Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives: Isla Mujeres
~ By Madison
Coming from Texas, I have been blessed (or cursed, depending) with the limited diet of brisket, fried chicken and various heavily-buttered dishes. I was excited to be exposed to something new and different with the island cuisine of Isla Mujeres. Eating at different places around the island has helped not only with becoming acquainted with the geography, but also meeting new people and has most definitely enhanced the experience of living on Isla Mujeres. The food on the island varies greatly, as it caters to the wishes of tourists from all over the world, but the overall dining experience is much different from the United States. Here, the food brings people together and serves as a stepping stone in creating and maintaining relationships through nightly gatherings. I have found myself enjoying longer meals and learning more and more about my roommates, as we are surrounded by an environment encouraging sociability each time we eat together. The restaurants do not put pressure on its patrons to hurry along, which only furthers the leisurely atmosphere of the island and the community feel of the various places we frequent.
When my brother came to visit earlier this month, we were able to try a restaurant called Limón just a few blocks from where we live. Although the food was amazing (strongly recommend the tuna wraps and the pineapple dessert), the overall feeling of the restaurant is what we remember most. The restaurant is very small and easy to miss, but has a very outdoor eating area with gentle lights and a grill amongst the customers. As we ate, the head chef came over and introduced himself and when I told him I was living nearby and working as the English teacher for Julio Saurí, he immediately made me feel very welcome. He introduced me to a waiter who lived in the same neighborhood and assured me I could come to either of them if I ever needed anything. He was extremely friendly and genuine in his kindness towards helping me, and allowed me to feel more at ease with asking locals for help or support.
Also close to our house is a small corner store which serves authentic Mexican dishes. The combination of the cheap price, great taste and short distance from the house, we have become regulars. The women make all of the dishes fresh; you can watch them press the tortillas just before they are served. The food is wonderful, but one of my favorite aspects of eating here is the feeling of being a part of the community; I have yet to see another tourist there, which can be refreshing. Every time I go, I see many of my students and I love to hear them say “How are you” and practice their English. We can see the students going onto the soccer fields across the street and have stayed to watch a few games. I think eating here has definitely helped me to build a relationship with the students at school, as I often hear them talking to each other and saying “I saw her last night!” or “She was at my soccer game!”. Overall, the whole environment of Isla Mujeres can be felt in the various eateries and restaurants, and this exploration has really helped me to become more of a citizen of the island rather than a visitor.