For the popular Mayan seafood preparation called tikinxic (pronounced “teek-en-sheek”), possibly originating in the northern port city of Progreso, a large white-fleshed fish (like red snapper or grouper) is rubbed with achiote (a scarlet-hued paste made with annatto seeds, sour orange, garlic, and other seasonings; also known around here as recado rojo) and then cooked, traditionally wrapped in banana leaves and baked in a pit. Nowadays you are more likely to encounter a grill, for which the fish is butterflied and flattened into a grill basket for easy even cooking. No matter the 21st century development—this is a delicious way to dig into some of the area’s local catches, and a can’t-miss local Yucatecan dish.
Where: Playa Lancheros (998-274-0018; Carretera el Garrafón, approx. map), about midway down the western side of Isla Mujeres, is particularly celebrated for this dish. The fish is grilled over hot coals in a shed behind the restaurant, a spacious indoor-outdoor affair on the water. Note: It depends on the season, but during our visit in March the flies were quite bad on the beach here once the food came out, making the dining experience almost unbearable. We asked to sit in front of the (indoor) fan, and the problem was solved.
When: Daily, 10am-6pm
Order: This restaurant notoriously serves you way too much fish. For two, our server recommended a kilo (180p per kg), and there was no way we were going to be able to finish what ultimately hit our table—especially when you consider the cole slaw, rice (or buttery mashed potatoes if the rice runs out), and pile of tortillas that accompany the order. Served with tongs, the fish (coronado, or kingfish, during our visit) easily pulls apart in hunks; throw them into a tortilla and repeat. (Guacamole and hot sauce take these tacos to the next level, FYI.) The seasoning on the fish—achiote, lime, and salt—is mild but lovely.
Alternatively: Also on Isla, we enjoyed a 15p tikinxic taco from a vendor on Av. Morelos at the corner of Hidalgo (map)—definitely a more economical way of tasting this dish! Look for tikinxic in the fishing village-like enclave of Puerto Juarez in north Cancún as well; Restaurante Tsunami Azul is one spot offering it.
More: See 16 other essential dishes and drinks from the Yucatán Peninsula.