Sayulita Cafe's reputation preceded my arrival in the town. The minute I arrived I began my search for the almost-famous restaurant known for dishing up some of the best chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers) in Mexico. At the time I visited they were only open for dinner, so I checked my hunger and waited patiently for them to open around 6:00 pm.
If there's one thing you need to know about dining at Sayulita Cafe, it is that the chiles rellenos are absolutely delicious and are all the food you need. Okay, that might be two things. I had no idea the dish would be so huge, filling and rich, so I decided to start with a bowl of their tortilla soup. The tomato broth with crisp tortilla strips, avocado slices, cheese and cream was fantastic (it's been months and my arteries still haven't forgiven me)... but the appetizer was absolutely unnecessary as the main dish was so large. When my chiles arrived I was pleased to find two large poblano peppers stuffed with a cheese, herb and vegetable mix, breaded and fried then covered with cream and sauce. They were truly fantastic and had a rich, complex flavour unmatched by the chiles rellenos at some of the nicest restaurants in Mexico City. The chiles were served with rice and refried beans, making for a huge dinner. I recall a point in the meal where I thought, "How on earth did I eat this much? How could I possibly eat it all?" It seriously was an absolutely huge meal and I regretted having started with such a rich soup, even though it was delicious.
The restaurant is cool and breezy inside, with two small tables on the sidwalk if you want to eat outside and don't mind people walking by inches from your food. The service was great and it seemed like everyone in the restaurant wanted to know how I enjoyed my meal. Maybe they'd just never met someone crazy enough to order tortilla soup then two chiles rellenos! I would definitely recommend the chiles rellenos at Sayulita Cafe, as they are truly an example of authentic Mexican food done right.
Don Pedro's claims to have brought fine dining to the Nayarit coast, and while I wouldn't necessarily call the food at Don Pedro's fine dining, I will say that it's darn good food and worth at least two visits- one for breakfast and one for dinner.
I went to Don Pedro's twice for breakfast. My favorite dish was easily the banana-cornmeal pancakes, which were big enough to serve two and perfectly complimented by a touch of maple syrup, fresh fruit and whipped cream. On my next visit I tried the vegetarian frittata, which was good but could have used more, bigger chunks of vegetables to offset the copious amounts of eggs contained in the dish.
The dinner I had at Don Pedro's was a stand-out. I am a vegetarian so I asked for their grilled vegetable plate. I was served perfectly-grilled artichokes, zucchini, bell peppers, asparagus and onions laid around a small mound of the best mashed potatoes I have ever eaten. It was served with a delicious herbed yogurt dipping sauce. For dessert, I had a tropical fruit tart which tasted fantastic despite not being overly tropical (it had vanilla custard in fresh pastry, topped with strawberries, blueberries and bananas).
The beachfront dining at Don Pedro's gives you great views of the sunset and surfers, and the service was always attentive and friendly. I know the restaurant can accommodate large groups, and I believe there are even a few tables set up right on the sand for those looking to enjoy real al fresco dining!
I saw the chef sneeze into his hands three times without washing them, then directly return to handling food. He used the same cloth to wipe his hands after handling raw chicken then wipe his sweaty forehead, then wipe his hands again. He went back to work (again) without washing his hands. This place is digusting.
El Espresso recently opened on Sayulita's main square, in direct competition with Chocobanana. Fortunately for Chocobanana, El Espresso's breakfasts leave a lot to be desired, and the service will leave you pulling out your hair and wishing you were eating a delicious, chocolate-covered banana while you waited, and waited, for your food.
I went to El Espresso twice: once on my first trip to town, once on my second. Both times, I was underwhelmed by the food (watery scrambled eggs seem to be their signature) and both times the servers seemed to go out of their way to ignore me, despite not being busy. I am not a demanding customer, but I don't like seeing my breakfast sit on the counter for more than five minutes while my server tries out new dance moves with the girls working at the coffee window. I will say that their fruit smoothies and coffee drinks aren't bad (it's nice that they come with lids so you don't attract flies if you bring them to the beach), but their work area, where they prepare the drinks, is not clean at all. Drink at your own risk.
When I went to Sayulita in the off-season, there were times when I couldn't find a new place to eat. Always wanting to try new restaurants I finally decided to visit Breakfast Net (or Breakfast.net, depending on who you ask), a beach-front cafe right on the beach beside Luna Azul surf shop.
I opted for one of their breakfast burritos because they were featured prominently on the menu and I thought that would mean they were a house speciality. As you can see from the picture below, what I received was less than special. The plating of the food was actually hilarious in that the portions of everything were tiny and they were served on this huge plate. The "hash brown potatoes" turned out to be five french fries, and the little spoonfuls of chipotle salsa and "fresh vegetables" were hilarious! The burrito itself had about one tiny slice of avocado mixed in with bland, stringy cheese and scrambled eggs- what a joke! It was one of the worst breakfasts I've ever eaten in my life. It doesn't help that they don't keep the outdoor tables that clean and there are tons of flies buzzing around- I ate at many beachfront restaurants and none came close to having as many flies.
It's hard to read about Sayulita without coming across the restaurant Chocobanana, or its owner Tracie. Located right on the main plaza in the heart of town, Chocobanana has been dishing up fantastic breakfasts, healthy lunches and chocolate-dipped bananas for almost fifteen years.
On my most recent visit to Sayulita Chocobanana was closed for renovations, so I'm sure that by the time you visit things will be looking fantastic. On my first trip to the town, however, I ate at Chocobanana almost daily: either for breakfast or lunch, or just to grab a chocolate-dipped frozen banana rolled in sprinkles on my way back from the beach.
The menu at Chocobanana mixes Mexican favorites with the food you know and love from your home in North America and the UK. From breakfast burritos to wraps bursting with fresh vegetables, and from juicy burgers to bowls of fresh fruit, Chocobanana has something for everyone. There is also a take-out window for coffee, juice and freshly-baked goodies. It's THE restaurant in Sayulita for families, and you'll find multi-generational groups out for meals throughout the day. There is also free internet access if you don't mind sitting at the bar. All of the food is reasonably priced and service is very friendly and accommodating. If you've been in Mexico for a little too long, you'll find the English-style customer service at Chocobanana a breath of fresh air.
No trip to Sayulita is complete without two trips to Chocobanana: one for a meal and one for a chocobanana! Don't miss it!
Calypso has been a favorite in Sayulita for years, and it came highly recommend to me by a friend. Honestly, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. Calypso dishes up pretty standard, mid-range cuisine at prices that are a bit high for what you get. I started with a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and jicama in a dressing that I seem to recall was lemon-champagne. The vegetables were crisp and fresh, but the dressing may as well have been water. It was flavourless. I followed my salad with an order of their pasta in tomato sauce; again, the dish was pretty bland. The tomato sauce probably came from a jar and the whole dish lacked any sense of inventiveness. The staff were nice and the view down onto the town square was nice, but you would get way more value for your dollar at Don Pedro's or Tierra Viva.
Tierra Viva is a popular spot for dining in Sayulita, with high-end dining at only moderate prices. I recently visited the restaurant for a light dinner, and was pleased to find not only a wide variety of salads but also a vegetable kebab option. It was tough to decide what to eat, but I ultimately decided to try the "Volcano Salad", because I figured that if it was featured prominently on their sign it must be pretty special. Less then ten minutes later my salad arrived at my plate, and I knew right away that it would be pretty special. It was a dinner-sized salad with a large bed of romaine lettuce topped with half an avocado, three huge slices of goat cheese, black sesame seeds and an herbed-soy dressing. The flavours were from all over the map, but they worked really, really well together. I mean, goat cheese and avocado? Delicious!
Tierra Viva isn't very busy in the off-season, but during the high season it is very busy for dinner. It's located just a few doors down from the iguana sanctuary, on the road that connects the town square to the beach. If you like salad, you've got to visit Tierra Viva while you're in Sayulita!
El Iguana Azul is a restaurant that I walked past several times and only stopped in as a last resort. Boy, had I been missing a good thing! It is located less than a block from the beach on the street that leads to the main plaza, and it serves up fresh, healthy, delicious food at breakfast and lunch.
I visited one afternoon for lunch around 1:00 p.m. There were a few other people in the restaurant finishing up their meals, and many were taking some leftover food home. Don't say I didn't warn you- portions are huge! I started with an "Einstein" smoothie, which was made from tropical fruits such as papaya, pineapple and mango, and then finished with a touch of ginger and spirulina, turning it an electric green. It was a great smoothie and I think I felt more intelligent right away! To eat, I opted for the veggie melt. It was served open-faced on a hearty roll, and was topped with feta cheese, tomatoes, red onions and green peppers. Oddly, it wasn't actually melted, but it was still very good. The veggie melt was served with a side of hash brown potatoes (they were great, which means that breakfasts at El Iguana Azul are probably great too) and some slices of fruit.
The restaurant's owner is very friendly, and he invited me to check out the back of the restaurant which borders an iguana sanctuary. Throughout the day he puts down pieces of fruit and dozens of iguanas descend from the trees to enjoy a tasty snack. They're pretty used to being around people, so you can get up close to take photos and not have to worry about iguana bites!
The speciality at Sayulita Fish Taco is (unsurprisingly) the fish. They are famous for their fish tacos, which are made from hand-battered local fish and served in homemade corn tortillas (which are sooo yummy!). They also come with a touch of the delicious pineapple-garlic salsa that keeps people coming back for more! Because I am a vegetarian (99% of the time!) I chose to skip the fish tacos on my first visit and have one of their veggie bowls instead. It was black beans, rice and veggies topped with pineapple salsa and (unfortunately) thousand-island dressing. The dressing was an unwanted touch and the bowl was quite watery, but it was obvious that the ingredients were good, simply not intended for consumption-via-bowl.
On my return visit to Sayulita, I pushed my veggie-eating ways aside and tried out two of their fish tacos. The tacos were stuffed with fresh fish fried in beer-garlic batter, then served in a masa tortilla with "baja sauce", cabbage and fresh salsa. The tacos were absolutely delicious and made me wish I ate meat more often. They are perfect for a light lunch or dinner, or even just a snack after an hour or two of surfing. I can see why Sayulita Fish Taco is one of the most popular restaurants in town! On my return visit I also learned that the restaurant has more seating than initially meets the eye- use the spiral staircase to the left of the kitchen to access more open-air tables.
I kind of had some reservations about dining at A Bicyclette. It seemed a bit off the beaten track (two or three blocks can make all the difference in a tiny seaside town) and the menu seemed kind of random (although I did appreciate that they clearly labelled which items were vegetarian). As well, when I showed up to eat dinner, I was the only person in the restaurant.
After I sat down, the waitress pulled over the giant board showing the day's menu. It was definitely the same menu that I'd seen posted a few days before, but I've heard it changes regularly if not daily. I opted for the goat cheese salad (70 pesos, $7 US/CAD) as an appetizer, followed by the entree of a vegetable charlotte (160 pesos, $16 US/CAD). I was off drinking at the moment, so I ordered a limonata (lemonade, 20 pesos, $2 US/CAD).
When the limonata arrived at my table I was a bit disappointed. It was homemade, but it was poorly made by the waitress with far too much simple syrup and far too little juice. It tasted like sugary water. However, my worries disappeared when my salad arrived at my table. If my memory serves me, it was a bed of lettuce topped with roasted red peppers, chopped nuts, rosemary and deeelicious warm goat cheese. It was topped with a flower from one of the trees surrounding the restaurant, and it truly couldn't have been better. My entree was fantastic as well- a charlotte of vegetables is like vegetable lasagne, but without the pasta. Just layers and layers of vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms), these ones covered in a wonderful white wine sauce. Oh, and both courses were served with their yummy homemade, whole-wheat bread.
I didn't have room for dessert, but the choices looked tempting. Midway through my meal I ordered a second limonata; this one was made by one of the owners and it was much better than the first. The restaurant is absolutely beautiful, with flowers growing all around and trees snaking through the tables. The owners seemed very friendly and invested in customer satisfaction- they knew several guests (yes, more people did come later!) by name and did frequent quality checks. It looks like they bring in live music some evenings around 9:30 pm; I've heard that they stop serving food when the music starts so get there a bit early!
The food and drink at Don Pedro's is about average, and they are one of the only restaurants in town that takes credit cards. However, their prices are much higher than most other places in town and not a good value overall.
Pablo's is located right on the beach about a block North of Nachos restaurant. The food and service is good, and you can hang out in beach chairs and watch the surf.
Pablo (Paul - who's from Oregon) also has 2 boats and runs snorkelling and fishing trips, rents surfboards and can answer pretty much any question you have.
Favorite Dish: Get the fresh Guacamole.
This place has the best Fish Tacos I've ever had. I use it as a comparison every time I try fish tacos somewhere else. It's still at the top of my list. I usually have lunch here every day that I'm in town.
Note: They're closed on Monday.
Favorite Dish: The Fish Tacos - I know they have a lunch menu, but I've never bothered to look at it. Get the Tacos.
Nice setting, great and friendly service.
Favorite Dish: Is the only place in Sayulita you will find "PESCADO Sarandeado" a typicall dish from Nayarit ,the only problem is a BIG dish... so go with 2 or 3 friends, or just ask for a medium fish.