Cocina de Autor is hidden away in a residential neighborhood in downtown Cancun. A hotel concierge may not typically recommend this restaurant to guests, but this is one of the best dining establishments in all of Cancun. Chef Cristian Morales personally attends to guests and also acts as Sommelier. Entrees range from 20 to 50 USD. If you'd like to try a bit of everything, a degustation menu is available for about 65 USD/person. Morales' enticing Argentinean - Pre-hispanic Mexican dishes will please even the most discriminating foodie. A visit to elegant Cocina de Autor will be a highlight of your vacation.
Recommended for Downtown because: Cocina de Autor is one of Cancun's secrets. This is one of the best restaurants in the city.
Kristin's expert tip: There is limited seating on the patio so if you wish to dine outdoors reservations are a must.
This small, romantic Italian restaurant has long been a favorite spot for locals, but it is popular with tourists as well. Located right on the bus route, in downtown Cancun, it is just a few blocks away from the entrance to the Hotel Zone and is very easy to find. It's a great place for a nice lunch (they open at 1pm), a family gathering, a romantic dinner or even a marriage proposal. The restaurant only has seating for 80 people so it is definitely an intimate setting. Soft music plays in the background while you enjoy a superb meal and live "la dolce vita" (the sweet life).
Recommended for Downtown because: La Dolce Vita Centro is popular with both tourist and locals and has been open for many years.
Susan's expert tip: Don't spend money on a cab. Take any bus on the ocean side in the Hotel Zone, get off at the first stop downtown and walk 1/2 block south.
Hidden in an upscale neighborhood in downtown Cancun, Marakame is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They even deliver. This indoor/outdoor restaurant is great for an event, like a baby shower or birthday, a family breakfast or a romantic dinner. Thursday-Saturday nights they feature live music outside under the twinkling lights in the trees. Marakame features an extensive menu of pasta, seafood, salads, pizza and a fully stocked bar. The ambiance is welcoming and relaxing. Leave your board shorts and flip flops at the hotel, this crowd is casual but fashionable. To arrive, take the bus, get off at the first stop downtown and then take a 25 peso taxi to the restaurant.
Recommended for Downtown because: You can't beat Marakame's ambiance, and they offer an extensive menu.
Kristin's expert tip: Visit on Friday or Saturday evening and sit in the garden, the live music starts at 10 pm.
Julia Mia is Cancun's newest Mexican restaurant and is quickly becoming a local favorite. Owners Lupita and Irma Chavez, sisters from Guadalara, opened Julia Mia in June. The restaurant features contemporary Mexican food, but never forgets to incorporate traditional flavors and ingredients. The inspiration behind Julia Mia (My Julia) is a woman "that's not afraid of anything or anyone, she enjoys ilfe and her traditional Mexican drink, tequila, as well as the best selection of recipes from Mexico which integrate tastes and smells, always respecting and honoring each ingredient." Expect to be wowed by the tostadas, flautas, sopes, quesadillas, enchiladas, sea bass tacos, blue crab taquitos, roast corn soup, red pozole, chicken with mole, salmon al pastor, corn smut and goat cheese ravioli, garlic octopus fettuccini, and scrumptious desserts like flan, chocolate volcano, and chocolate truffles with mole and churros. Julia Mia is open daily from 1 pm to 12 am.
Recommended for Downtown because: You can beat Julia Mia's upscale Mexican food and charming ambiance.
Kristin's expert tip: Visit Julia Mia on Friday night when they feature live Mariachi music.
This small French restaurant is tucked away on a quiet side street in downtown Cancun and is operated by a Parisian who arrived in Cancun some 30 years ago. Don't be surprised if she's sitting at the door waiting for you when you arrive. The menu is small but the fare is fresh and perfectly prepared. At night the garden area is filled with twinkling lights. The intimate setting is lush with tropical vegetation and is perfect for a romantic date or a quiet dinner with a friend. With an impeccably trained wait staff and french music, L'escargot makes for a delightful evening in Cancun.
Recommended for Downtown because: L'escargot is a hidden treasure. Exquisite French food is served in an intimate atmosphere.
Kristin's expert tip: Call ahead and ask which night they will have live music.
French contemporary restaurant Les Cepages is located on Nichupte Avenue. They serve imaginative dishes made with the freshest, high-quality ingredients. This is fine dining at a much lower price than you will find in the Hotel Zone. Don't miss singature dish Roasted Rack of Lamb with Mint demi-glaze. They are open Monday from 6 to 11pm and Tuesday throught Saturday from 3 to 11pm and are closed Sundays. Due to the size of the dining space, reservations are suggested. To get there, take the R1 or R2 bus to the first stop downtown, then take a taxi to Plaza Nichupte.
Recommended for Downtown because: Les Cepages serves gourmet food at a fraction of Hotel Zone prices.
Kristin's expert tip: Make your reservation online if you are worried about attempting to speak Spanish over the telephone. A reservation form is available on the restaurant's website.
This Italian fusion restaurant has been open since 1989, an eternity in Cancun. The fare can be described as Italian with a Mexican Caribbean influence. The service is impeccable, attentive yet unobtrusive, and the chef always comes out of the kitchen to greet customers and ask if they are enjoying their meal. If you have a taste for something, just ask, the kitchen is very accommodating. This is a great setting to celebrate a birthday or anniversary. If you arrive at 8 pm, you'll wonder where all of the customers are, but by 10 pm Locanda Paolo will be full.
Recommended for Downtown because: Locanda Paolo is an outstanding Italian restaurant where the chef always greets his guests.
Kristin's expert tip: Dress to impress, no shorts or flip-flops here.
Du Mexique is another one of the amazing restaurants on Bonampak avenue in downtown Cancun. This is a lovely place to celebrate a special occasion like an anniversary or birthday. Located in what used to be a house, the divine ambiance, service and food make this restaurant stand out on the endless list of Cancun restaurants. Sonya Grimond and Chef Benjamin prepare and serve the food themselves. There aren't waiters or waitresses. The cuisine is an interesting combination of Mayan and French. Have an appetizer in the lounge or "sala", move to the 20 seat dining room for dinner, and have dessert on the patio. If you would like something special that you don't see on the menu, ask and if it's possible, they will prepare it for you.
Recommended for Downtown because: Du Mexique serves delectable gourmet cuisine at at reduced price.
Kristin's expert tip: Try a Mexican wine with your dinner. Not many people know that Mexico produces some very good wine.
This cozy restaurant is staffed by the owner Peter, his wife Claudia and their son Eder. Dishes include shrimp, fish, veal, beef, vegetarian and pasta and a small but good wine list. Prices are considerably lower than they would be for a restaurant of this caliber in the Hotel Zone. You can easily take the bus to Peter's by getting off at the first stop downtown and walking just a few blocks to their location on Bonampak. Both tourists and locals rave about Peter's and visit again and again. If you are celebrating a special occasion be sure to mention it when making a reservation.
Recommended for Downtown because: Peter's Restaurante is a favorite of both locals and tourists. Dishes are prepared with great care.
Kristin's expert tip: Be sure to make reservations as the charming dining room has only 8 tables.
La Habichuela has been a fixture in Cancun for over 30 years and is located in what was once owner Armando Pezzotti's home. The delightful ambiance which includes Mayan sculptures, trees, plants and twinkling lights can be enjoyed in the open air garden or from the lounge. You'll find high quality food made with the finest ingredients and superb service. The restaurant's signature dish is Cocobichuela, a mixture of lobster, shrimp, rice, curry sauce and tropical fruits, all served in a coconut shell. No meal at La Habichuela is complete without the Chichen Itza dessert and Mayan coffee.
Recommended for Downtown because: La Habichula is always excellent. This is a Cancun dining institution.
Kristin's expert tip: The garden area is lovely. Request a table in that section.