By Dardan Surring
My first taste of Mexican food was probably like many of my Canadian brothers and sisters: soft or hard tacos, with Mexi-fries, from the local “Taco Time” franchise. Having grown up on a solid meat and potatoes diet, this was new, sort of tasty, and you learned quickly not to glob on the Hot Sauce from the little plastic cup.
Then came my first trip to Mexico, at an all inclusive resort on the Mayan Riviera, which was just a higher-end “Taco Time”. The food was much better, but I kept hearing people say, “You have to try real Mexican cooking, you will be surprised.” The closest I came on that adventure, was when my cousin’s husband came back to our table holding a small, yellow pepper, saying, “I brought one for you too Dardo.” We popped them into our mouths and chowed down. Instantly, I stopped breathing, started to cry and felt like the top of my head was about to blow off. Crap! Habaneros, who knew! My friends eyes bulged out of his face (which was now the color of Tiger Woods Sunday shirts), tears streaming down and our wives doubled over with tears as well, but those were from laughing at us. We drank water, beer, milk, ate bread and anything else we thought would help, but the savior was a big batch of soft ice cream that eased the pain and burning. We swore, never again, not realizing what goes in has to come out. We were not jovial the next day or particularly active.
So now we come to Huatulco, where my eyes were opened, food wise, along with whatever taste buds I had left. Finally, authentic Mexican fare, made traditionally for generations. I tried tamales, breakfast tamales, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, tlayudas, coconut shrimp, guacamole, arrachera steak and of course chapulines (grasshoppers). All of it was amazing and strangely not too spicy. There are a multitude of sauces you can use as toppings to add heat to the mix, green, red, brown and other colors, just be careful to test drive them with a dab on your finger before you slosh it on. A little goes a long way!
Over the years, we have tried most of the restaurants in Huatulco and never been disappointed. Those of you who live here all or most of the year have probably done the same. The food is outstanding and many times I would love to bring all the small gems of gastronomical excellence back to Canada for our small population to experience. Wow, those are some big words there, eh?? I would like to point out a few that are always on our list of places to enliven our taste buds. By all means, this is not all we have tried, nor a list that shows a preference from top to bottom, just some that always stand out.
The chicken soup at Los Gallos in La Crucecita, run by a wonderful family, with Alfonso as the patriarch. One of the nicest men you will ever meet. I swear, it will cure every ailment known to man, and the pozole is tremendous.
Schnitzel at Café Viena in Tangolunda. Manfred and Helmut provide Austrian cuisine, with fish, meat and pasta dishes, all with a Mexican touch. Great sitting under the stars.
Café Juanita’s’ “Friday Fish Taco” special, is not to be missed. Jane serves these up with yummy coleslaw, and they melt in your mouth. Just off the square in Santa Cruz.
Teresina’s Pizzas. Barbara’s thin crust and generous toppings, washed down with cold cervezas, makes a great evening. Takes a while to find, but worth the effort.
West Park Café’s breakfasts, croissants and cinnamon buns really start the day, as does the Americano coffee and cappuccino. Max makes almost all of the cups himself, one at a time- that is attention to detail!
Giordana’s. This lovely lady has become a fixture in Huatulco, and a symbol of consistency at her restaurant in La Crucecita. All meals are Italian based with local produce accentuating each one. Her bruschetta with pesto spread is a tasty, light snack.
All the food at Villablanca (diagonally across Elektra), is special. From the club sandwich to Wednesday’s fresh fish, anything you choose will be presented as a feast for eye and mouth. Don’t forget Jorge and his guitar, singing favorite songs that same night- the mood adds to the meal.
Juan’s strawberry flambé, at Krystal Rose, is a feast visually and in taste (boy I am getting redundant). Watching him sauté the berries in sugar and brandy, then lighting it tableside, keeps you mesmerized.
Not to forget, La Crema, Tostados, Onyx, Casa Mayor and all the little corner shops, which daily spill out the most delicious smells. Oh yeah, the bakeries, fresh buns, cakes and cookies, can also pile on the calories. Whichever one you choose, from the elegant to tacos served out of a trunk of a car, you will not be disappointed.
I have to stop writing now, I am starving. My problem is, where to go, what to eat, and how stuffed I will feel, rolling into bed tonight. To those who are here and haven’t tried some of the wonderful places to eat, and those who have yet to travel to Huatulco, you will never go hungry. Can’t wait till next year to try some more.