The heat of the day can be especially intense around lunch time. While some sayulenses may prefer to take a siesta during these hours, other spots offer lunch in the shade with the cool breeze from a fan or the ocean and a general laid-back vibe owing to the oppressive heat and humidity (full disclosure: this article is being written at the end of a long, hot summer). Lunch time can be a great time to take advantage of Sayulita’s geographic location and long-standing fishing heritage to enjoy fresh, local seafood.
Fish tacos are an excellent choice, and Sayulita Insider made a video about exactly that. It is the first video in our True Value series, and it explores three fish taco restaurants. The first is a small puesto, El puesto de Gabi, number **** on our list. (puestos, Spanish for “market stalls,” are small, often moveable stands that offer simple meals for affordable prices). Not all puestos serve food–some offer any variety of wares from clothing to hardware and more–in this article, I will be talking about lunch spots, so we can assume that puestos in this context refer to the food carts, food trucks, and market stalls that offer lunch. Many puestos set up early in the morning and sell their dishes until they are gone.
There are essentially four simple seafood options, though they are prepared in a myriad of different ways: tacos made with shrimp or fish and ceviche made with fish or shrimp. (You can see our video featuring Doña Irma, a local woman who was voted best of the best for fish ceviche in Sayulita to see how it is made at home).
For those who are not familiar with the dish ceviche, it is a popular seafood dish believed to be Peruvian in origin, though it quickly spread throughout the whole of coastal Latin America. It is made with a white fish, as fresh as possible, and some combination of carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, cauliflower, chilies, and other fresh raw vegetables.
The ingredients are finely chopped and set to marinate in fresh lime juice for ten to twenty minutes. The combination varies from one location to the next, but in Mexico, ceviche is typically made with onion, serrano chilies, tomatoes, and other vegetables and served on tostadas (crispy, dried tortillas) with a dash of Maggi salsa, which is similar to soy sauce and Salsa Huichol, a ubiquitous salsa made in the state of Nayarit.
Without further ado, I present my list of the ten best lunch restaurants in Sayulita. Editorial note: these are my favorites. If you have other suggestions, or you think I missed something important, let me know in the comments below!
Where to eat lunch in Sayulita #1: El Jakal
On the small terrace of a lime green building on the north side of town, one block from the beach is an unassuming seafood restaurant. One of Sayulita’s best lunch restaurants is El Jakal. The terrace only seats about 15 people, and it is generally uncrowded though the food is excellent, the service friendly, and the atmosphere laid back.
They are known for their mariscos (sea food), but when I was a vegetarian–until about a year ago, when I started eating fish–I would order the vegetarian ceviche, made with cauliflower marinated in lime juice in the place of fish. I highly recommend this dish for vegetarians, vegans, and carnivores looking for a fresh, healthy option (not that fish is unhealthy). Now that I am eating fish again, I also highly recommend their fish ceviche, fish tacos, and other seafood as well.
El Jakal is open from 1 to 9 Moday through Saturday. Its facade is hand-painted with tropical flowers, and it is located on calle Palmar, the main street connecting the whole north side, near the corner of calle Miramar.
Where to eat lunch in Sayulita #2: El Break
El Break has one of the best locations in all of Sayulita. The cafe/bar started in a small cubic local directly in front of the beach. (Local in this instance means a space, typically a small concrete cube about 25 square meters [169 square feet].) A small walkway separated the spot from the beach, between calle Marlín and calle Delfín, two of the principal entryways to the main beach.
In 2017, El Break underwent a renovation and expansion, renting a concesión on the beach where they have table service. The beach concession is surrounded by palm trees of modest size: just the right size to give shade to the patrons. They installed new stylish tree-slab tables and chairs and the vibe was significantly upgraded.
They serve a breakfast-lunch menu and beer and cocktails from 8:00 AM until 10:00 PM. They have several vegetarian dishes and vegan dishes. I love eating (and drinking!) at El Break, but I’ve consistently gotten slow service. Friendly, but very slow.
Where to eat lunch in Sayulita #3: Gabi's fish tacos
A popular puesto that is literally a hole in the wall is El puesto de Gabi. Gabi serves you herself her delicious fish tacos, battered and fried. The taco is made with mahi mahi, also known as dorado or toro in Spanish, which mean “golden” and “bull” respectively. On top she puts lettuce, cabbage, and pico de gallo; then you can add the dressings you choose from several homemade salsas, chile-infused olive oil, red and green salsas, onion with habanero and other options.
Sayulita Insider’s crew sat down with Gabi and spoke to her about how she prepares her food, how she serves it, what her popular dishes were, and her personal favorites. She served us her delicious fish tacos for the first episode of our True Value series. Our hosts Julieta and Rodrigo tried the fish tacos at three different restaurants, which to me seems like a lot of fish tacos for one day, but Julieta was undeterred, inquiring about the ceviche.
As it turns out Gabi also sells two types of ceviches: a fish ceviche and an aguachile ceviche. She prepared us one of each and they were quite good. Aguachile is typical of the west coast of Mexico. It is a shrimp dish, usually served with tortilla chips or tostadas. The shrimp is served raw but cured in lime juice along with chili peppers, cucumber, onion, cilantro, and salt. It is customary to prepare aguachile with a mortar and pestle.
Gabi opens around 10 in the morning, and leaves when all of the fish and shrimp in her cooler are gone. You can find her at the corner of Revolution and Jose Mariscal (in front of a tree commonly referred to as “the drunk tree” in honor of the borrachos that enjoy its shade).
Where to eat lunch in Sayulita #4: Terrazola
Another restaurant with an excellent location is La TerrazOla. Their name in graffiti script and adorns a 15-meter (30-foot) wall that encloses the restaurant and bar. That wall runs the entire length of the restaurant, and the whole cavernous space is covered with a large palapa (the thatched palm fronds on top of wooden posts that are ubiquitous in tropical Mexico). The restaurant is on the north side, about five minutes walking from the river, and it’s a great place to relax and have a drink or snack in the fresh ocean breeze.
I recently had lunch at La Terrazola, one of the few times I have ever eaten lunch on the north side (I’ve only ever lived in the south side), and everyone in my party was happy with their meal. The brusqueta was delicious, with fresh tomatoes and balsamic vinegar, but the veggie burger completely fell apart at the first bite.
La Terrazola is open from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM every day but Monday. They are a convenient place to relax in the shade after or during a beach session and serve snacks and drinks at reasonable prices.
Where to eat lunch in Sayulita #5: Chilly Willys
Where to eat lunch in Sayulita #6: El Metro Sayulita
I realize that this article so far has been quite heavy on the seafood front, but for those who prefer their food to come from the land, we have Metro Tortería. Tortas are sandwiches made with a soft loaf of bread cut in half and filled with meat and/or vegetables. Being a pescatarian, there are several options for me: the chile relleno torta, chilaquiles torta, marlin torta, panela cheese torta, and the three cheese torta, and the grilled vegetable torta. When they moved to a newer, cooler location on Revolución, they updated the menu and my favorite, the apple and brie with honey torta, sadly didn’t make the cut.
For carnivores, there are plenty of great options. Though this is second-hand information, the torta cubana, which is made of pulled pork and Cuban spices, and the torta de milanesa are to die for. Milanesa is a Latin American Spanish term from the Italian dish veal milanese. It is thinly pounded, breaded and fried beef or chicken. In addition to their twenty different tortas, they also have enchiladas, guacamole, Frenh fries, and sweet potato fries.
El Metro is open 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM every day but Saturday. It is on calle Revolución, tucked into a corner next to the fruit stand with a green awning, Frutería Alejandrina.
Where to eat lunch in Sayulita #7: The Real Fish Taco
The Real Fish Taco is a semi-puesto just a stone’s throw from the beach. It started as a stand-alone food cart, but due to its popularity, it later expanded to occupy a room in the building behind it. Just steps away from the beach, you can recognize this food cart by the bright red letters proclaiming “FISH TACO MY AS$!!! Get a real one!” and a yellow awning it has been a Sayulita icon for over a decade. It was the second participant in our True Value fish taco challenge, and our hosts Rodrigo and Julieta were impressed by the salsas, the location, and the quality of their signature dish, FISH TACO MY ASS!!!
It is located on calle Delfín, between Lunazul surf shop and Pachamama boutique.
Where to eat lunch in Sayulita #8: Estrella de Mar
After years of walking past and saying “Hola” to the friendly chef with a contagious smile, I finally tried Estrella del Mar for the first time. (Hey, I’ve only been a fish-eater for a year and a half, plus there are a million seafood restaurants in Sayulita, as you can tell by this list!) I’m happy to report that it was excellent. The mussels and fish filet in a butter sauce were delicious. The service was excellent, and the staff were as friendly as that chef I’ve known since the restaurant was a small puesto with a tiny kitchen and a few tables in the street. The place is still small, with a limited capacity, but it has expanded into a small gravel-lined enclosed area and now boasts a much larger kitchen and a longer menu.
Estrella del Mar is located at Avenida Palmar 31, on the corner of Avenida Palmar and Calle Miramar. They are open from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM every day except Wednesday.
Where to eat lunch in Sayulita #9: Naty’s Cocina
One of Sayulita’s most beloved breakfast restaurants is Naty’s Cocina, which opens at 10am and closes around 4pm (or when the food is all gone). A simple window in the side of a building off the plaza displays more than a dozen freshly-made guisos. Guisos are taco fillings cooked in a stew-like process. They are kept warm in their juices until ordered, at which point a slotted spoon scoops them out and sets them in a fresh, warm tortilla (from a nearby tortillería). While many of the guisados are made with meat (the chicken mole guiso is especially popular), nearly half of the options are vegetarian, and some are even vegan.
Each order comes with rice or beans. After ordering your guisos, you step inside the diminutive common area, where you add cabbage, pickled onions, carrots, and jalapenos, and any or many or all of the five different types of salsas offered. (Here’s a pro-tip when ordering: spring for the porciones. Portions cost five pesos more than the tacos, but there is more guiso, and they serve the tortillas a parte, in aluminum foil so they stay warm.
That way, you can follow this author’s example and mix multiple types of guiso with your vegetables, and custom-make your own perfect taco.) Then a friendly worker offers you your choice of two aguas frescas of the day. Aguas frescas are cool drinks with water, ice, some type of fruit and often herbs, and a lot of sugar. They are quite refreshing in a hot climate such as Sayulita, but their ubiquity in Mexico likely contributes in no small part to Mexico’s obesity and diabetes crises.
One of the factors that keeps the price low at Naty’s Cocina (tacos cost 15 pesos each and porciones 20) is it’s small size and low overhead. Unless you’re extremely hungry, you would be hard pressed to spend more than 100 pesos (about 4.25 USD) per person at Naty’s Cocina. On the street outside the restaurant are three picnic tables with beach umbrellas, and then a long, narrow hallway seats another eight to ten seats arranged in a line, with a small counter to eat on.
Where to eat lunch in Sayulita #10: El Costeño
Un costeño is a person from the coast, and this restaurant is as close to the coast as possible. The restaurant is across calle Delfín from El Break, but it is a very different vibe. The dining area is a wooden patio that is almost an extension of the beach. The restaurant has been there since the early days of Sayulita’s tourism, but it also has evolved and changed very little.
The food is good, and the atmosphere is authentic and a bit stuck in the past, but their true redeeming factor is the booze. They serve giant margaritas and other cocktails in liter-glasses only cost 150 pesos (about 7 USD), and taste like they were made with 750 milliliters of tequila. Don’t expect to stand too upright after polishing off one of those.
El Costeño is open from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM, and it’s probably the cheapest option for dining on the beach in Sayulita.