On the southeast corner of Parque Las Palapas , Restaurante Los Huaraches de Alcatraces (Alcatraces 31, tel. 998/884-3918, 8 a.m.–6:30 p.m. Tues.–Sun., US$3–8) is a classic Mexican cafeteria serving traditional dishes like garlic-baked fish or chicken in homemade mole. All dishes come with a choice of two sides, such as veggie or beans. For something a little different, try one of the pre-Hispanic options, such as quesadillas made with blue-corn tortillas.
If Disneyland ever created a Mexican Revolution ride, it would surely look like Pericos (Av. Yaxchilán 61, tel. 998/884-3152, www.pericos.com.mx , noon–midnight daily, US$14–25), one of downtown Cancún ’s most well-known restaurants. In a huge eating area bedecked in Revolution-era photos and classic Mexican artwork, bandito waiters sport headbands and crisscrossed ammo belts, the bar has saddles instead of stools, there are not one but two gift shops, and kids may get a rubber chicken on their plates as a joke. Low-key it’s not, but Pericos has a solid reputation for serving good grilled meats, seafood, and fish in a boisterous, family-friendly atmosphere. Daily live music includes marimba 7:30–10:30 p.m. and a roving mariachi band that begins playing at 10:30 p.m.
Veering towards fast-food ambience but serving high-quality eats, Checándole (Av. Xpuhil at Av. Xel-Há, tel. 998/884-7147, noon–10 p.m. daily, US$3.75–12) is a locals’ favorite. Menu items are classic Mexican: tacos, enchiladas, tortas, fajitas, and tasty daily specials like pollo en mole. The set lunch menu (menu del día) costs US$3.75. There also is another downtown location (Av. Palenque 101, SM 30, tel. 998/884-5621), which has similar hours.
Your arteries won’t be pleased, but your belly will be at Don Javier’s Quesadillas (Margaritas near Tulipanes, 8 a.m.–midnight daily, US$2–4), a street-corner institution in Parque Las Palapas. Day or night you can get Yucatecan snacks like sopes, panuchos, salbutes, tostadas, and—of course—quesadillas. All items come with your choice of a dozen stuffings, including nopales (cactus), rajas (sautéed chile), mushrooms, or potatoes. All items cost about a buck. Two items will satisfy a small appetite; four might push you over the edge.
On the north end of Parque Las Palapas  is a set of food stalls (8 a.m.–midnight daily, US$1–4) selling cheap Mexican and Yucatecan eats—tacos, quesadillas, tostadas, and salbutes. It’s perfect if you’re looking for some good street food or are on a tight budget.
Rolandi’s (Av. Cobá 12, tel. 998/884-4047, www.rolandi.com , 1 p.m.–midnight daily, US$8–15) is a Cancún  institution, with sister pizzerias in the Zona Hotelera and Isla Mujeres. The food here—and at all of them—is consistently good; choose among thin-crust pizzas, calzones, and great homemade pastas. Pocket bread, warm and inflated right from the oven, and a dish of olive oil comes with every order. The atmosphere is casual; an easy-to-miss veranda in the rear has trellises draped in ivy that block out street noise.
Located on Parque Las Palapas, Trattoria La Veneziana (Alcatraces 29, tel. 998/860-5863, 3 p.m.–1 a.m. Wed.–Mon., US$7–14) offers authentic Italian cuisine and lots of it—over 15 pasta dishes and 20 pizza combinations. The set-up is open-air, which makes it a great alternative on a balmy night.
One of downtown’s finest restaurants, La Habichuela (Parque Las Palapas, Calle Margaritas 25, tel. 998/884-3158, www.lahabichuela.com , noon–midnight daily, US$15–42) has been serving excellent Caribbean and Yucatecan dishes in its elegant park-side location since 1977. The seafood is especially good—try the giant shrimp in tamarind sauce or cocobichuela, the house specialty, with lobster and shrimp in a sweet curry. For dessert, the Maya coffee flambé is a treat. A sister restaurant, Habichuela Sunset (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 12.4, tel. 998/840-6280, noon–midnight daily), in the Zona Hotelera, has a similar menu but slightly higher prices.
El D’Pa (Parque Las Palapas, Alcatraces 41, tel. 998/884-7615, www.eldpa.com , 6 p.m.–1 a.m. Tues.–Sat., 6–11 p.m. Sun., US$5–15) is an eclectic French-inspired restaurant offering creative crepes, baguettes, quiches, and salads. While the outdoor seating is great for people watching, the charming interior is worth a look—turn-of-the-20th-century prints, antiques, lamps with feathers, and even a pink sofa.
For a change of pace, Sahara (Calle Gladiolas, tel. 998/149-1492, 1–11 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 1–8 p.m. Sun., US$5–12) offers authentic Lebanese food like hummus, falafel, and tabbouleh in a casual setting. A huge buffet, featuring the entire menu plus some extras, is offered on Sunday, too. Fun extras include hookah “hookups” (US$12.50) or having your coffee grounds read (US$12.50, including the coffee). Belly dancers perform on Wednesday starting at 9 p.m.
Iki Resto-Bar (Parque Las Palapas, Calle Alcatraces 39, tel. 998/884-7024, 6 p.m.–1 a.m. Mon.–Sat., US$9–20) is a cool Asian fusion restaurant-bar serving a pantheon of tasty Eastern eats, from curry to Japanese salads. The dining area has an outdoors Zen-like feel, with gentle lighting, high palapa ceilings, and even an artificial brook gurgling along one side. The bar invites you to linger with sofas, low tables, and beaded lamps.
La Parrilla (Av. Yaxchilán 51, tel. 998/287-8119, www.laparrilla.com.mx , noon–2 a.m. daily, US$8.50–30) is one of the most popular of the restaurant-bars on this busy street, grilling a variety of delicious beef fillets, plus shrimp and lobster brochettes, chicken, fajitas, and tacos—the fiery spit in front is for taquitos al pastor, a Mexican classic. The breezy street-side eating area is comfortable and casual—good for families. There also is live mariachi music every night starting at 8 p.m.
Pescado Con Limón (Mercado 28, tel. 998/887-2436, 11:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. daily, US$6–12) may be short on ambience—plastic tables and chairs facing the Mercado 28 parking lot—but the seafood is as fresh and good as it comes, an open secret among locals and expats. For a sure thing, try a shrimp dish or one of the fried-fish platters.
El Pabilo (Hotel Xbalamqué, Av. Yaxchilán 31, tel. 998/892-4553, 5 p.m.–1 a.m. daily, US$3.50–8) is a classy but unassuming café serving up excellent coffee drinks and light meals. The space also serves as an art gallery with rotating exhibits and a multilingual bookstore. It also is a great place to listen to live music—every night but Sunday, you can hear genres ranging from bohemia cubana to fusion jazz. Music starts at 9:30 p.m.
Get a tasty baguette sandwich at Ty-Coz Baguettería (Av. Tulum at Av. Uxmal, tel. 998/884-6060, 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), a cozy eatery tucked behind the Comercial Mexicana supermarket opposite the bus terminal. Popular with local professionals and students, the menu includes French- and German-inspired baguette sandwiches and cuernos (croissants). Most are US$3–5, but you can always order the económica baguette with ham, salami, and cheese for just US$1.25. A smaller Zona Hotelera locale (Plaza Quetzal, Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 8, tel. 998/883-3564, 6 a.m.–7 p.m. daily) serves the same fare and opens early for divers and anglers.
100% Natural (Av. Sunyaxchén at Av. Yaxchilán, tel. 998/884-0102, www.100natural.com.mx , 7 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, US$5–11) has Cancún ’s largest and most varied vegetarian menu, including tasty salads, veggie and faux-meat sandwiches, and freshly squeezed juices. The ambience can be somewhat sterile—the potted plants and filtered light help—but it’s a welcome alternative for non-meat-eaters and popular among locals and tourists alike.
For megasupermarkets with everything from in-house bakeries to snorkel gear, head to the downtown locales of Chedraui (Blvd. Kukulcán at Av. Tulum) and Comercial Mexicana (Av. Tulum at Av. Uxmal). Both supermarkets are open 7 a.m.–11 p.m. daily and have ATMs just inside their doors.
Just a couple of blocks from the bus station, Mercado 23 (Calles Ciricote and Cedro, three blocks north of Av. Uxmal via Calle Palmeras, 6 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) has stands of fresh fruits and vegetables, and none of the touristy trinkets that Mercado 28 has. The selection is somewhat limited, but the produce is the freshest around.