Browsing: Isla Mujeres

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.

Marea at Selina/Poc Na -Isla Mujeres 2023 Restaurant Features


We were on the island for Superbowl Sunday in 2023 and with exception of Jax and Snappers, you wouldn’t have known it on the island. I hadn’t planned ahead and both the spots above were sold out. We tried getting a channel on the little TV in our room. Oh no! We didn’t have a place to watch the Superbowl.

The pre-game had commenced and so we decided to console ourselves with a walk to visit our Mexican family at Hortencia’s. On the way home, we decided to poke around at the renovated Poc Na at the end of that street. We made note of many things. One was that Poc Na seems to have partnered with the Selina brand. Our son who went to Costa Rica the previous year, stayed in a Selina surfing hostel. He loved the vibe and had many great things to say. It appeared to us that the Isla Mujure’s Selina property catered to snorkelers and scuba divers.

We were impressed that there was a fabulous work share centre where you could work remotely in a bright and relaxing space. We also noticed A-framed huts that we understand are for travelers who want a bit more privacy than “hostel” living typically provides. I did check out Selina’s website to see that they DID have private bedrooms with en suites. They also had a communal kitchen, which we would also make full use off. We were so excited about the facility and hope to learn more before our 2024 trip to the island!

What I was most impressed with was that they maintained much of the natural beauty of their picturesque location. The sand and palm trees and glimpses of the turquoise sea are as I remember them. The beautiful pool is surrounded with luxurious hammocks, day beds and lounge chairs. I could imagine D and I curled up for a day of reading, relaxing and visiting the other fascinating hostellers. See their website for more pics of their glorious location. Mine here, do not do the property justice.

But here’s the best part-in their restaurant called Marea Isla Beach Club (see their Facebook Page), they had a big screen TV showing the pre-game of the Superbowl! We didn’t have to jostle for clear sight lines to the screen. In fact, even though the place would be hopping by the end of the game, we had our pick of tables to nestle in, and that we did.

As it was still early, we started with a refreshing mojito and a couple of appetizers.

This exquisite creation was their Baba Ganoush. Hey wait….aren’t we dining at a hostel? We could not believe the presentation and the savoury taste! I was especially enamoured with the sundried tomatoes which had been rehydrated with sesame oil!

The seared tuna tostadas were equally eye-catching and delicious. They were served with a sauce of reduced soya, lime juice, sugar and sesame oil, topped with fried onions and sprouts. I was impressed with the chef’s understanding of sesame oil as a flavour enhancer. Spot on!

By this time, my brother in law had read our text about our viewing spot and joined us for Marea’s Superbowl food/beer specials. Apparently Marea have a number of special nights similar to this one. They were all posted at the front door of the hostel when we entered. My bro in law, needed help consuming the beer that accompanied the food items. We had a mere block to walk home after the game, so we were happy to help him out.

This was one of the features-one side of the hand-made, wood fired pie was a delectable white sauce and sauteed spinach. The second was red sauce and a mildly spiced peperoni.

This stack of wings was another and equally impressive. They were piping hot and succulent. After I shook off some of the generous lemon pepper, we enjoyed them immensely.

By now Marea was packed and we really enjoyed meeting people from around the world including the guy seated closest to us who was from one of our favourite spots in Minnesota; we have visited Duluth many times. He and a large group had been on the island for a wedding and continued in the celebration.

The game sure was a close one, but when we decided who the ultimate winner would be, we decided to beat the traffic (ha ha) and wander home. I crawled into the hammock to watch the exciting conclusion on my own as D had fallen fast asleep!

Kath’s quote: “Hostels present the perfect combination of people, privacy and affordability. It is a unique mix of relaxation, sociability and adventure!”-Authour Unknown

Love never fails.

Ocean’s – Isla Mujeres 2023 Restaurant Features


The next time you are strolling down Hidalgo on your morning walk and you see this sandwich board, make a bee-line inside (if you can get a free table). The gorgeous photos that are displayed are exactly what you get, ensuring that your breakfast will be as pretty as a picture. When we first started visiting the island in the early 2000s, there were very few options for breakfast but now there are a plethora of them all over the island and many on Hidalgo itself. I would put Oceans in the top two for breakfast and number one on Hidalgo!

The restaurant is beautifully adorned with authentic pottery and the food is served on enormous white platters that are more like serving trays to make certain that you will not lose a dribble of hollandaise sauce or the yolk from a perfectly prepared egg.

We asked Francisco to help us decide what to order. We love being surprised by what the restauranteurs consider their best tasting dishes.

Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict was a great spin an a classic. The sweetness of the meat sauce perfectly complemented the savoury tastes of eggs and hollandaise. But equally important (in my mind at least) were the fabulous breakfast potatoes. They were greaseless, sweet and lightly sauteed to help mop up the extra yolk and hollandaise. The fruit stack and freshly squeezed juices were lovely ways to start our day with some vitamins.

D and I love Huevo Rancheros and yet we rarely make them at home preferring Middle Eastern Shakshuka. Ranchero sauce is more chili based and seasoned with additional chipotle and chili flavours, whereas I make shakshuka with left over spaghetti sauce. But, when in Mexico….The combination of eggs, sauce and the corn tortilla base make for a hearty breakfast and we are new lovers of refried bean sauce to make it even more substantial.

As if we hadn’t been absolutely satiated, Francisco presented us with a pancake dessert. The flapjacks were light and fluffy. We chose between the sparkling blueberry compote and the nutty cinnamon dollops with every bite. But I shouldn’t say “every bite” because we could hardly make a dent into the stack.

Weeks later, we met family on an early morning ferry. They were visiting for the day and only on Isla for a few hours. Francisco quickly assembled tables for our large group and we got to visit in the early sun with another round of delicious food.

The Breakfast sandwich and quesadilla were both enormous and eaters had to be helped by extra recruits. Good thing we had a couple of those on hand.

Ocean’s is located on the west side of Hidalgo in the vicinity of Fredy’s. They are open daily from 8 am until midnight.

Kath’s quote: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When you feed yourself what your body needs when it needs it, that’s love. So give your bod some TLC and sit down and enjoy a good, substantial breakfast.”- Kathy Freston

Love never fails.

Rancho Capricho-Isla Mujeres 2023 Restaurant Feature by Sister #3


I had heard a lot of buzz on the Isla Mujeres’ Food Facebook page and other Isla pages about Rancho Capricho. Many places on the island claim to have the best tacos and these guys claim that title as well. It’s even printed on the back of their T-shirt’s. “Best tacos on the island” and in my opinion, they really are!  A twist on the traditional, the two dishes we tried were amazing. We will certainly be back again and again! 

The portions were substantial and the service from Diego and Toño was excellent. All the staff are born and raised on Isla and are kind and attentive. 

Located on the southern Perimetral just before The Joint, this little complex has everything one could need. When we stayed at Villas Punta Sur in 2005 there was literally nowhere within walking distance to eat. The restaurant that was previously located where the Joint is now was closed every time we walked by. What a treat it would have been to have Rancho open at that time. A great taco restaurant, bar, convenience store and even stables, this place has it all. 

We started out with a piña colada and a spicy mango margarita while we considered the menu. The menu is small; they do tacos, they do tostadas, but they do them to perfection. I’m a believer that you should focus on what you do and do it well. It was tough to decide what to order as everything looked so good. I love that their menu features beautiful photos of each dish.

We ordered the “Special Steak” tacos. There are three tacos fully loaded with filling. They melt mozzarella cheese on the tortilla and top them with arrachera steak which was tender and flavourful. The addition of onions and smoked longaniza, a type of sausage similar to chorizo, made this a flavour bomb. It was taken over the top with chipotle and cilantro crema.

Our second selection was the “ Shrimp Toast”. Two crunchy tostadas with shrimp, onions, and peppers sautéed in white wine. The addition of mozzarella and their chipotle cilantro creama make this the perfect bite. There was an abundance of shrimp that were really big and totally juicy. At that time, it was the best thing I’d eaten this trip. 

Rancho Capricho was the brain child of owner Enrique and his chefs Fabio and Lizandro. Enrique wanted to do something with this piece of land so they talked half jokingly about opening a taco stand. Before they knew it recipes were being developed and the rest, as they say, is history. I’m so happy this whim of an idea became a reality as it’s a great addition to the Isla Mujeres food scene. 

Rancho Capricho is open everyday except Sundays from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. Enjoy the view of the passing ducks and don’t forget to go and visit the four horses. 

Kath’s quote: ” The answer is “tacos”. It doesn’t matter what the question is”.- Author unknown

Love never fails.

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