Browsing: Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres 2024 Restaurant Features- Grill Garden


I commenced my month long stay on Isla Mujeres with a visit to North Garden, so it seemed appropriate that I concluded it with an evening at Grill Garden.

To start, our female newbie Debbie and I started with Spaicy Mango Margaritas rimmed with Tajin as well as a generous shake into the concoction for good measure. They were different and delicious! She has three granddaughters so I suggested that she take the paper parasols that adorned the drinks, home for the girls. We did so last year and our grands loved them!

You may have an impression that Grill Garden is too romantic/upscale/expensive to drop in for a quick bite or take your family out for dinner. In fact, the night that we dined, there were mostly families. Oh sure you can still get those amazing “cooked and carved at the table” rib eye or tomahawk steaks, and there were a couple of gentlemen also enjoying them that evening, but Grill Garden’s menu and value quotient has gone up, way up!

This came about with their latest menu changes. Owners, Fernando and Brenda made a trip home to Argentina recently, and Fernando came back to Isla, inspired to work on a revised menu, preparing the dishes he always wanted to have listed on their restaurant’s offerings.

As well, Grill Garden also takes advantage of their on site bakery, delivering two appetizers that are served in a hollowed out loaf of bread! The Shrimp and Artichoke Dip and the Mushroom and Ribeye Dip (the later of which we sampled). It was ooey gooey as a result of sautéing the mushrooms and ribeye strips in red wine and cream cheese. The meat was so tender and each forkful a delight!

Of course we also had to have my favourite Crispy Cilantro Cheese, where the crispy is created by covering mozzarella cheese in panko flakes and the cilantro shines through a tomatillo sauce. I dream of this Grill Garden’s appetizer in the bleak midwinter.

For entrees, one of the Newbies ordered Fruiti de Mare on freshly made pasta noodles. Calamari rings, octopus, shrimp and fish were grilled and presented in a full bodied sauce of butter and white wine. She loved it!

I too, was tempted by fresh pasta and chose Chicken Alfredo, but not just any Chicken Alfredo.  The process started when our fabulous waiter Javier wheeled over an enormous disc of Grand Padano cheese and started heating the sides under a flame and then scraping away the gooey cheese. This was repeated many times. Then, he hailed an assistant to bring out a bowl of freshly made noodles which was added to the cheese and butter. Lastly a bowl of grilled and sliced chicken came out of the kitchen and all the luscious ingredients were assembled in front of me. It was the most decadent bowl of alfredo I have ever eaten! When I had to ask for a “to go” container, it must have weighed a pound!

The guys both decided upon the Argentinan specialty of Milanesa. Both dishes started with a breaded flank steak. Carbonara distinguished it from the other options and the cheese and bacon sauce was baked on top. The portion, overflowed the plate and was too much for either guy to conquer, in spite of best efforts. It was so good.

Portions are huge! Presentation is exquisite and the service is top notch. When our waiter Javier teased Newbie Joe about taking home his leftovers, Joe said “For sure, they will go great with eggs tomorrow morning”. Quick-thinking Javier delivered these with Joe’s leftovers.

Javier also delivered these parting gifts. He called them mini-beers but they were actually shooters that we had remembered from a previous visit. So delicious!

The options are now so varied and affordable that you can dine for any reason at all. We saw three hamburger-sized sliders get delivered to another table. All three were only $16.67 USD! They could have fed 3 teenage boys.

Check out hours and prices on Mapchicks App.

Kath’s quote: “Life is batter with a sprinkle of love!”-unknown

Love never fails.

Isla Mujeres 2024 Restaurant Features-Isla Burger


I recently wrote about meeting a long time FB friend IRL. Gustavo, the owner of Isla Burger and I have bantered back and forth for the last three years or so. We have much in common- a passion for pleasing people with food, trying to maintain a work/life balance and the difficulties in opening a new restaurant location. But more about that later.

Sister Sue visited last year and wrote about it here:

My recent visit to Isla Burger with Sue was another delight. Feasting first on Isla Bang Shrimp. The shrimp were breaded in panko flakes, placed on a bed of crisp lettuce and served with honey siracha sauce.

We chose to split the Isla Classic Burger with cheese for our main. Sue and I know good beef when we taste it as we grew up in that business. Ground ribeye and brisquet is the correct combination to produce a lean and flavourful burger. Fatty burgers typically deliver the satisfying taste but Gustavo has tested and found the best fat/meat ratio for that ultimate taste. We also appreciated the roasted garlic and balsamic mayo which was generously smeared on the freshly baked and toasted potato roll.

Everything at Isla Burger is made from scratch-even the ketchup!

Equal to the enjoyment of my half burger were the parmesan truffle fries. I fell in love with the senuous taste of truffles in Italy and now import my own truffle salt to treat myself at home. The delicate shaving of a good quality parmesan completed the tasted profile, one that I dearly love.

Sue and I rarely order dessert but could not resist the Key Lime Pie which actually turned out to be cheesecake garnished with lemon. Loving lemon meringue pie, we were very pleased.

Gustavo and I were hoping to let you in on all the details of a new restaurant that he is bringing to the island. He has coped with a number of delays but is hoping to be open by July. Stay tuned to this space for details as they unfold.

And…..Gustavo and I have still failed to meet IRL.

If you want to read the menu in advance of visiting or need an exact location, check out the Mapchicks app.

Kath’s quote: “I will gladly pay you Tuesday, for a hamburger today.”-Bluto from the Popeye cartoons.

Love never fails.

Isla Mujeres 2024 Restaurant Features-Marina Bartolome


One of the sweetest moments is when I meet a person that I have known on Facebook (often for years), in real life. This has occurred many times recently and did so again last evening. Isleno Valerie Rifig and I met on line in the years before Covid. D and I became obsessed with a little taco place called 1000 Tacos. I absolutely gushed about the place. Valerie was one of the owners, but couldn’t meet me at the restaurant because she had just had a baby. Unfortunately the taqueria did not survive the Covid years. But Valerie and I still remained FB friends. What a lovely surprise occurred when I was gaga over a shrimp dish at Marina Bartolome to find that Valerie’s family owns the marina, hotel and restaurant. We tried on many occasions to meet IRL and finally achieved this, last evening.

We started with that shrimp dish. Whole shrimp are skewed from stem to stern including the head and tail. This creates and outstanding presentation but also a unique manner to enjoy every part of the crustacean. The shells soften in the cooking process and many Islenos claim that the head is the most flavourful part of the treat. The skewers were placed on a bed of grilled romaine which I completely finished because of its own nutty taste enhanced by the amazing sauce from the shrimp. I am becoming more and more familiar with sauces from outside the Yucatan Peninsula and Zarandeado is one of those complex sauces thrilling me right now.

Every year that I spend on the island, I come home with a new favourite dish or recipe. Years ago it was ceviche, Fredy’s porkchop, chilies relleno, etc. More recently it has been grilled octopus, octopus carpaccio or shrimp tostados. This year it is Aguachiles. The dish is made of shrimp, submerged in liquid seasoned with chiltepin peppers, lime juice, salt, slices of cucumber and slices of red onion. This raw seafood dish comes from the north west region of Mexico, and is normally prepared in a molcajete. Marina Bartalome’s were divine!

I only eat octopus on Isla Mujeres. Marina Bartolome’s recipe is an award winning one, marinated in red chilli adobo and dried chilies producing a dish so tender and packed with complex flavours! The grilled carrots and potatoes with rosemary balanced the exquisite tastes.

When chatting with Valerie about their recipes, I came to understand that their clever ingredient twists are what make the dishes memorable. Case in point, the Pacifico Tuna Tostado was uniquely crowned with ribbons of fried leaks and finished with a swirl of sesame oil, producing a composite of ocean and Asian flavours. It too was a stellar dish.

But I was still craving those wonderful tacos buried deep in my food memories. Luckily, in one corner of the menu, those tacos still shine! We indulged in the Crispy Shrimp and Octopus ones, remembering that cheese was the unique ingredient in the 1000 taco recipes. I loved that they produced a cheese wafer in those days that added a snap and crunch to the taco. The cheese is still there, but melted to fuse the multiple ingredients. Still delicious.

We ended the meal of scrumptiousness with a Passionfruit Mango cake. Light cake layers were interlaced with tropical fruit flavours and garnished with silky mango strips. Oh my goodness, what a amazing meal!

It is no wonder that the fish tasted at its maximum freshness. We learned that Valerie’s husband had just arrived back to the dock with their catch.

I was also surprised to hear that there is no chef heading up the kitchen but an incredibly hard working staff of seafood lovers.

There are pictures that adorn the inside restaurant walls. They tell the story of the many generations of Valerie’s family who were amongst the original Islenos.

If you are currently on the island, you must visit before you leave. Their hours of operation and menus can be viewed on the Mapchick app.

Kath’s quote: “There’s always more space for more seafood, just as there’s always room for more love in life.” -unknown

Love never fails.

Isla Mujeres 2024 Restaurant – Queen Macabi


Well readers, we are taking you on another sleuthing mission. This time to find Queen Macabi Restaurant. We hopped in a cab and showed our driver where we were going on the mapchicks app. He barely glanced at the map but fixated on the fact that we mentioned Macabi, part of the name of the restaurant. He was determined to drop us off at Macabi St. We obediently got out of the taxi and consulted GBS.

Even when we were almost on top of the location, we didn’t know it, until we spotted a sign at the bottom of a staircase.

This is the address of the restaurant.
This is the bakery that is on the main floor.
Follow the Queen Macabi sign (above) and then take this staircase to the roof.

The second way you can find the restaurant is by consulting Jose of Cultural Cruisers. He accompanied one of his many groups there, the same afternoon we visited.

We learned a little bit about the business. It had been open about a year and a half. As far as we could determine, Abi the female owner, also operated a second restaurant and had put her son in charge of the Queen Macabi location.

They lovingly prepared us two seafood platters. One had salad, two whole fried fish and fish & shrimp empanadas.

The other platter boasted arrachera, shrimp ceviche, beans, rice, guacamole and my new favourite shrimp aquachiles.

The fried fish obtained that lovely crispy skin, and tender, flaky inside. The empanadas were perfectly prepared and chock fill. The vegetable garnish on the platter meant we got our vegetables for the day.

The arrachera was so flavourful and tender. It was a generous portion and enough for 4 of us to eat our fair share. I enjoyed it with the little bowl of rice which accompanied. The newbies we took with us, loved the ceviche. It was their first time tasting the dish and they are now officially hooked. My favourite was the shrimp aquachiles. I have always been a lover of the fresh taste of cucumber and it is a wonderful way to highlight marinated shrimp.

Chocolate coins came with la quinta.

The decor is pleasant and simple and the breeze on the roof was refreshing. The staff were accommodating and attentive. Abi’s son was especially grateful for our visit. As soon as you find the place once, the tasty food will have you coming back for more. Check out the mapchicks app for menus and hours of operation.

Kath’s quote: “Son’s are the anchors of a mother’s life”.-Sophocles

Love never fails.

Isla Mujeres 2024 Restaurant Features-Xaman


If you are looking to dive deeper into Mexican culture, may I suggest a visit to Xaman (pronounced Sha-man) Restaurant Bar. Located above Carribean Brisas on Perimetral Oriente just south of Mango Cafe, this unique establishment opened in February 2023. 

Even before you ascend the stairs you can feel you are about to experience a tribute to Mayan culture. The atmosphere is decidedly indigenous, with beautiful murals and art pieces throughout. There is even a shaman in residence who often visits the restaurant as well as leading ceremony at Punta Sur. 

Over the last number of years I have been on a personal quest to better understand my own indigenous roots and chatting with owners Guillermozo and Yadi, I was surprised by the overwhelming similarities of our cultures. Like the Cree and Ojibwe nations of Canada, from which my ancestors descend, the Mayans build sacred fires, hold sweat lodges, and smudge as part of their ceremonies.  Even the Mayan beading looks very similar to the Metis beading we are learning at home.

Guillermo, who moved to Isla from Mexico City in 2015, met Yadi, who grew up in Texas but is actually a member of a large Isla family, and the two have been inseparable ever since. They both shared a vision of opening a restaurant that would bring something different to the people who visit Isla Mujeres, introducing them to a wider variety of Mexican cuisine. They dreamed of helping people explore the culture more deeply. Their menu is a celebration of the ingredients native to the Yucatan and Quintana Roo. So I was very excited to meet them and experience Xaman with their guidance. 

We started with amazing cocktails. They were absolute works of art.  You can tell that as much time and effort has gone into creating and preparing them as has gone into the food. We had a Margarita pachita made with tequila, pineapple juice, muddled cilantro and Serrano chili with a salted rim. The first sip was spicy and potent but as my taste buds adjusted it was refreshing and delicious. We also tried the Dioses del Mar, meaning the gods of the sea. What a masterpiece! Tequila and blue curaçao are mixed with coconut cream and lime and served in a coconut rimmed glass. It’s the most unique cocktail I have experienced. Both cocktails were garnished with dehydrated citrus and fresh rosemary. 

The food menu has something for everyone but will be especially pleasing to vegans as it has a ton of creative plant based options. They even make vegan chorizo. 

There are also plenty of dishes to please the adventurous eater. We tried the grasshoppers from Chiapas, roasted with chilli and plenty of lime.

My sister, the French fry lover ordered papas Fuego Azteca and we both agreed they were the best fries we’ve have on the island. After we polished off the bowl we were curious about the seasoning that set them apart from other fries, only to discover they were seasoned with paprika and sel de gusano, also known as worm salt. 

Not to worry if bugs aren’t your thing there are a ton of other ingredients that you may not experience elsewhere on the island that are not so scary. Many of the ingredients are pre-Hispanic and have been eaten by the indigenous people for centuries. 

They also have a nice selection of familiar dishes such as nachos, quesadillas, tacos, tamales, breaded chicken, shrimp and mole. 

We made most of our selections from the appetizer section. The Trio Xamanico featured guacamole, Dzikilpak and la Ofrenda. Dzikilpak is hummus like dip made from roasted pumpkin seeds. La Ofrenda, meaning the offering, is seasoned corn ribs that have been charred over fire. 

Next was Pachamama, potato bombs stuffed with chorizo. They were supper flavourful. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside with just the right spice level. 

On to the Chile Ixkatiic, a yellow chilli pepper, grown in Yucatan, stuffed with cheese, mushrooms and onions and wrapped in momo leaf. Served on a creamy ixkatiic sauce with chunks of pineapple. 

All of the appetizers we tried are available in vegan versions. 

We decided to share a main and selected the Pescado en salsa guyaba, fresh fish in a guava sauce served with rice and fresh vegetables. It was delicate and delicious. 

I left feeling full of good food and honoured to have met two kindred spirits who share their passion for food and culture so generously. 

If you are interested in viewing the menu and hours of operation, check out the mapchik app. The best money you will ever spend.

Kath’s quote: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”― Hippocrates

Love never fails.

« Older EntriesNewer Entries »