At first glance, it looks like every restaurant chain in the United States has an outlet in Cancún's Zona Hotelera, where burgers and pizza are far more common than tamales and tortillas. Finding genuine Mexican food is a challenge, but the rewards are great. Check out Mocambo, where locals lunch (around 3 pm) on ceviche and grilled fish while staring out at the sea. Chefs play with alta cocina Mexicana at Siete in the Aqua Cancún and Aioli at Le Méridien. Traditional regional dishes are easier to find in the cantinas, like La Guadalupana alongside the bullring and Labiná downtown. Steak houses are all the rage these days; Puerto Madero beats out its neighbors, thanks to its Argentinean flair and stylish following.
A fashionable restaurant row is emerging on the lagoon side of Boulevard Kukulcán, across from the swankiest hotels. Tourists tend to arrive early and snag waterfront tables, while locals show up after 9 pm or so and are more interested in the people-watching than the natural scenery. Many high-end restaurants have large lounge and bar areas that buzz with chatter among chismosas (gossiping ladies). Reservations are essential at the higher-end restaurants if you're dining after 9 pm or want to guarantee a table with a view. Most places have tables available for early dining without reservations.