I know you’ll find someplace delicious to eat with the money jingling around in your pocket in Mexico. Eateries abound. It helps to know what type of food each type of establishment specializes in, in order to satisfy that craving you have though.
Breakfast is pretty thin fare in my area. The best you can do is head to a juguetería (juice shop) for some freshly pressed juice or licuados (milky concoctions). If you need a bit of umph to your morning, you can get a pajarete (milk and liquor drink). There are a few cafes now, nothing so fancy as Starbucks, but they don’t open as early as I like to have my breakfast. You can also stop by the panadería (bakery) and pick up some sweet breads and carton de leche (carton of milk).
However, around 9, no matter what the season, it’s a good season for soup for breakfast. Yep, hot soup. Friday through Sunday you’ll see people carrying plastic handled buckets with foil which means they’ve gone and picked up their menudo or pozole for the morning.
During the week, the local birriería (place that serves birriria) is the place to be. Consomé (broth) with carne de chivo (goat meat in guajillo sauce) or montalay (vegetables, usually potatoes, carrots and peas, and ground meat bits in also in guajillo sauce) is one of our favorite morning delights.
Around 10, you might be able to find some places that sell desayunos (breakfasts) or buffets (pronounced bu-fet) with servings of huevos rancheros.
After 11, you can stop in at places that specialize in tortas (sandwiches made with bolillo) or huaraches (larger corn tortilla quesadillas about the size of your huaraches –shoe–hence the name). Loncherías or it’s Spanglish variant luncherías serve a variety of items. We even found a place that only serves tacos de canasta (basket tacos)–delicious!
Rotiserías sell rotisserie chicken and the fixings often include rice, mole, some sort of bland pasta concoction and salsa. Fried chicken can be found at places that sell Pollo Familiar and come with pretty much the same fixings.
The pizzería (pizza place) opens around 1. Don’t be surprised if your pizza comes with ketchup and hot sauce. Apparently it’s the way Mexicans enjoy their Italian pies.
A little later in the day and you can stop by places that sell comida corrida which is the Mexican version of fast food. It’s like a buffet setup with a daily set menu. You can order 2 or 3 guisados (servings)or a la carte to go.
Our town has both a Japanese and Chinese restaurant. The food offered isn’t what you might expect. It has a decidedly Mexican flavor. Spicy chili fried rice? No, thank you. However, as they are both run by people from those respective countries, if you know what to ask for, you can get a damn good authentic meal.
You’ll find some seafood dishes at the ostionería or un restaurante de mariscos or marisquería or even a coctelería. Try ceviche or coctel de camarón there. These establishments do brisk business during Lent when beef and pork are prohibited.
Restaurantes familiares often have a play area for the kids, giving the parents a bit more time to enjoy their meals. Cenadurías are simillar to the loncherías but open later in the day.
Taquerías also open late in the day. Don’t expect to get a taco before noon. Some open around 3 pm while our favorite taco guy doesn’t set up his stall until 7 at night. Tacos are served late into the night, but you need to get their sooner rather than later for tacos de tripa in my experience.
A kermés or quermés are those random side-of-the-road tent establishments that aren’t always there. Typically these spots are run by a few families that donate their proceeds for a cause, like one of the children needs a liver transplant or diasysis treatment. There is usually a sign indicating who will receive the proceeds, or there is supposed to be. These are not regular eating establishments and do not require a restaurant permit. They do have to present their cause to the presidencia (town hall) to get a permit to sell food for the day. The menus is whatever the volunteers cobble together.
On the other hand, there are regular roadside vendors which a variety of menu options. Some in shacks, some under lonas (tarps) and some with carts. Check with locals to see who offers the best food and best prices. We have enjoyed many a good meal perched on wobbly plastic chairs along the side of a dusty road.
Some eating establishments have a Servicio a domicilio (delivery service). Remember the tip rate in Mexico is 10% which is expected for this service. When in doubt on whether you should tip, ask a local. Quite often you can find a jar marked propinas (tips) near the register.
Eating out does have its risk. We’ve had mild food poisoning on a few occasions and not from those roadside stands, but established eateries. Allowing the Garcia effect to keep us safe, we no longer those items that have made us sick at any restaurant. Moctezuma’s revenge has never been an issue, however. Water is sold sealed in a bottle. Ice is made from ice vendors and isn’t any dirtier than the ice from soda dispensers found throughout the US.
Should you wish something other than a meal, you can get ice cream from the nevería, popsicles from the paletería, or gaspachos from the gaspachería. Other vendors sell jugos (juices), cacahuates (peanuts), raspados (shaved flavored ice) garbanzos, elotes (corn ears) and esquites (corn in a cup). You can find mobile fruit vendors with tasty cups of in-season fruit, or mangos with chili powder on a stick, churros (fried dough in long bendy tubes covered in sugar), tamales, camotes (sweet potatoes), churros de maíz (long thin fried corn sticks served with tomatoes, cabbage, and hot sauce) and kettle fried potato chips served with limón, salt and hot sauce. All for just a few pesos. Who needs fast food when you can have freshly prepared delights every single day?