240]. Friends praise the Portabella croquettes [“I loved it so much the second time I asked for a dinner-size portion.”], then there are three soups, and three salads. For pasta lovers Gilberto offers lasagna [$140], and fettuccine alla “Norma” [$105]. The pastry chef’s desserts are still being perfected but currently there are four sweets.
Chef’s fresh, beautifully cooked food is supported by a stellar wait staff thanks to the dedication of Angel and Horacio. 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.
Momentos Inolvidables, Unforgettable Moments, is what Gaia is all about.
Casa 46, a seriously elegant evening to remember.
By Sheila Madsen [November 2015][Updated March 2019 – Chef Mariano has left the building – for a restaurant in Cabo.]
[Updated June 2016: I continue to be irritated by the high wine prices. The sky-high mark-up for mediocre wine is just ridiculous. The menu has not changed, and the wait staff, while helpful, still haven’t got it together. March and May,more chatter: “not worth the price”, “wish the wait staff were more up to speed”, “I’d go just for the view” “The service was impeccable”…Two weeks later, November 21. Four-star service. Chef Marino made the rounds twice. Three friends had the prime heart of beef tenderloin, grilled marrow, sautéed wild mushrooms and a fennel bulb purée, $335, they loved it and said “it’s a tie with El Presidio.” I had the four jumbo shrimp cooked in lobster butter in a la diabla curry sauce surrounded by vegetables – baby carrots etc. Shrimp superbly cooked, $280. Also on the menu: house-made Tagliatelle in a variety of seasonal mushrooms, fresh tomato and burrata with white truffle essence $335; suckling pork confit, Tacu Tacu, Mexican salsa with nopales, aged mole, $230; organic chicken marinated in Rempha, eggplant croquettes and hibiscus pipián, $195; braised short ribs, Yorimuni bean stir-fry with mussels and stewed meat juice, $285. Chef, sommelier, Maître d and wait staff present and accounted for – all at your service. Weekend dining on the terrace: you may wish to choose the-not-so-stylish hour of 6 p.m. to really hear singer Arsenio who has the challenge of singing over and around the competing bands in the Machado after 8 p.m.]
Casa 46 exudes the feeling of a private club. Downstairs, on either side of the old wooden banisters, are plates with head shots of all the stars of Mazatlan – from Raul Rico González to Carlos Felton González – the faces of all the Mazatleco families are represented. Thankfully, you don’t need to be a VIP to dine at Casa 46, you just need a reservation.
Shed your flip flops and dress up for Chef Marino Maganda’s excellent culinary adventure. For the past eight years he has been the executive chef at Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay and now Chef’s dream restaurant is a reality in the Plazuela Machado. Casa 46 consists of a series of intimate rooms all exquisitely decorated by designer Victor de Rueda. He’s honoured the history of Mazatlan [original tiles, wooden beams, black and white photographs] but modernized it with subtle grey marble, smoky mirrors and large sumptuously upholstered chairs. These are not your standard restaurant chairs, they are designed for you to stay awhile, relax, just like you would at a private club.
The small bar with chat sections was created as a leisurely pause before you are ushered to your table. It too, is seriously elegant, but it’s not a hotel bar; it’s a bar that says please wait five minutes and your table will be ready. If you wish to dine inside, there are three dining rooms: the wine cellar – perfect for a private party of 12; the joyful Carnaval themed room which pays tribute to all the queens and kings; and the sophisticated dining room devoted to the ocean. You just want to sit in every single gorgeous upholstered chair!
The jewel in Casa 46’s crown in my mind, is the large outdoor terrace that overlooks our beautiful Plazuela Machado. The lighting is expertly executed with warm drop-filaments, there are twin flower-fans twirling, the air is like silk and then Arsenio quietly sings Sinatra songs. It’s a magnificent Mazatlan moment, where absolutely everything is just right.
Once we are seated, Maître D Luis Parra comes to welcome us, to see if we want more wine and to explain the menu. You’d think we were one of the famous families on a plate – he treated us with such respect. Luis asked us, what do you think is different about Casa 46? We both spouted off about the décor, the intimate rooms. “No. Have you not noticed all the female wait staff?” He’s right, we were greeted by Valery who is the pr point person, then a young lady escorts us to our table, and Luis proceeds to introduce us to our female server, Yvonne. He goes on to say, “Chef Marino is committed to hiring female wait staff, he believes the feminine touch enhances the atmosphere. There are 46 wait staff and 80% are women.” A little less macho and empowering the young woman of Mazatlan is a wise decision we think.
The terrace is dimly light, thank heaven, and Yvonne gives us tiny flashlights to read the menu. I ask Luis if I could take it home so I can be accurate in the descriptions and prices. He diplomatically responds “no, Chef would not like that, it’s a work in progress. The menu will change often.” [the menu on their website is slightly different from the one I received.] I chose the sea bass on a risotto bed with vegetables [$280] and my husband, the beef fillet [$335]. The beef is tender, smooth, flavourful and cuts like butter. The sea bass was divine. Please think of this as an introduction to Casa 46, this certainly isn’t a restaurant review as we had no appetizers and desserts. Besides, it’s only your experience that matters. I did note that the most expensive main was $350, and there were many affordable appetizers. Wine pours in the finest stemware are $95. Desserts were all $97.
The chef from Guerrero only wants to offer you the finest foods of north-west Mexico. Combine that desire with a highly trained team, add in a seriously elegant setting and you’ll have an evening to remember, forever.
[Casa 46,(this was the old Machado Museo) enter on Constitución, just before the Plazuela Machado, up two flights of stairs (no elevator), closed on Tuesdays, opens for dinner at 6 p.m, reservations a must, reserve online with Open Table,credit cards accepted. ]
Don’t worry be MAHI.
Japanese fusion awaits you at the Mahi Sushi Bar
By Sheila Madsen [November 2015]
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.
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.
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.]
Introducing, The Map Room and The Explorer’s Room.
Héctor’s Bistro opened in October 2014 and it was an instant success. The food, the service, the decor -everything appealed to Americans, Canadians and Mexicans. All you have to do is read on FB “Foodies in Mazatlan” or Trip Advisor and you’ll see nothing but rave reviews. His repeat business is off the charts – so much so, he opened Via Condotti for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast, as most of you know, offers a proper English-style breakfast and because his bakery is on sight people order/line up for bread, bagels and cinnamon rolls. At noon, Via Condotti turns into a pizza and pasta place that everyone adores – sitting outside under the umbrellas or inside with ac depending on the weather.
Today, February 11, 2019 Chef has expanded – again! There are two new rooms: one is called The Map Room and seats 22 and the other is called The Explorer’s Room for groups of 10 to 12. You may explore wines, mezcal, whiskey, food- whatever you wish bring to the table. Form a club, gather some friends and create your own private party in the Explorer’s Room and Héctor will work with you to explore your dream evening. For now, the menu is the same in the Map Room as in the Bistro, but Chef is eyeing Northern Italy – watch for some new dishes in the Map Room. People will have many opinions about the decor; I’m not even going to bother to describe it as it won’t do it justice and you need to see it for yourself. Created by the award-winning designer, Victor de la Rueda – oh, just go and you decide. [ Héctor’s Bistro is located on Mariano Escobedo at Heriberto Frias and is closed Mondays. When you make a reservation, 981-1577, ask for The Map Room [if that’s where you wish to sit], or make an appointment to discuss The Explorer’s Room with Héctor Peniche. SM. ]
Bistro – so full of passion, pride and patience.
By Sheila Madsen (November 2014)
[Updated July 2, 2016: It’s Saturday night and every single table is reserved. Hurray for the big bar! There are five specials tonight and the menu has been refreshed. There are now two risottos, mushroom and shrimp [$195] and meat lovers will inhale the new French Platter with various pates and homemade sausages [$175] – it’s published as a starter but it’s really a main. There are three white wines by the glass for $90 and one red by the glass, also $90. Updated June 2016: Via Condotti, formerly Krema, formerly Molika is now open for breakfast from 8 a.m. until noon, and then it’s pizza and salads at 4 p.m. on. Same great breakfast just served with air conditioning on the side now. Quickly – Chef Héctor Peniche moved his restaurant (the old Molika) across the street into The Culinary Market in 2014 and renamed it as Héctor’s Bistro. Same great food in a new/old space (The French Reynaud Building dates back to 1847) with a jazzy 1930s art deco design. I’m confident about my statement “same great food” as I have eaten either breakfast, lunch, or dinner, at least once week at Molika/Héctor’s Bistro since 2009 – that’s easily 400 times. You don’t return 400 times if the chef isn’t up to snuff and the food is so-so.]
As I hop up on the comfy bar stool (tested, rejected, and tested again for maximum comfort) a friend of Héctor’s confirms my opinion, “there’s no shame in saying your friends are great, when they really are” says Lis Maiz. Lis owns the small, but popular Thai restaurant in Mexico City, called Mibong. We have been to Mibong for lunch, the chef was not there, so it was a treat to meet her and her Mazatleco husband at Héctor’s Bistro (HB) bar. They return to Mazatlan often and as a chef and Héctor’s friend she is proud to sing his praises: “really, four years ago there were not many options; today there are a few more, but I still prefer Héctor’s fresh cooking – this rack of lamb is simply perfect.” Yes it is. I’ve ordered it at least eight times.
On the current HB menu you’ll recognize some your favourites: Antipasti – farm-to-table organic roasted vegetable platter, $165; pate de champagne, $125, tuna or octopus Carpaccio, $120. From the deli – five selections including organic vegetable quiche with salad, $155-$135 and the delicious certified Black Angus burger, $165; there are salads and soups, $145-$215 and several pastas, $165 – $235 And oh, the five mains! Salmon, $235, Kowi pork mignon fillet, $175; steak and frites, $195 (best in town, had it four times); that tender, tempting rack of lamb, $295; duck’s breast (delicious, had that four times too), $195. The wine list has been pumped up – more available by the glass (starting at $90) and a bigger selection by the bottle. HB is also serving artisan beers. Fresh homemade desserts, changes every day. Héctor is a pastry chef, expect the very best.
The chef likes to refer to his cooking as traditional European artisan food. His chef wife, Victoria, works quietly behind the scene – tasting, suggesting, improving and both are dedicated to making wonderful artisan food. In answer to the question, why a bistro, the chef couple answer: “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 our years of working for some of the best traditional Italian and French restaurants in London. We fell in love with the European craftsmanship – so full of passion, pride and patience. We decided to reproduce these values here in Mexico. After five years our dream is slowly blossoming with the opening of our new venue, Héctor’s Bistro.”
The bistro offers a variety of seating spaces. Make a reservation inside at the elegant tables and banquettes or drop in and sit at the large U shaped bar, it seats 20, or outside on the patio. There’s a very sexy burnt orange lounge area that seats 12 people. It’s so inviting that people don’t move on! Orange is the new hot spot. If your group arrives early perhaps you could persuade chef to let you remain in the orange zone. Outside, inside, the bar, the lounge, the menu, the chef, the food, the atmosphere, that’s in full bloom. Returning to Lis’s quote “there’s no shame in saying your friends are great, when they really are.”
(Héctor’s Bistro is located in Centro, on Mariano Escobedo #409, at Heriberto Frias, opposite Casa Haas, open from noon on. Reservations recommended, call 981-1577, closed Sundays. Credit cards accepted. To watch cooking shows with Héctor please click here. Mark Jay designed the interior, to watch his videos on décor tips, please click here.)
What’s up with Surf’s Up? Everything is up and upbeat!
By Sheila Madsen, December 2013
[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.
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: email@example.com. Handicap accessible, major credit cards accepted (just not American Express]
Villa Italia – excellent service, ordinary food.
By Sheila Madsen (February 2012)
Large groups were leaving at 7:30 p.m. and more people were pouring in to take their places at Villa Italia, the restaurant attached to El Cid. The wait staff barely had time to brush off the tables and lay down clean cutlery for new customers. You can eat on the front terrace (noisy on Sabalo), the back terrace ( set back, a little quieter) or in the two beautifully decorated rooms inside. We opted for inside and are glad we did as a freak rain storm paid us a visit for fifteen minutes.
Chairs are padded in soft reds and beiges. White table cloths and matching napkins, all very proper, waiters are prompt and ready to please. Too bad about the food. Too bad about the wine. There are only two wines offered by the glass; Concha y Toro- merlot or cabernet sauvignon , we ordered two glasses which were served in cheesy, dollar store wine glasses. I noticed another table bought a bottle of Concha y Toro and they too were given the cheap glasses. Yet a second table went a little upscale in their wine order and received the proper, elegant stemware. I asked the waiter and he said “when you order anything else other than Concha y Toro you get better glasses.” Right away the owner had decided to penalize us, by not ordering a bottle of better wine. Remember, the only wine by the glass was Concha y Toro.
The pasta was ordinary. Spaghetti with meat balls in a ho hum tomato cream sauce, served lukewarm. Chicken breast with porcini mushrooms was beyond bland. The chicken was cold, absolutely no flavour, the rice was piping hot, but raw. The waiter removed the uneaten chicken, no problems, not a care in the world, and returned with steamed asparagus in the same boring tomato cream sauce. The asparagus was perfectly cooked and hot. Small wine pours $52, returned chicken $165, spaghetti $100, asparagus appetizer $100. I don’t know who is MIA, the chef, the owner? I don’t think anyone had tasted the food at Villa Italia in three years. Tons of attention to detail on service, but zero on the food, sort of an anomaly for Mazatlan. Usually the food is lovingly prepared and it falls down on the execution. All we could think of was how Héctor Peniche of Molika would never let food like this leave his kitchen. So that’s Villa Italia; great service, lovely atmosphere, ordinary food.
[Camaron Sabalo, attached to El Cid, call 669 913 0311 for hours of operation and reservations].
Pizza and pasta in the Plazuela Machado.
Introduction by Sheila Madsen (being gluten intolerant there is very little I can eat here, so I’ve relied on friends for reviews. Owner Gaston Espino has promised to make me fish or chicken at any time. This really isn’t a review; go, decide for yourself, Feb. 2012)
Casa Canobbio, is the new Italian restaurant in the Plazuela Machado. Mazatlecos, Gaston Espino and his wife Yolanda, own two restaurants and three bars in Cabo. “We’ve been longing to return to Mazatlan, and the only area we wanted to open a restaurant in was in the Plazuela Machado.” The Canobbio family owned one of Mazatlan’s largest pharmacies in 1899, and under these architectural portals they manufactured the elixir, “the goddess of Venus”, which promised eternal youth. Casa Canobbio is promising an Italian décor complete with graceful drawings from a great, great, great, Canobbio auntie, and the original pestle and mortar that mixed the ingredients for eternal youth is proudly on display. The bar is wrapped in a wrought iron repeat pattern, the walls have a rustic finish, the music is low and discreet, the lighting is soft and the ceiling fans are beautifully designed. The tables are covered in traditional red and white checkered cloths and as Darian Day said “I feel as if I am in Italy, in Sicily, this is exactly the kind of restaurant the Machado needs.”
The wait staff uniform is so Italian; crisp white shirt, red bow tie, black tuxedo vest and a bright red apron. The menu cover is elegant in deep shades of earthy brown. Open it and you’ll discover salads, 11 pasta dishes and a choice of eight thin crust pizzas ranging from $85- $140. There’s a full bar, a choice of wines by the glass or bottle, and beer on tap. Sit inside and soak up the atmosphere, or outside where the entire square is before you. When Gaston Espino was teenager his parents sent him to Windsor, Ontario to learn English (poor guy, freezing to death in that small town) so he asked that you all drop by to say hello, and sample his food. He’s charming and very service oriented. If he could, he would give you the recipe for eternal youth, but for now it lies in the red wine and in his delicious Italian food.
Update: four of us went there for dinner. It was only the second night yet waiters were attentive, not hovering, and items requested were brought quickly. The Caesar salad was good, not amazing. I prefer the dressing of El Shrimp Bucket, and the chicken to be grilled. Romaine lettuce was crisp with lots of parmesan cheese. Val Johnson had the spaghetti Napoli and she reported “the pasta is perfectly cooked, el dente, the flavours rustic, not acidy, it has a true Italian flavour.” Her husband, Roy, ordered the lasagna and claimed “it was very good.” Ok, so he won’t be employed as a restaurant reviewer but his plate was polished clean and both Val and Roy will return. Later that week…Joan and Rick Azulay said they enjoyed their thin crust pizza “we preferred the crust and taste to the pizza at La Bohemia.”
[Casa Cannobio, in the Plazuela Machado, on Heriberto Frias, check FB page for operating hours accepts credit cards.]
Topolo serves it your way.
By Sheila Madsen (December 2011)
(Updated August 2016 – closed from August 14 until September 29]Updated June 2014: all the good words still apply. Consistent, quality, superb service. Updated October 2012: Top marks for Topolo. The tapas menu has been perfected and offers picadas – that’s the baby brother to their pork shank on sopas. The same slow cooked pork in adobe sauce, but it’s served on a small sopa. Tuna tartar, and a cheese and fruit platter for two have been added. Mains include lobster stuffed poblano peppers and a lobster surf and turf; if not in season, then large shrimp will be substituted. For dessert there’s a new super sundae – ice cream, caramel and hot fudge sauce, blackberries, pecans, all topped with whipped cream. There’s also a dessert sampler for two; chocolate mousse, cheesecake and key lime pie. Topolo continues to serve it your way.)
It’s difficult to know where to begin with the praise for Topolo Mexican Restaurant. Is it the magical atmosphere, excellent service, or consistently superb food? After living in Mazatlan for three years and returning to Topolo again and again, it’s simply all three. Eileen and Fernando, the owners, have nailed the two most difficult things in a restaurant; consistent quality of product and amazing service. Add the open courtyard with palms reaching to the sky, the subtle lighting, the romantic live background music, and a calming waterfall and you have it all – night, after night, after night. There are no missteps.
I can assure you as a resident of Mazatlan everything you read on TripAdvisor about Topolo is true. Reservations are a must and are honoured. They don’t “lose” your name. If you are two, and a group of ten walk in before you, the service is absolutely the same. No missteps. It’s perfect. The experience begins with wait staff introducing themselves, and ensuring you have everything you need. They don’t meet and greet and disappear, they stay with you. Next, is the salsa show; it’s the famous Topolo roasted tomato salsa made fresh at your table exactly the way you want it. Our friend from Toronto wanted it spicy, we wanted it not so spicy. No problem, all mixed before us, our way. And therein lies the truth about this beautiful restaurant. It’s all about the customer, and what you want.
Over the years I’ve eaten: cilantro fish filet – stuffed with shrimp, celery onion and topped with a light butter, lime and cilantro sauce, $180; papillote fish filet, steamed in a corn husk with shrimp, scallops and a tomato sauce, $180; coconut shrimp with mango sauce, $190, tequila shrimp $190; half boneless chicken breast marinated in adobe sauce and tequila, $150; chilled crab and shrimp salad $90; strawberry greens salad, $80; and my current favourite is the pork shank slow cooked in adobe sauce, served with veggies and mashed potatoes, $170. This is fall off the bone, tender meat and during the winter I will return to this dish many times. A not very hungry couple could start with the delicious salsa and easily share the pork shank; in fact share any meal, the portions are generous.
A bottle of the house wine, a Mexican cab blend (it’s a smooth, soft red) is $300, or you can buy several kinds by the glass for $70. Because you don’t want to rush out of this delightful space, linger over dessert with an espresso, or another “fancy” coffee. If you think the prices sound higher than other restaurants, they are. What can I say? You get what you pay for. Or how about, you are worth it.
[Topolo Mexican Restaurant and Wine Bar, one block from the Plazuela Machado, Constitucion # 629, open Monday to Saturday from 2 – 11 p.m., and Sundays from 4 – 11 p.m. Major credit cards accepted. Call 136 0660 for reservations. Open every day at 3 p.m. Romantic background music.]
Casa Loma, 36 and counting.
(Updated August 2012, Sheila Madsen:now 37 and counting… I would agree with Dakota’s review from a year ago. Same massive menu, really something for everyone. I couldn’t decide if the dark wooden paneling was a relief from the humidity, or just out of place in a Mexican seaside city. The service was excellent, waiters were very attentive. I too was glad of the 30% discount, if you pay cash, as the price point is higher than other establishments. Every Saturday night the Mexico trio, Grupo Canto Altano, play lovely background music. The upscale environment and trio are worth a return visit.)
By Dakota Francis August 9, 2011
One of Mazatlan’s oldest and most loved restaurants has a distinct flavor of bygone days, when people actually dressed for dinner and flip flops were confined to the beach. After 36 years of continuous service, there is still much of that same feeling as it tends to be a destination for a special occasion; an anniversary, a birthday, a good-bye to friends, which was the case with our table.
Called “the house on the hill”, it sits in a residential neighborhood and is very unimposing, until you enter the front door. For those who want to dine more casually with a feeling of al fresco, there are brightly set tables in a patio like setting. However, being the middle of summer, the air conditioning on the inside dining room was more than welcome. The dark wood ceilings and paneling, burgundy red walls and elegantly plated tables make one almost want to whisper or at least look around for Carlos Slim, who may be sitting in a far corner. The wait staff is prepared to give your table initial superb attention and you are greeted upon entering the front door without delay. Drinks orders are taken and served, while one takes another day and a half to read through the prodigious menu which can be found on line. A complaint that our table had and we have noticed before in many other establishments, is that waiters rarely return to ask if another drink is desired. In our case, we started with a cocktail, and while finishing that, dinner was served but we were never asked about wine or other beverages. Yes, we could have signaled, but again, restaurants could add substantially to their profits with more drink attention.
Two at our table had French onion soup, topped with croutons and bubbling cheese. Along with the soup, one diner had an appetizer of avocado stuffed with shrimp, surrounded with fresh vegetables and it wasn’t skimpy. Nine large shrimp on a whole avocado. Two diners had the osso bucco, which is served two ways; one with a rich gravy over egg noodles and another in a mustard caper sauce. We opted for the pasta. Another diner had the ajo fish, and it was literally crusted with crunchy garlic and ever so tender and good. Without the discount, the osso bucco is $280, the appetizer was $75 and the French onion soup was $59. Along with drinks a large basket of fresh bread arrives. Prices tend to be higher than many other places, but it is worth it on those special occasions. From many appetizers, seafood, beef, poultry and game, salads, traditional Mexican and house specialties, your biggest challenge will be deciding. Did I mention the dessert menu? An enormous array, from flambes to crepes and everything in between to make the numbers on your scale go up a few notches.
Yes, it does feel a bit old world and of a bygone time, but let bygones be bygones. Get out your fancy duds, count your pesos and give yourself a treat. Feels kind of good to get out of those shorts and sandals, doesn’t it?[Casa Loma Restaurant,Gaviotas Ave. #104 , Gaviotas areas, 913-5398 , http://www.restaurantcasaloma.com]
Lunching at Los Delfines Restaurant in the Maria Coral Hotel.
By Zoe Jussel (August 2011)
Woke up to humidity of almost 94% with my brain shouting “let’s go to Stone Island and check out the new Maria Coral Hotel to swim and lunch. Now!” So off we went, my friend and I, gradually beginning to cool down after boarding the now $25 (each) panga ride to the island. We caught a ride at the dock for $50 (total),as the new Maria Coral Hotel is the last building on the island and a long jaunt down bumpy roads, halting for horses and riders around every bend. It’s an pretty walk along the beach from the dock too, if you are in the mood.
Looking at the pictures on Facebook, one expects a behemoth edifice rising to many stories, but in fact, when actually facing the hotel, it is rather small and comfortable. Welcoming, one might say. There is a winding staircase to the front entrance, which is also the Los Delfines restaurant and bar. Very elegant, crisp and inviting. It is a favorite during the busy season when the RV’ers head in, as evidenced by some of the online photos. The hotel, taking three years to build, is owned by a local family, with Adam Noronjo at the helm, and named after his daughter. He was also, very kindly our bartender (running to pick me a fresh mango for my margarita) and welcoming committee of one. The hotel seemed at first out of place after passing palapa after palapa, but once inside on the patio, or on a stool in the swim up bar, drink in hand, food order made, a comfort zone it is.
Los Delfines is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is 7-10 and the rest is served until 10 p.m. The pool closes at 9. The menu is fairly large with many appetizers, fish dishes, filet mignon and prices ranging from $120 for pescado empanizado to $230 for more complex dishes. We both had fish for lunch and the servings were commendable. Leftovers for another time, but perhaps that was due to the very generous and chunky guacamole for $55 and the large margaritas at $60. Other than one couple, we were the only ones there. There is room service all day and evening, and there are many activities available from the hotel that the staff is willing to organize for you.
Visitors are encouraged to stay and swim, use the facilities with an expenditure of at least $120. There are tables with umbrellas, loungers, outdoor showers and a pathway to the beach and ocean. We stayed most of the afternoon and then decided to walk back to the panga dock along the ocean’s edge and I would say it was far more pleasant than dodging (or not) the potholes and horses on the dirt road. Works up an appetite and then works it off. All in all, it was a very good day and nice to feel serene and private for while yet still able to hear the distant trill of a child’s laughter.[Maria Coral Hotel,Stone Island, open every day.
01 669 981 9491 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
My breakfast at the mercado – Tony’s Burgers.
You last read Bonnie Vela when she was on the Sinaloa gastronomic tour. After some brisk walks, swimming, zumba, yoga, and Pilates classes, Bonnie was ready to introduce her Texas friends to one of the best breakfasts in Centro.
By Bonnie Vela, July 1, 2011
One of the “must do’s” for my out of town guests is to experience all the wonders of the Mercado Pino Suarez in El Centro. My girlfriend and I headed out on a morning walk with the mercado as our destination. We were ready to kick start the day and eliminate our hunger pains at one of the many restaurants upstairs at the mercado. But my inner voice was telling me that the time was right to explore the small corner restaurants on the main level that had been catching my eye on several of my produce shopping ventures. We had fully intended to order a typical breakfast item, but after seeing all the locals eating tortas we quickly changed our minds.
Who would have thought a torta de pierna with french fries would land into my category of breakfast favorites? Well now I’m sold; minus the french fries. That is if the torta is from Tony’s Burgers. Oh what a fabulous find. I’m so glad I decided to give this little stand a try. The torta sandwich was large and plenty. All the ingredients tasted very fresh and delicious. Heck, everything’s right there in the market, so I’d be surprised if otherwise. For those not wanting a torta, they do serve up eggs any way you want, pancakes, bacon and we saw an amazing looking omelet being prepared.
Let’s get back to my torta. I had the pierna which is what I would call pull pork. My girlfriend had the shrimp torta. Both were served on a mouthwatering bun that was grilled followed by a nice portion of meat and topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and avocado. Jalapenos and other condiments were on the bar. My friend, Stephanie, and I couldn’t get a word out except….O’ My God this is delicious. So aside from eating and not talking we listened carefully to what all the other folks were ordering and checked out the plates as they were being served. Torta de Pierna was a popular dish but don’t hesitate to try the shrimp burger. That one is next on my list. The shrimp were seasoned, sautéed and the only thing binding this burger was Chihuahua cheese that was melted into the shrimp. It too was followed by lettuce, tomato, onion and avocado That’s second on my list – it looked fantastic.
You’ll find Tony’s by entering the southeast side of the mercado off Leandro Valle street. Montepio Casa Mazatlan is directly across the street from where you need to enter and immediately you’ll see Tony’s on the right. His booth number is B28. Tony has a corner setup where you can see him personally cooking everything right in front of you and a bar with seating that wraps around his small place. The menu isn’t what I would call extensive but it features pork, chicken, hamburgers, carne asada and shrimp which can be all can be ordered as a burger, torta or served in a tortilla. Prices are very reasonable. My meal, the torta de pierna, cost $25 and Stephanie ordered the torta de camaron which cost $42 –the highest priced item. They do offer a combo meal which is the torta de pierna, french fries, and 20 oz drink for $40. If you don’t have time to sit and enjoy a meal with the locals, call ahead and place your order; or place your order, do a little shopping and pick it up. Tony is open 7 days a week from 9:00 a.m. till 6:00 p.m. and offers home delivery. His phone number is 668 98 43 and he speaks very good English although his staff speaks Spanish. If you call, they will put Tony on the phone and he’ll be more than happy to take your order.
Tony’s gets rave reviews in my opinion. Hope you enjoy Tony’s Burgers as much as I do.
Don’t cry for me Argentina.
By Dakota Francis, April 29, 2011
El Bife Parrilla Argentina
(Updated November 2018: ribs, ribs, fall-off-the bone ribs have been added to the menu as well as other items. Currently El Bife is serving the best ribs in Centro. Updated July 2016: same great service, same great food. Updated June 2014: This remains on our repeat list. The beef is tender and beautifully cooked. The wine pours are excellent. The service is consistent, it’s a favourite! S.M. Updated April 2012: Anne Heynen reports: “ El Bife is one of our favourite places. Eric is the best waiter, in my opinion. I love their grilled vegetable brochette, also the asparagus appetizer. El Bife cooks the steaks exactly the way we like. Their French fries are perfection.”)
This reviewer always has the utmost best wishes for any restaurant that takes the chance and opens in a climate of economic difficulty and doubly so, when it’s a GOOD restaurant. Let’s take a look at Argentina’s offering.
We hope that El Bife has the muscle to hang in there until they have hooked the meat eaters in this city and once experiencing the fire grilled steaks, hooked they will be. We had the Churrasco also known as Argentine top sirloin, 14 oz, which was done to perfection with just a hint of pink in the middle and juicy tender. It was served with a choice of sides and we chose the baked potato. A small serving of chimichurri arrived with the steak and it was a perfect addition. A mélange (don’t you love that word?) of fresh vegetables also graced the plate. $145
The other dinner was grilled salmon with butter and lime and was reported to be perfect and tasty. Not overdone and also served with a side and vegetables. $135. Slightly unusual here for Mazatlan, was the attention of the waiters who came to our table several times to make certain all was satisfactory and that nothing else was needed. Often we dine out and after the meal is delivered, adios, goodbye, ciao.
Shortly after we were seated, a basket of warm garlic bread was brought to the table, covered with a colourful cloth. It was not the usual dry toasty garlic bread, but buttery soft and chewy. No shyness with the garlic, either, which suits us just fine.
There is such a variety of dishes on the menu from starters to finishers; chicken, fish, pastas, salads and baguettes, desserts that one can find just what they want, even if there is no yearning for a lovely piece of meat. We had a few chuckles over the menu with the heading of “torn overs” and “beef juice” soup. I also think I would tend to pass up the “small intestines cooked with milk”. The wine delivery is different for Mazatlan. You can bring your own bottle for corkage fee of $90. Or select a wine from El Bife’s list and a corkage fee of $90 pesos will be added. The restaurant only adds $90 to the mark-up, instead of the usual doubling or tripling of the price. They are following a private club business model which is a welcome addition. The wait staff does need to be better trained on this explanation; it’s new to them and new to us.
If the attentive service and beautifully grilled meats are any indication of success, then that is just what we see for El Bife. Pssst! The restrooms are clean but be careful of the different levels.
A second visit underscored the enthusiasm of the first. Again, sitting outside on the comfortable cushioned chairs with the tables topped with pale blue linen cloths, we began with a generous pour of a red at $50. There is only one red and one white by the glass. Eyes (our own) rolled at the first taste of the fillet petit, 7 oz, charcoal grilled to perfection; possibly the best steak thus enjoyed in Mazatlan. As another side choice, it came with real hand cut fries and veggies. $155. Not many places offer a fabulous steak dinner for the equivalent of $13.[El Bife, Plazuela Machado, next to Beach Burger. Open: Tuesday 5 p.m. –midnight, Sunday until 2 p.m., closed Mondays, 669 136 0436, Visa and MasterCard accepted]
La Corriente. Hear the buzz?
By Dakota Francis, March 27, 2011
(Updated November 2013: there was no white wine, and one bottle of red wine. I just find the food so-so, the staff are happier talking among themselves but the setting is still wonderful! I have friends that go just for the appetizers, beer and sunset. They claim the apps. are excellent. SM)
This reviewer looked forward with great anticipation to trying this new beachfront hot spot and was not disappointed. It is our opinion that the buzz will shortly become a roar and the new place to see and be seen. Directly in front of the Hotel De Cima, to the right of the stairs leading into the lobby, is an underground tunnel, decorated in mosaics, which leads to La Corriente. No dodging fast moving cars, pulmonias and buses if you happen to be on the opposite side of the street. Of course, on the Malecon are stairs leading down to the restaurant, as well. We were happily surprised on arriving, to be greeted by a smiling Juan Manuel Serrano Ramos, former manager of B Gallery, who has accepted the position of manager at La Corriente. We were told that the restaurant was “officially” opening April 1, so the menu may be changing slightly.
What a fun and exciting space, with a large curved bar, several “rooms” all with a slightly different flavour and very reminiscent of what Diego’s has done in the Golden Zone. Wood bench seating with comfortable cushions, mid century designer chairs here and there, a wooden floor and interesting hanging lights that glow blue at night are all part of the ambiance. The views after dark are unbeatable as once the sun goes down, you have Centro to one side and the Golden Zone on the other. Valentinos can be seen changing colours in the distance. Large TV’s are planned, (personally, those we could live without,) live music in the future and a sun screened area. The music selection, while we ate, was at an acceptable volume and the music a soft rock.
The menu is different in a fun and playful way, but the emphasis is definitely on fresh seafood. Many fish dishes, interestingly prepared in the neighborhood of $119, tacos in a way you would never imagine, tostadas, various appetizers and drinks. The drinks alone, $50, are worth the price of admission just to read the names and ingredients although the wine pour is only 4 oz for $60. And this is for Carlo Rossi! We started with a California taco and a KiKi taco, one filled with a whole poblano chili, cheese and lovely sauce, while the other had melted cheese, chilies and a guacamole side. Along side of this was a fresh scallop tostada, with the scallops almost raw and sliced very thinly, topped with avocado and onions. We had the Pulp Friction martini, which was almost like a fruit slush with some chili pepper but ever so good, and a Negro Modelo. Two dinners and two drinks came to $180, which is a great price for great tasting food. Fellow diners were more than pleased with their selections, and we are all anxious to go back and try some of the fish dishes. We are excited to not have to drive all the way to Diego’s to get our groove on, and now have our own rising star.
To be fair, on another night of dining there, the experience was bit different. The staff was on the mark when we were first seated, but then disappeared with a distinct lack of attention thereafter. Our meal this evening consisted of 12 large peel and eat shrimp, fresh, succulent and delicious for $90, a fish dish served in banana leaves, very moist but cold when it arrived, as were the 4 interesting and well prepared tacos. Cold food, unless it is supposed to be, certainly takes the edge off a good dining experience. In conclusion, this evening’s diners were presented with the wrong bill. Because we like the location, the menu, (work on the wine) the views and the general feel of this new venue, we hope that the management gets the staff on track, trains them to explain the preparation of various items, and serves hot food hot. When all this is ironed out, La Corriente will indeed BE the hot spot.[La Corriente, Ave. del Mar #48, in front of Hotel De Cima,accepts major credit card, open every day 11-11, has “real” bathrooms for men and women]