Before there were ferries and before there was refrigeration, Holboxeños used to eat the eggs of wild birds, all kinds of fish, and on a special night, a manatee that could feed the whole town. There are other protein options now.
Keep in mind that lunch in Mexico is the big meal of the day, usually eaten around 2 p.m. Dinner is typically a smaller snack, like a taco. Or three. If you’re looking for breakfast, click here.
Raices Beach Club
It was over a whole grilled fish at Raices, the garlic wafting from the table, our toes in the sand, sol beers at our sides, that my friend Sophie asked, “what did they listen to on tropical islands before reggae?”
Raices has a raised Jamaican flag, whole fish hanging on a line curing in the sun, and a constant playlist of reggae which never gets old on an island (well, at least not in a week). Everything is brought in that morning and prepared in the open air on the grill or frying in a cast-iron pan just behind the palapa bar. The ceviche is good, but ceviche tastes the same about anywhere on the island. The whole grilled fish (sea trout the day we were there) smothered in garlic, with tortillas on the side is where it’s at. The pricing is by person, for two it was about $15.
While he’s only been open for a few months, Chef Jose’s cooking seems to only still be a secret to tourists. Islanders are here in force enjoying the $4 daily meal which includes a soup, an entrée and a drink. Inside the bright coral fisherman’s collective building is a family-owned restaurant where Chef Jose offers a full seafood menu and displays his time cooking all over the world as a navy cook with his daily specials. Originally from Veracruz, there’s a little more umph in some of the dishes here, like the shrimp in ajillo and guajillo sauce, one of the more flavor-packed seafood dishes I had all week. Open from 1 pm- 5 pm. Near the plaza, you can ask for the cooperativa de pescadores.
As the stars come out so do the street vendors surrounding the plaza with carts and piles of carnitas, poc chuc and cochinita pibil. They’re fun to sample, but for more consistent flavor head around the corner to the island’s most popular evening taco joint. The tacos al pastor come bright red-orange from the achiote marinade, freshly cut off the trompo (a spit that cooks in front of a vertical grill) , and served with a medallion of pineapple. Check out the back of the menu for an evening read on the history of “el burro” a less grotesque version of a burrito (that is hilariously wrapped in about seven taco-sized tortillas when you ask for corn tortillas).
Antojitos el Abuelo Tom
My usual motto in Mexico is the farther from the plaza, the less touristy and the better. Holbox is so tiny that far from the plaza means more than two blocks. The only menu you’ll get here is the satellite shaped sign hanging above the rickety wood fence that advertises salbutes, panuchos and sopes. Here, Margarita and Angelica stand over an open-air comal underneath one florescent light bulb busting out various forms of masa topped with BBQ and shredded chicken. People sit in plastic chairs in the patio, inside kids are watching television. The panuchos and sopes are hand-pressed but but fall apart underneath the weight of the toppings. Still, I could have eaten full plate alone of the asado, crispy cubes of BBQ chicken.
Local prices here, about $1-2 per dish. Opens at 7 p.m.
El Hornito Argentina
There are a ton of Italians on Holbox, which is why you’ll see signs for pizza everywhere, lobster pizza in particular. I’m not typically interested in having pizza in Mexico, but El Hornito Argentina (right on the plaza) wood-fires empanadas and thin-crust pizzas. Go for the Española with jamón serrano , and grab a mojito. The owner here used to be a waiter at one of the hotels my friends used to stay at, which makes me like this place more.
Hamburguesas La Lupita
What? You didn’t pause while eating your last hamburger and think, you know what this needs? Nacho cheese, and hey, maybe some cream cheese too. Lupita is a street stall owned by a lively couple, with wood stools surrounding a 6 -person table and a hand painted sign illuminated by blue christmas lights. The thin patty comes with Oaxaca cheese and American cheese melted together, nacho cheese (ewww), cream cheese, a slice of grilled ham, pineapple, and grilled onions. While Sophie recovered from adding too much habanero to her burger half, our dining companion insisted that we look at his can of juice to note that it’s “natural y no es cerveza” (its natural, it’s not beer) as if it were some kind of evidence to counter his drunken stuper. When I asked where our hamburger vendors were from (Lupita from Veracruz, her partner from Chiapas) he broke into his favorite song from Veracruz which sounded to me like something along the lines of “tan tan tan” and Lupita quickly shut him down. “That’s from Tabasco, idiot!” Making us all crack up and giving him his cue to go home. Life is too silly to not give into a four-cheese hamburger. Opens at 6 PM.
Read my post about fine dining with your toes in the sand here.