Friday, June 18, 2010

Eatin' and Drinkin' in Mazatlan, Mexico

You know what they say: when in Rome…. So if you hate chips and salsa and margaritas, um, well – Mazatlan may not be for you.

Plaza Machado in Old Mazatlan has a cluster of restaurants.  We needed some refreshment and food and settled on Pacifico taco bar, which didn’t really have much in the way of tacos. The food wasn’t bad and the beer was good. It was charming to see Coca-Cola still served in the returnable glass bottles. Ahh… the good old days! Also around the square was  Pedro y Lola’s. P&L’s comes up on most of the guides as a great place to stop, but the menu didn’t impress me: lots of “American” dishes like hamburgers and such. The people watching in the plaza can be fun: we saw three different groups of school kids go by and all sorts of locals and U.S. retirees.
 Coca-Cola in a bottle: so retro and awesome

North of the Old town is Zona Dorado (Gold Zone) - which is also often called "Tourist Zone" on some maps. In the Zona, we had the worst timeshare hard-press sell of our entire trip in Mazatlan. Unfortunatly, we were at a restaurant when it happened and we were trapped. We had a very good dinner at Gus y Gus: the garlic shrimp was to die for and the salsa was spicy with good flavor. The corn tortillas were a bit bland, but the margaritas made up for that. We were one of about three tables with customers, so it was a quiet night. We'd enjoyed ourselves and were waiting for the bill when the manager on duty (or whatever he was) came by to see how things were ... and then it happened. A good 15 minutes of timeshare blah blah blah blah blah blah. I was livid. We were paying customers in the restaurant, we couldn't leave because our bill had not arrived and the guy ignored all of our "not interested" statements. So while the food was good, that soured the whole group on ever going back.

Also in the Zona, we stopped in for some guacamole and drinks at Arre Lulu. Not bad, the guac was a bit bland but the margaritas were good! We journeyed to the The Sheik one night at the south end of the Zona, only to find it padlocked. It was a Friday night, so I'm not sure what was going on - they may have been shut for low-season. If anyone stops by there and they are open again - let me know! The Sheik came up a highly recommended, most romantic, etc. so we were really looking forward to trying it. With The Sheik closed, we wandered until we found Las Lupitas. It looked nice, menu looked good so we tried it. Big fail. The service was friendly but they forgot about 50% of what we ordered or got things wrong. The food was over-priced for what it was and boring at best, bad at worst.
Outside of the Zona, we visited Seafarer, on the El Cid Marina. This is a sister restaurant to Pedro y Lola and has a nice atmosphere, built on the water and over the water. The wine menu was "meh" but the steaks were decent. Mine came with a white sauce that was actually a little bland, but the steak didn't really need it. Heading further north, the Palapa bar at the condo resort, Paraiso Costa Bonita, had an AMAZING fish and chips: the fish was a whole filet, lightly breaded and pan-friend. Very, very tasty.

The best experience though, was in La Noria: the molcajete at El Sazon de la Abuela Tina. This was so good, I wrote a separate blog post about it (with video). It was, by far, the best meal I had in Mazatlan. 
Molcajete - the best!!

Overall, chips and salsa and margaritas were everywhere. Most of the salsa fresca was very mild, though occasionally we'd come across something with some kick, like the salsa we got at Gus y Gus. The margaritas varied: a couple of places seemed to use seltzer water or Sprint in the drink, most places used lime juice and only once or twice did we come across a place that used the nasty "sweet and sour" mix that is used in the U.S. The guacamole was usually just avocado and maybe some cilantro and a touch of lime. I like mine with jalapenos and tomatoes and onions, so we would often mix the salsa fresca with the guac and ended up with a winning combo.

Mazatlan bills itself as the "shrimp capital of the world" and it did live up to that - the shrimp was extremely good everywhere we went. Skip the burritos and enchiladas if you find them, go with the local seafood and dishes when you can and try to find the places outside the tourist zones!

-- Cheers!

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