Mazatlan has many great restaurants loved by tourists, and other restaurants loved by locals.
A couple of the more popular restaurants with tourists include Pancho’s and Mr. Lionso – both with two locations – the Golden Zone and downtown for the former, Playa Bruja and downtown for the former. I’ve dined at both establishments, and found them to be good. And those are only two — there are several more.
But here are three alternatives where the middle-class locals dine for lunch or dinner. I’m no foodie by any stretch, and what follows simply is my opinion – and Tedly’s opinion – on a few places locals like.
1. El Muchacho Alegre
An Uber driver told us about this spot. He didn’t speak any English, but I know enough Spanish by now to know what he said – ‘that’s where the locals go for seafood and celebrations.’ (And it happens to be close to our rental.)
Tedly says it’s the best ceviche he’s ever had. He has eaten a lot of ceviche over the years, so you can bank his recommendation. (Before I went vegetarian, I ate a lot of ceviche, too, and our tastes are similar.)
There is nothing vegetarian on the menu — everything has seafood in it – even the guacamole and quesadillas. But, the kitchen was accommodating and made those dishes for me sin camaron (without shrimp). The food was all excellent on our first visit. However, on our second visit, my quesadillas were less than average, but the guacamole was still great and so was Tedly’s lip-smackin’, piled-high plate of ceviche. It may not be fair to ding this restaurant too much for my unsatisfying second visit, because this place specializes in seafood, not vegetarian food.
All of our food, a couple beers for Tedly, soda for me, and tip came to $20.50 USD, the second visit. Our first visit, not knowing how big the ceviche would be, Tedly also ordered fish tacos so the bill was a few dollars higher.
A note about the atmosphere at El Muchacho Alegre — it’s wild and loud and happy. Locals go here precisely for the loud – and I do mean loud – live music, balloon clown, birthday celebrations, free shots and more.
Here is a short video to illustrate this lively place right on the water. The tables at the back, as you’ll see in the video, have the best view.
This place gets packed Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, so you may have to wait for a table.
El Muchacho Alegre is on Paseo Claussen a tad south of the Fishermen Monument and basketball courts, on the malecon (boardwalk). A map is here.
2. Mariscos Tono
You just might be the only gringo here. Tedly has ordered ceviche here a few times and he says it’s a close second to El Muchacho Alegre.
Since it’s a seafood joint, this place also did not have a single thing on the menu without seafood or meat. And, they don’t offer guacamole of any kind. But they did make me the best tasting (not greasy) quesadillas with yummy, real cheese. In fact, this might be the best place for quesadillas in town – they really were that good. Often, the cheese is cheap and the tortillas are greasy – sometimes even deep fried (yikes! Avoid that and make sure to ask for quesadillas a la plancha, or grilled.) My plate was accompanied with a small side of lettuce, tomatoes, and onion.
All of our food, beer for Tedly, and water for me, came to under $14 USD.
Seating is limited at Marisoc Tono. There are only a couple of small tables inside. Most of the seating is outside on the roadside (bottom right of the second picture below). I have a feeling that’s a deterrent for most Americans looking for a big, comfy chair indoors.
This is more of a lunch place – or an early dinner spot. They close, as of this writing, at 7:00 p.m.
This sweet spot is small a block back from Paseo Claussen, onGuillermo Nelso at 16 de Septiembre. A map is here.
3. La Callecita Cenaduria
This place is a gem. It has five stars on English language Trip Advisor, but from the reviews, it’s clear this one is on the gringo radar. Still, we were the only gringos there when we went on a week night around 6:00 p.m.
Tedly had the pozole, which had what he called huge, tasty meat chunks. He also had a couple of gorditas, which he enjoyed. Again – for me – nothing vegetarian was on the menu. But the waiter offered a burritos with potatoes and veggies so that’s what I had, and it was great. I would definitely go back and have it again.
But— it’s the dessert that put me over the edge – the guava pie. Oh. My. Gosh. Get a slice of this pie! I’m not really a pie person (although Tedly’s mom makes excellent pies and I do enjoy those.)
All of our food, drinks, and tip, came to $18 USD.
Seating is limited. There are a few tables outside on the curb, and the main seating area is upstairs, over a family’s home. The open-air kitchen is on the second floor, and you’ll walk right by it on the way to a table. One small table for two or three people overlooks the side to the street.
This place is for a late lunch or early dinner. As of this writing, they open at 2:00 p.m. Whatever you order, save room for that guava pie.
La Callecita Cenaduria is at 73 Venus, a couple of blocks east of the malecon downtown. A map is here.
A word about vegetarian options around town
There are a few vegetarian restaurants around town, but I haven’t sought them out. One day I was craving tofu, so I went to Muralla – a Chinese food restaurant in the Golden Zone. They didn’t offer tofu on the menu, but when I asked if they had, they did, so I ordered a dish with tofu instead of meat. It was great. But here again, I had to ask for a vegetarian option, just as I did with all three restaurants above.
Vegetarian options are definitely not popular in the restaurants that do not cater to gringos. But there are a wide array of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes in various restaurants all over the Golden Zone, where the tourists stay, and also downtown around Plaza Muchado, where many retired gringos live.
While we have eaten at a few of those restaurants, such as La Bohemia (known for excellent thin-crust pizza) and Casa 46 (more upscale dining), both on Plaza Muchado, there are tons of reviews about these places (and others) already out there on the internet.
I wrote about the three restaurants above simply because they are (mostly) under the gringo radar, or because they got bum reviews by gringos expecting I-don’t-know-what.
Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone and go eat where the locals eat in Mazatlan. Walk down any street off the water or away from the downtown plaza and just observe which places are full of diners. That’s usually a strong indication of excellent eats.
(***As always, I get nothing in return for my honest opinion – or Tedly’s opinion – in these reviews, unlike other travel bloggers.)