Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Jax-Isla Mujeres 2023 Restaurant Feature


We first visited Jax in 2005 on our first trip to the island. Jackie, the owner of Jax recently shared with me that even on a holiday with Mexican food as amazing as the islands’, travelers eventually crave something from home. Over the years, she has determinedly ensured that when you have that hankering for a burger or a loaded baked potato, you will think of Jax. She is absolutely right because in 2005, we had wandered in for a hamburger.

Jackie’s manager and most of her staff are Islanders that have been with her almost back to those early days of the new millennium. Having been in the restaurant business ourselves, we know that that is a monumental accomplishment. Jackie claims that she doesn’t have any business secrets but that she strives to give her staff the best products using tried and true recipes, using the best tableware and restaurant accoutrements that money can buy and then empowers her staff do the rest.

Of course having one of the most beautiful locations on the island, certainly doesn’t hurt Jax’s success. We were there for Happy Hour one evening when the entertaining Ken Wanovich stopped singing to allow everyone to witness the glorious sunset! Sure the scenery has changed over the years, but the location is still absolutely stunning.

On this evening, we snuggled in to enjoy some of the tastiest fare on the island starting with selections from Jax’s extensive bar list. D was delighted by the variety of martini selections and was well pleased with his choice. I was in love with Jax’s glassware package and would love to order some items for our home.

I chose a Banana Cabana (on the right) made by blending Bailey’s, rum, banana liqueur and what else? Fresh banana of course. The taste was like a luscious banana milkshake and I would have happily ordered another one, except we started considering some food options.

Now by this time, quite by coincidence, our hometown NHL team was playing a televised hockey game. The bartender found the broadcast immediately and ensured that we could view it from multiple directions. Nascar racing was also being broadcast to the delight of a table of boisterous fishermen. Even though Jax welcomes the sports enthusiasts, Jackie wants the world to know that their offerings are broader than the standard fare at a sports bar. Case in point, a couple of appetizer selections had just been delivered to the table.

This exquisitely presented dish was mixed ceviche. Made with shrimp, octopus and conch, the unique veggies and herbs were a lovely spin on the classic Mexican dish. The edible garnish was not only beautiful but delicious too. We used the just fried tortilla chips to scoop up the avocado with the lime marinated seafood. The cucumber added fresh and spritely tastes. We gave the chef full marks on his artistry.

Loving the conch in the ceviche, we decided to order conch fritters, not haven indulged in them for a long while. They were beautifully shaped (including bread and eggs I suspected) and were perfectly fried without a greasy texture. The potato rosette and tomato garnish blew us away.

When the time came to order our entre, we were in a dilemma. D was leaning towards a steak because he had a craving for a loaded baked potato. I was inclined to fish and chips but then got distracted by the variety of seafood platters and didn’t know which way to go. Jackie suggested we have the fish platter but suggested she add a steak and a couple of shrimp choices too. The pic above is what was placed in front of us as a result.

The fish came grilled, fried AND blackened. No matter how it was prepared, there was no denying the fresh and delicate tastes of fish.

So too, the shrimp came fried, sauteed in garlic butter and breaded in a sweet coconut. There was even a succulent lobster tail. We loved the fabulous garnishes and felt like we were in a dining dream!

The biggest surprise was the filet mignons which were prepared exactly to our desired doneness. With goey cheddar cheese and real bacon on the spud, the steak and potato combo would have been completely satisfying all on its own.

Some skeptics might say “oh sure, that’s how the food comes out when the chef is tipped off by the owner” but we went back at least twice more for shrimp bowls, fish and chips and fried chicken and we were uber impressed each time. Service at happy hour is a bit hectic but that is because the place was jammed especially on Wednesday when we went back to hear Ken sing.

Jax is the real deal. Whether snacks or dinner, the food was expertly prepared and beautifully presented. Service was efficient and friendly. Sure you can watch your favourite game there, but Jax is so much more than a sports bar. Go for a romantic or family dinner the next time there ISNT a game that you don’t want to miss.

Kath’s quote: “Food brings people together, makes memories, and expresses love and care… no matter where the recipe comes from. I make food art like this to inspire & equip home cooks to pass down a resilient food culture – a precious heirloom – onto the next generation“. –Heirloom Food Project

Love never fails.

Green Verde-Isla Mujeres 2023 Restaurant Feature


We have enjoyed the hospitality of Rafael and Green Verde for many years. It is one of our “must visit” places and a friend of ours once declared it, the best food on the island.

On this day, D was still needing his coffee fix but I was in the mood for something more thirst quenching. My refreshing green juice was a blended concoction of celery, apple and pineapple. It was very delicious, but I shouldn’t have gulped it down so quickly because we had so much eating ahead.

No less than three dishes arrived next.

This amazingly complex dish was the Breakfast Enchiladas from their Special Mexican section of the menu. Corn tortillas were stuffed with scrambled eggs to which bean sauce and cream had been swirled on top. A bed of shredded lettuce added to the crisp texture and also provided a bed for the ground chorizo sausage which added a bit of punch. Scrumptious.

This gorgeous dish was also from that special section on the menu. Huarache usually come with green or red sauce but we enjoyed more of the savoury bean sauce.

Green Verde’s Mexican omelet was chock full of shredded beef, slivered peppers, bacon, onion and Oxaca cheese. We loved all three dishes and took note to add some unusual ingredients to our weekend breakfasts this summer at the lake.

Rafael had no intention of letting us off that easy. He knew that I preferred savoury tastes at breakfast but guessed correctly that D likes his sweets, so he came around with a platter sampling another couple of dishes.

In the top right corner were Ranchero eggs in a Red sauce and in the left foreground were the Red Chilaquiles. These two dishes ensured that we were chock full of appealing and nutritious food.

In the top left corner was a delightful banana crepe topped with (get this) ice cream and sprinkles. We love bananas foster which this dish was reminiscent of. To the right edge of the photo was meaty bacon and vanilla/cinnamon French toast. My fav taste combo-sweet and salty.

We dined another couple of times during our recent month on the island. Especially memorable was the evening when we took old friends upon their arrival on the island. She loved the Mezcal Shrimp: marinated and then flamed in tequila, they were delectable when served on a bed of mashed sweet potato. I had sampled them this trip too and whole heartedly agreed with her.

So too, the interesting spin on the Chicken Poblano was a hit. Instead of stuffing everything inside of the pepper, it provided a cradle for all the fixings.

Although I have never been to the restaurant at lunch, the point is that Raphael executes enticing dishes no matter what time of day. Let them know if you are a large group and tell them that you do not mind if they deliver the dishes as soon as they are ready, to avoid meals cooling off in the open air restaurant. They are closed Monday but are open every other day from 8 am -9:30 pm.

Kath’s quote: “Cooking is love made visible“. Authour Unknown.

I thought that these were appropriate for a restaurant of this name.

Love never fails.

Amazona Beach Club-Isla Mujeres 2023 Restaurant Features


Imagine for a moment, you are on a tropical island with the love of your life and it is Valentine’s Day. You are spending the day at a Beach Club as a VIP. When you arrive, there is no one else there. What could possibly be more perfect?

When we first visited the island in 2005, we found ourselves at Playa Loncheros for the day. Not having a clue where I was going, I walked south on the west side of the island and must have landed exactly where Amazon is now. So let’s start at the beginning…Amazona had the perfect strip of land, sand and shoreline to create their beautiful complex.

We were escorted to this first row location and served refreshing welcome drinks.

There were beds for napping.

There was also a couch and coffee table for our drinks and amazing assortment of food.

First up was a beautiful tray of creamy guacamole and pico de gallo served with the loveliest tortilla chips shaped into petalled flowers. Since we all know that we eat with our eyes…this was a feast! They were the perfect way to start our leisurely afternoon.

Day trippers started to arrive in catamarans from Cancun. The property is so huge, even when they were packed, we felt uncrowded in our own private space.

We were curious as to what was on the buffet for everyone. What we liked best was the fresh fish that had been prepared to make up your own tacos or salad.

Our served dishes continued. Up next were enormous shrimp (isn’t that an oxymoron?). I am talking more like baby lobster tails. They were perfectly prepared, the chef knowing that a shrimp that size would get rubbery with overcooking. And the homemade cocktail sauce that they had been plunged into was so amazing, that I asked for cutlery then I ate the meaty shrimp in little slices and slurped up the sauce with a spoon.

Although we were well-entertained with watching people pose (many quite provocatively) on the water swing and enjoying the DJ’s music selections, we thought that it might be a good time for a walk and a stretch so we wandered to the end of the pier to take in this more panoramic shot of the property.

In addition to a Valentine’s Day selfie.

A sushi course was ahead: wrapped in plantain, seaweed, shrimp and cream cheese. Each was complex and tasty and the dipping sauce was appropriately sweet, salty and unami.

Petalled tostados elevated onto shot glasses came next. The toppings were shrimp, pastor and pulled pork and we were delighted with the crunchy textures and varied tastes.

We thought that we couldn’t possibly eat anymore and then these amazing coconut shrimp came along. The mango salsa that they came plunged into was the perfect pairing to the crispy texture and sweet tastes (coming from both the coconut AND the shrimp).

Can you see the sea gulls to the left of the pic who cut through our palapa on their way to the open bay?

We visited with many of the day trippers that day, but when they answered the call back to their catamarans, we lazed back for one last time of relaxation in solitude and silence. Many of the day trippers wonder “You stay on Isla? What is there to do all day?” We answer “this”.

Amazona Beach Club is open daily until 6 pm. But I wondered if they were open when the seas were too rough for a catamaran crossing. I understand that they host a number of special events in the evening by invitation only.

Kath’s quote: “A life lived in love will never be dull.”-Authour Unknown

This heart greeted us when we arrived at the beach club that morning.

Love never fails.

Isla Burger-Isla Mujeres 2023 Restaurant Feature by Sister #3


Have you been to a Isla Burger?  It’s all the buzz in Isla Mujeres. Let me tell you why.

The vibe is different than many other restaurants you’ll find on the island. Decorated in shades of black and grey with wood tones and the occasional splash of red. Owner Gustavo shared that like so many other aspects of his concept, the feel and atmosphere were created very intentionally. He told us three images represent the three components of the place. The moon, the heart and the sun. The moon represents the bar. A place to celebrate the night and pay homage to Ixchel, the  goddess of the moon.  The heart is the kitchen where they pour their love into the food. And lastly is the sun. The vital force of collaboration is seen in the restaurant where close tables create a sense of community.  There is even a communal cat named Adela that receives plenty of love and attention from patrons and staff alike.

Gustavo, who previously worked in other Isla establishments, saw a niche for tourists that wasn’t being filled. While folks had endless choices for tacos and a wide variety of other cuisines they often craved the food they would eat at home. There are a couple dozen pizza places but few restaurants completely focused on the good ol burger.. The restaurant was supposed to open in December 2020 at the height of the pandemic but the opening was delayed till March of 2021. Gustavo and his team took that time to do some deep dives into market research. They invited people to focus groups to taste their product as they took eight attempts at finding just the right mix of meat for their delicious burgers. Landing on a combo of ground ribeye and brisket from Monterey in the heart of México’s cattle country.

On our visit we tried the Isla Classic topped with lettuce, tomato, house made roasted garlic balsamic mayo on a fluffy toasted potato roll. We added their house smoked bacon.

We also sampled the BBQ burger, a mix of premium beef and Yucatán pork in a sweet southern style sauce, with caramelized onions and crunchy slaw.

One of our party is vegan and gluten free and she was pleased with the vegan burger which the kitchen prepared for her as a lettuce wrap. The vegan burger was tasty and not trying to be a meat replacement but the delicious dish on its own merits.

Gustavo considers it the kitchen’s greatest achievement. The burgers were served with yummy homemade pickles and hand cut potato chips with house made ketchup.   Every item on the menu is made from scratch. Their policy is they serve nothing from a box, bag, or bottle.

We splurged on the carbs and started our meal with truffle Parmesan fries which are a secret item you won’t find on the menu. We ended our meal with bread pudding. This cinnamony treat is a great way to use up extra burger buns and is an example of the restaurant’s commitment to reduce waste.

The night we visited we were impressed with the staff and the casual but attentive service. They were super busy so while you can count on the food being great, be prepared that it won’t be quick. This is not a fast food burger after all. It was great fun watching Gustavo interact with each table of customers.  Originally from Brazil he has traveled extensively and lived in Italy and a number of cities in the US. Isla burger isn’t his only gig. He and his fiancé, a sommelier, both teach at university in Cancun. She in the culinary program and he in the business school. And soon he will be opening a new concept down island. A complex with accommodations, a cafe specializing in brunch, a shared work space with excellent internet connection, a rooftop space, and Isla Bistro, a sea to table restaurant. Once again Gustavo has been listening to visitors to the island and is working on ways to satisfy their needs in his next business venture.

PS Sister #1 here. We visited Isla Burger too and were equally impressed by that communal feel and their commitment to quality. We tried the Classic Burger, Mushroom Burger and Chicken Burger. I was particularly enamored with the latter-greaseless, crunchy, tender and full of juicy flavour. D preferred the umami essence of the Mushroom Burger and R the full meat impact of the Classic. We also sampled all three sides-chips, cole slaw and fries. Once again the latter was my fav and I was really impressed to find they make truffle fries (my international fav enhancement since we discovered them in Italy a number of years ago). The servers were a whole lot of fun.

Kath’s quote: “A burger has lettuce and tomato so…it is basically a salad“.-Author unknown

Love is all.

Grill Garden-Isla Mujeres 2023 Restaurant Feature


When you are a “foodie” (I state that gingerly since the movie “The Menu” came out), you think about food a lot and I don’t mean just when you are hungry. Sometimes, an ingredient or a dish, simply captures you and you can’t get it out of your head. Case in point: the first time I tasted Crispy Cilantro Cheese and the Pulled Pork Grilled Nachos was a year ago at Isla’s popular Grill Garden. We couldn’t wait to visit again and we asked along Sister #2 and my Bro in Law to try it for their first time.

We cheered to our precious time together. They hadn’t been on the island for six years so we couldn’t wait to express our gratitude and share our favourite places with them-Grill Garden being high on our list.

But I digress. Back to the food! I understand that gooey cheese is NOT one of ingredients that makes authentic Mexican food so popular, but for me, it is the icing on the proverbial cake.

I don’t order nachos very often on the island and I realize that it is because very few offerings are as sensational as Grill Garden’s. First off, they grill the corn chips for that extra char and smokey essence. Then they pile savoury pulled pork on top. This in turn is smothered in cheese sauce and shredded cheese and then all of it is placed under the grill again before sour cream, silky guacamole and sparkling pico de gallo are placed on top. We asked for the jalapenos to be served on the side. The cast iron frying pan comes overflowing and if you ordered some extra tortillas, you could easily make this a meal. But, since there was being shared by four, we actually made short work of them.

Grill Garden’s Crispy Cilantro Cheese are the things that dreams (perhaps obsessions) are made of. The first time I tasted cilantro was on a trip to Cozumel some thirty five years ago, so it was a “full circle” sensation for me. Once again, the tortillas make it a meal, but I love the decadent concoction so much that I could eat it with a spoon. Mozzarella cheese is breaded and fried and then placed in a bath of tomatillo sauce. Each bite (or spoonful) is a balanced one of sweet and salty, gooey and crunchy, hot and cold, well you get the picture.

In the mean time, my Bro in Law’s Smoked Short Rib Burger came along. To remind you of the succulent meat inside the bun, an extra short rib arrived on the platter. He reported that is was delish.

I recommended the Pina Colada Shrimp to Sister #2. Even though other restaurants serve larger shrimp, none are sweeter or more plentiful. They soak up some of the pineapple essence from the carved boat that they arrive in. The coconut sauce that accompany them for dipping, is sublime. They were so plentiful, that four people had tastes and there was enough to take home and serve the next evening for Valentine’s Day!

You may not have had a lot of exposure to the trend of tomahawk steaks being shared as a meal but D and I have not only enjoyed them in Italy (where they are called Steak Florentine), at The Keg Steakhouse and Bar where I have worked for fifty years (egad did I just put that in writing?) but also with our neighbour back in Winnipeg who is Argentinian and is an expert meat griller. So bring it on!

I don’t know how many ounces this baby weighed but I had a hard time lifting it with one hand. It comes with a delightful baked stuffed potato AND a hand made grilled sausage (in case you needed more meat). In truth, we would have enjoyed another bit of potato because I love a taste of carbs with every forkful of steak. This was remedied the next day when D made Sister #3 and I that Valentine’s Dinner of Surf and Turf with a generous side of mashed potato.

But this steak story is not over yet. First off, it is grilled to just under your desired doneness. Then your server expertly carves it your table, removing the bone first and then creating the perfect strips of steak, appropriately marbled and at a temperature where the fat is just starting to melt.

Upon completion, the entire steak is placed back onto a sizzling cast iron platter to sear in the juices, reheat it and add that smokiness that Grill Garden is known for. Can you imagine living next door to all those glorious aromas each night?

In the mean time, D (a Fred Flintstone wannabee), tucked into that mouth-watering rib bone. The steak is always juiciest there and D was well-pleased. Once again, the four of us could not do justice to the steak quantity justice and it too had to go home in a take out container. I kicked myself for not bringing my own container. Since refuse has to be hauled and ferried off the island, there is a movement a foot to reduce take away containers on Isla.

We obviously did not leave room for desert, so the guys sampled a lovely after dinner drink that was part liqueur, part coffee and part sweet cream. The perfect nightcap (unless you planned on sleeping that night)!

The happy and helpful staff gets every Tuesday off. Grill Garden, as it’s name indicates, was constructed in a lush and tropical garden and is open every other day (rain or shine) from 4-11 pm. You will be enthusiastically welcomed on Carlos Lazo Street (almost across from Snappers). Go, just go.

Kath’s quote: “The nerve of any man who is waking up a person in a hammock“.- Fred Flintstone

Love never fails.

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