Mazatlan restaurants can be found throughout the city. If you are a visitor, you will most likely be eating in one of the many restaurants and cafes concentrated around the main tourist sites. While purists might tell you that you should eat in places where the locals eat, there are many excellent places to eat in the areas where tourists congregate, whether it’s around Mazatlan hotels and resorts, along the city’s beautiful beaches, or in the city itself. The food of Mexico is known around the world, and each region has its own specialties. Mazatlan is in the state of Sinaloa, located along the northwestern coast of the country across the Gulf of California from La Paz and Cabo San Lucas on the Baja Peninsula. Because of this location, seafood plays an important role in the local cuisine, and much of the best food in Mazatlan will offer dishes made from the bounty of the sea.
You can find good seafood everywhere, but you may want to head for one of the many Mazatlan restaurants along the coast in order to soak up the atmosphere of the sea while you dine. These will be found along the Malecon, the six-mile-long seaside promenade. In the center of this strip is Playa Norte (North Beach), home to numerous seafood restaurants that draw both tourists and locals. A signature feature of the area is the palapa restaurant. A palapa is an open-sided structure under a thatched roof made of dried palm leaves, and this provides one of the most typical seaside places to dine. If you enjoy surfing and want a more laid back dining experience, you might head to the end of the Malecon and Playa Olas Atlas. Here you will find more seafood restaurants. What seafood should you look for? Start with ceviche and just about any other dish featuring shrimp (camarones). Look for shrimp tamales and tacos, shrimp baskets, and the traditional aguachile shrimp cocktail made with onion, chili, cucumbers, and lime. Shredded shrimp and fish is also quite popular. One thing about enjoying your seafood along the Malecon is that you will also be able to enjoy the spectacular sunsets for which this region is famous. Mexico has almost 7,000 miles of coastline and the fishing is excellent, drawing thousands of visitors. Because of this you will find that seafood is a major component of Mexican cuisine.
Some of the best food in Mazatlan will also be found in the Centro Historico where the finest architecture and most of the city attractions are located. There are fine restaurants (especially around Plaza Machado, which also boasts great nightlife) located in beautifully restored colonial buildings that, of course, serve traditional seafood dishes. Other traditional fare to look for includes meat dishes that utilize the locally raised pork, beef, and poultry. Look for chiloria, fried pulled pork slow cooked in a variety of spices and served with fresh warm tortillas; machaca, sun-dried shredded spiced meat; and grilled beef and chicken. Look for small neighborhood restaurants called cenadurias that usually open late in the afternoon and close in the wee hours of the morning or whenever they run out of food. Much of the food for these restaurants is apt to have been prepared in the owner’s own home and brought to the restaurant. Sometimes, the “restaurant” actually consists of a table or two on the sidewalk in front of someone’s home. These kinds of establishments can be found throughout Latin America, from Cuba and Puerto Rico to Mexico and Panama.
Dining on the Beach
If you want a truly local experience, try the Mercado Central (Central Market) in the central historic district. Here are stalls for just about everything imaginable—fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and poultry, and spices. You will also find nopal, a vegetable derived from cactus, and pitayas, a cactus fruit. If you have opted for vacation rentals like one of the many condos available, it’s possible to enjoy some of the best food in Mazatlan in your own kitchen when you shop like the locals do at the Central Market. There are family run Mazatlan restaurants on the second floor of the Central Market. Here, you can get superb, home-cooked meals—the same food served at pricey restaurants for a fraction of the price. Also look for sweets and desserts. Fruit preserves, a variety of candy made from sugar cane, flour and corn cookies, rice and bread puddings, and milk candies are popular. You will also find a couple dozen varieties of mangoes in Sinaloa. Coconut is an ingredient in many main dishes, drinks, and sweets. And, of course, don’t forget the excellent Mexican beers.