In Cancun, a city where many restaurants close within a year of opening, La Habichuela is a bonafide dining institution. Owner Armando Pezzotti arrived in Cancun when there were just a handful of hotels in existence and opened La Habichuela in 1977 in the building that was his home.
The garden at La Habichuela recalls "A Midsummer Night's Dream" — Photo courtesy of Kristin Busse
La Habichuela's decor is warm, unique and inviting. The garden (Don't sit anywhere else.) recalls A Midsummer Night's Dream, with it's thick jungle foliage, twinkling white lights and white wrought iron furniture.
You don't have to dress in your finest attire; snappy casual will do. But leave the bathing suit and flip-flops in the resort.
This isn't your run-of-the-mill fine dining restaurant. All of the recipes are based on family and local traditions, using the freshest Mexican and Mayan ingredients, some thousands of years old. Each dish is made with loving care, and this comes through in each and every bite.
There are so many delicious offerings, it's difficult to choose. So bring a friend and share.
A margarita must be ordered on the rocks, with a salted rim — Photo courtesy of Kristin Busse
As far as appetizers go, the Crepa de Huitlacoche ("Corn Smut Crepe") is a must-try, simply due to the fact that huitlacoche is an ancient Aztec delicacy. The seafood ceviche (marinated, raw seafood) is scumptious as well.
La Habichuela's signature dish, the heavenly Cocobichuela, is practically an obligation. Chunks of lobster and shrimp are cooked in curry sauce and served in a fresh coconut with rice and tropical fruits.
Then again, it would be a shame to miss the Filete de Mero al Amaranto, or grouper coated in amaranth and almonds and topped with tropical fruits, all sitting on a bed of tamarind and mango sauce.
Filete de Mero al Amaranto — Photo courtesy of Kristin Busse
The dessert tray is loaded with scumptious choices, but the perfect end to a meal at La Habichuela is the Kukulcan Pyramid, a dark chocolate pyramid filled with amaretto cream, served with refreshing mint ice cream and crisp cookies. This must be followed by the spectacular, flaming and original (Yes, they invented it.) Mayan Coffee, which is served for two.
La Habichuela is tucked in Cancun's downtown area in Parque las Palapas ("Palapas Park"), and it can be reached easily by bus and a short stroll, or a taxi if you want to be dropped at the front door. Anyone you ask should know where the restaurant is located.
La Habichuela Sunset, the Hotel Zone version of the original, opened just a few years ago; it's located at kilometer 12.6 of Boulevard Kukulcan.
Kulkucan Pyramid dessert — Photo courtesy of Kristin Busse