¡Prospero año Nuevo! The reason we haven’t been writing lately is because we got out of town this holiday season – way out! As a recently certified diver I wanted to try out my new skillz and so based on extensive research (AKA asking diving friends) we chose Cozumel. Following Santa out at the butt crack of dawn on Christmas Day we began our journey. Two flights, two holiday movies (Elf & Gremlins, much to the carnivore’s dismay) and a couple of cocktails later we landed in Cancun. A taxi, a ferry and two more drinks later we arrived in Cozumel. Now you might be asking, why aren’t we creating a separate post for each restaurant we deemed worthy of reviewing? Well the answer is two-fold. First we didn’t think there would be more than one that was truly worthy. Second we are lazy! But really, it was amazing what hospitality particularly I was shown in this country that I had suspected might be difficult to navigate with my needs. I did predict (accurately) that I would eat a lot of guacamole. And there’s nothing wrong with that (shut up waistline, you don’t know!)
🍠🍠🍠 Okay enough of my ramblings. I won’t go into detail of every restaurant as we were there four full days. Consider this a highlight reel of the restaurants. Our first morning of diving was spectacular and while I knew immediately it was my new love, I also realized that I would be voraciously hungry afterwards. We cleaned up quickly and took a taxi to the one place I had seen on one of my favorite local blogs (Lazy Smurf), Playa Azul. It took a bit to figure out the place I had read about as the beach café looked at me like I had a second head when I asked about vegan options. I knew I had found it though when the menu had its own “vegano” section (it’s the inside restaurant). I excitedly ordered the quinoa tacos and munched on chips and guac while I waited. They are quite literal in the description “with tomato and coriander”. These tacos reminded me of great Spanish rice that often comes as a side with beans in our typical Tex-Mex restaurant in the states. They were tasty but I felt I needed more substance and flavor so I added guacamole and some hot sauce that came with the appetizer. This helped quite a bit. I give Playa Azul three rutabagas for having a special vegan section to their menu and for the meal being filling. I may have ordered poorly but my feedback to gain a higher rating would be to add some more flavor, possibly some beans? Perhaps that is my American girl side showing.
🍠🍠🍠🍠 For the rest of the trip we were at a disadvantage as that was my only researched option and without the internet at the ready (we were wifi only down there) it was a bit of a challenge. But by George we rose to it! That evening after a little siesta time in the room we were ready to explore and most importantly eat again. We sauntered from street vendor to street vendor, perusing menus and refusing their insistent pleas for our patronage. Finally we found what we began to refer to as Pizza Hut street (now I know it was Calle 3 Sur). Pizza Hut street was a great street that was perpendicular to the coast and was less difficult to navigate as you traveled inland. I believe this is why we had such good luck here. We passed a modern looking restaurant called Sal D Mar and some English speaking folks outside assured us that they had just eaten there and that we should try it. A humble fellow ushered us in and showed us a menu. I didn’t see much and when we shared my dietary restrictions, he quickly rushed off to check with the chef that they could accommodate my needs. He returned with the good news and seated us. It turns out he was our waiter and his name was George. Or Jorge. I’m not sure how to spell it but he pronounced it like the American version, George. He took the carnivore’s order, my drink order and left us to observe the beautiful, obviously new, modern atmosphere. I got to enjoy a clean restroom break and was excited for my dinner. It was a gluten free noodle dish with vegetables and a spicy sauce that I can’t quite explain but I’ll do my best. It was not the typical Asian spices that its appearance suggested but rather a possible Indian or Middle Eastern flair of all-spice nature. Whatever it was, it was tasty! I give them four rutabagas for accommodating so well, particularly George, and also for the lovely experience. Oh and the prices were amazing. They would receive a five if they added this dish and maybe another with vegan indicators on the regular menu. Seriously check this place out!
I have two more restaurants to discuss but first I must take a break, a coffee break. You will be happy to know that there is a Starbucks in Cozumel and while it did not appear that they have the almond milk just yet, they certainly had soy (soya) of which I took full advantage. However a taxi driver also informed us of a little place on Pizza Hut street, actually right next to it, called El Coffee Cozumel. This became our regular afternoon stop and they stocked Silk Almond milk for your coffee drinking pleasure. They also had chai which I enjoyed frequently. They only take cash so make sure you hit up the Cashola machine before you go or better yet, hit the atm before arriving in Mexico to avoid the fees.
🍠🍠🍠 Okay back to food. On our second set of dives we dove at night which meant we were out late. It was important to get food quickly as the carnivore had some mask challenges and was needing sustenance asap. Back to Pizza Hut street we found a little bistro called Cielito Lindo. They seated us quickly and when I questioned the server about vegan options (vegetarian was clearly marked) he seemed confused. The more confident English speaker server came over and clarified with me and I ended up ordering vegetable tacos off menu. They were amazing as was the guacamole. The guacamole around town was often quite simplistic and even bland but this was seasoned deliciously. The tacos had a variety of vegetables including cauliflower and mushrooms. I left very sated and give them a solid three rutabagas for accommodation and flavor.
🍠🍠🍠 Finally I will share one last experience. On our last dive we met some Americans who had been away from home for a while and shared that after like five days in a row of tacos they were ready for something else. While normally I would shun this talk declaring blasphemy, the carnivore was intrigued and admittedly I was feeling a need for something different. They spoke of a place called Del Sur Parilla Argentina and how they enjoyed a delicious burger. Now to be fair, this did not sound vegan friendly but I knew Larry was itching for a burger and so I helped him find it with my eagle eye. When we arrived for dinner I checked the menu out and then called the waiter over to begin my questioning. Again he was wary and went to get the manager who spoke with me about options. I ended up ordering a corn empanada as an appetizer, then grilled vegetables and papas fritas for my main meal. While this sounds hodge-podge I must say it was a delight to have something different. The corn empanada was light and delicious with just a bit of spicy chimichurri dipping sauce. The roasted vegetables were well seasoned, in fact almost too much so which is rare for veggies. And the fries, oh the fries. They really hit the spot. They even brought us ketchup. Also on a side note, this was the best sangria in town – I highly recommend it. For these reasons, I give them three rutabagas.
Overall this trip was amazing and not just for the dives (Thanks Deep Blue!) or the hotel (Thanks Casa Mexicana!) but also the hospitality of the people and how they were up to the challenge of meeting a hungry vegan’s needs. We cannot wait to return.
Well, it’s official! Him Carnivore Her Vegan is international!! (hint hint Travel Channel) The vegan and I took the show on the road this past holiday season, and visited our neighbors to the south for some Mexican eats and fun in the sun. As this was our first venture outside the US for critique and commentary, we opted to chronical the various eateries enjoyed during our trip, and to also make a summary judgment about the opportunities for meat eaters and plant killers to dine in harmony on the island of Cozumel. Candidly, I was leery of how successful our quest would be but I am pleased to say that, on multiple occasions, my skepticism was proved unnecessary, if not flat out wrong. The following is a series of vignettes about some of the Mexican restaurants we tried and enjoyed during our trip.
🐮🐮 Playa Azul – The vegan sourced this location via a vegan friendly website that she follows – “Lazy Smurf”. We had been advised that this was a quality choice inasmuch as there were “vegano” options identified on the menu, and the food was reported to be quite tasty. While Kellie had some sort of a plant based taco concoction, I opted for fish tacos since the restaurant was no more than 50 yards from the water’s edge. My tacos were fine. Not much more to say about my meal then that, it was fine. The staff was rather unengaging but, since we were dining late in the afternoon, I got the feeling that the A-team wasn’t working that shift. Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm also has something to do with the fact that we were seated downwind from The Marlboro Man and, though the fish in my tacos was not smoked, by the end of the meal I smelled more like an ashtray than the salt water in which we had frolicked all morning. I’m disappointed to say that Mexican culture still has not shaken itself from its embrace of the cancer stick. Playa Azul is awarded two cow faces.
On our second night on the island we opted to stroll along the tourist laden streets and pick an eatery on the fly. If you’ve never been to Cozumel, I assure you that this approach is not for the faint of heart. The streets are lined with “hawkers” trying to entice you into their respective shops or restaurants, and they are nothing if not persistent. I understand this is their job, and they do it with a sense of sincerity for the most part. The locals understand that their livelihood, in large part, depends upon the tourists frequenting their location, so they beseech each passerby with a welcome greeting and a brief explanation of their shop or eatery. I found this charming, at first. . . . . .
🐮🐮🐮🐮 It was on a side street that we came upon our second notable dining experience, Sal D Mar . I mention the “street hawkers” only because we chose this restaurant without an employee asking us to come inside. Rather the enticement came from a random group of three American customers who had just eaten and were leaving the restaurant. They saw the vegan and I looking at the menu and remarked how wonderful their meal was. Upon receiving an unsolicited recommendation from a satisfied trio of patrons, we felt obliged to give it a shot. I can’t begin to tell you how pleased I am that we did! Sal D Mar appears to be one of the newer restaurants in the area – modern amenities and architecture – and the staff was as helpful and inviting as they could be. Our waiter was a gentleman named Jorge, and he did an excellent job serving us. When we asked him about the vegan options, he left us for a moment to chat with the chef. Upon returning, he assured us that the chef could accommodate the vegan’s dietary needs and was anxious to ensure that we were 100% satisfied. After considerable input from Jorge, I settled upon the pork spare rib with mellow rice. It was fantastic!! The meat was succulent and rich, as though the tasty pig had been bathed in honey milk before being placed over the fire. It’s been three weeks since we ate there, and I am salivating as I write this post. It was AMAZING.
The hospitality and service provided by Jorge, coupled with the delicious food gets Sal D Mar four cow faces from this carnivore. This one is a MUST TRY for anyone visiting Cozumel.
🐮🐮🐮 Our third night found us wandering the streets of Cozumel with a purpose. We met a group of Americans on our dive boat that morning and they raved about an Argentinian restaurant that happened to be walking distance from our hotel. It took a little exploring to locate the address but we soon came upon Del Sur Parilla Argentina. Please believe me when I tell you that you have never enjoyed an empanada until you have one of the tasty pastries from this establishment. It truly was the best thing I ate on the island. Perhaps even more enjoyable than the empanada was the sangria that they made fresh for us when we ordered. It was tart yet sweet. Tangy yet smooth and filled with chunks of fresh fruit that tasted as though it was picked that very morning. The staff was gregarious and fun, and quick to explain the subtle differences between Mexican and Argentinian fare. It is here that I must share with you the mistake that I made while dining at Del Sur. The scuba divers that referred us to Del Sur were nice guys and they insisted that the hamburger (yes, hamburgers) at Del Sur were the best they had ever eaten. As I find it difficult to resist a good burger, I decided to follow their recommendation and give it a try. I was disappointed. This is NOT an indictment of the restaurant. Rather it is a sad statement about my inability to embrace the culture that surrounded me and let go of my American habits and preferences. The next time I go to Del Sur (and I WILL be back) I will try one of the many Argentinian dishes that they offer. Based upon the empanadas and sangria, I know the traditional fare will be remarkable. I was and am disappointed that my closed mindedness likely kept me from truly discovering a gem on the streets of Cozumel. Del Sur receives a very respectable three cow faces. Imagine how many it would receive if I had ordered the right meal!!
I also want to give a shout out to our hotel – Casa Mexicana. While not a beach front property – this was a work trip, and not a vacation, after all – the accommodations and staff were wonderful. Very friendly and happy to assist two Americans as we learned a bit about their culture and traditions. One especially noteworthy aspect of our stay at Casa Mexicana was the breakfast that they offer each morning. I looked forward to it every day because the food was fresh, hot and served by a team of people who truly seem to love their jobs. Of course, the fact that the migas were the best I have ever eaten didn’t hurt either.
VIVA LA MEXICO!!!