Dining in Mazatlán
by John Clinton Gray
Whether or not Mazatlán deserved the negative publicity it received a few years back, we’ve loved this Pacific resort city from our first time there and every stay since. Now the drug-related violence scare is over, the cruise ships have returned, and our family vacation this year was as fine and fun as ever. The weather, the fishing, the beaches, and the shopping are all great, but I must tell the truth: My favorite sport is eating.
The city stretches out in the Pacific sun along more than ten miles of coastline. It would take a month to try every interesting eatery in town—and it’s worth doing!—but I’ll tell you my two favorites. They’re at opposite ends of Mazatlán, both excellent, and very different.
Playa Bruja in Nuevo Mazatlán is perched on a rocky outcropping on the far north side of town, near Emerald Bay. “Mariscos on the Beach” could be their slogan—locally caught fresh seafood is their specialty. The atmosphere is casual, the food prepared in traditional Mexican coastal style, and the ocean view spectacular. Waves explode on rocks to one side, and children play on the broad, white sands as far as you can see on the other. Pelicans skim the Pacific and frigate birds spiral high above. Sunlight sparkles on the water in early afternoon—my favorite time at Playa Bruja: lunch!
The (sufficiently) bilingual wait staff is warmly hospitable, the food simply delicious, and the prices reasonable. Accompanied by Mazatlán’s own Pacifico beer, we shared a garlic octopus appetizer that everyone in our group mmmmmed over, and our lunch main courses were tasty and large. The fresh dorado filets and grilled local lobster were fabulous, and I never knew fish tacos could be so yummy!
I'm not generally a rave reviewer, but Topolo in Viejo Mazatlán gets my vote for all-time favorite restaurant anywhere in Mexico. To me, it rivals the unsurpassable Las Mañanitas in Cuernavaca. Topolo's is a small-ish establishment and very popular (dinner reservations are necessary), a short block from Plaza Machado in old Mazatlán. The restaurant seems to cater to the gray-haired like me, but there were families with children there too. The setting is outdoors in an interior patio; trees tower over diners. At night the lighting is eclectically festive. The fine Mexican and Spanish fare was innovative and superb, the staff flawless; our waiter was a bilingual pro and very entertaining. Live music was provided by a talented guitarist playing Mexican, Spanish, and American standards. In all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that didn't make my credit card cringe too much, either.
When you go to Mazatlán, eat your way from one end of town to the other, but be sure to enjoy both Playa Bruja and Topolo.
John and his wife, Pamela, live in Lake Elsinore, CA. His first book, Gift of Seeds, was published in December, 2012, and his second book, If I Die Thursday, was published in May, 2016. Both books are collections of poignant, funny, and insightful memories, available at amazon.com.