One local family has built its sidewalk culinary skills into a thriving Barra storefront business, the Restaurant Paty (corner of Veracruz and Jalisco, tel. 315/355-5907, 8 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, $2–5). It offers the traditional menu of Mexican antojitos—tacos, quesadillas, tostadas—plus roast beef, chicken, and very tasty pozole. For a variation, try expatriate favorite Pizzeria Yvette a few doors nearby.
Among Barra’s favorite eateries is the Restaurant Ramón (Legazpi 260, tel. 315/355-6435, 7 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, $5–12), across the street from the Hotel Barra de Navidad. Completely unpretentious and making the most of the usual list of international and Mexican specialties, friendly owner/chef Ramón and his hardworking staff continue to build their already sizable following. Choose whatever you like—chicken, fish, chiles rellenos, guacamole, spaghetti—and you’ll most likely be pleased. Meals include gratis salsa and chips to start, hearty portions, and often a healthy side of cooked veggies on your plate.
One of Barra’s most entertainingly scenic restaurants is Veleros (Veracruz 64, tel. 315/355-5907, noon–10 p.m. daily, $7–15), right on the lagoon. If you happen to visit Barra during the full moon, don’t miss watching its shimmering reflection from the restaurant palapa as it rises over the mangrove-bordered expanse. An additional Veleros bonus is the fascinating school of darting, swirling fish attracted by the spotlight shining on the water. Finally comes the food, which you can select from a menu of carefully prepared and served shrimp, lobster, octopus, chicken, and steak entrées. The brochettes are especially popular; credit cards are accepted.
Alternatively, for a singularly romantic option, try refined lagoon-front Restaurant Alcatraz (Veracruz 12, tel. 315/355-7041, noon–10 p.m. daily, $8–20), named by friendly owners Sergio and Susana Aguilar for the native lily that grows only in the Mexican altiplano. (But is nevertheless very common in California gardens.) Susana, who manages the restaurant, offers a delicious menu, from soups and salads, to meats, fish fillets, shrimp, and lobster. During winter high season, reservations are recommended.
Shift your scene one block away, to Restaurant Seamaster (López de Legazpi 140, no phone, 8 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, $6–10), on the beach side of the sandbar, where guests enjoy a refreshing sea breeze every afternoon and a happy-hour sunset every evening. Besides super-fresh seafood selections, Seamaster features savory barbecued chicken and rib plates.
Restaurant Pancho (Legazpi 53, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily, $6–10), a few doors away, is one of Barra’s original palapas, which old-timers can remember from the days when all Barra restaurants were palapas. The reputation for super-fresh seafood, built up by the original (but now late) Pancho, who saw lots of changes in the old sandbar in his 80-odd years, is now continued by his wife and son.