There are basically two kinds of restaurants in the Yucatan. Restaurants for tourists and restaurants for Mexicans. There is of course nice Mexican restaurants that cater to both Mexicans and tourists.
Tourist restaurants are generally Americanized. There are International restaurants and you can find almost any food in Cancun. The restaurants use bottled water for everything and purified water is used throughout the entire premises. You will find the same degree of cleanliness in the tourist restaurants in the Yucatan as you do back home.
If you stay in any of the major hotel/resort zones there will be a large number of restaurants within walking distance. If your resort is all-inclusive chances are you may never eat off the premises. We have found that Mexican all-inclusive buffets are well supplied with food with a high diversity, and guests rarely go hungry.
Mexican bakeries are amazing. If your resort has a good baker you are in for a treat. There are always lots of fresh fruit and juices!
If you are a fussy eater this will be your best meal of the day.
Most resorts have 2 separate meals for lunch. There will be the “inside” buffet and the beach or pool restaurant. Usually the beach buffet runs longer than the inside buffet. This is because the inside buffet has to close early so preparations can be made for dinner.
Inside Lunch Buffet Menu [typical]:
One or two of: poultry/beef/pork/fish
Full bread/pastry section
Beach/Pool Lunch Buffet Menu [typical]:
Chicken wings/ribs/pork chops/chicken fingers
Almost every resort has a dinner buffet sometimes two with either one or more restaurants that you may eat at once. It has been our experience that the food in the specialty restaurants is no better than the food at the buffet and as a matter of course most people prefer the buffet as you can regulate your own portions and specific foods. Some specialty restaurants charge extra.
Dinner Buffet Menu [typical]:
One or two of: poultry/beef/pork/fish/seafood [sometimes lobster]
Full bread/pastry section
Quite often the dinner buffet will rotate a certain international food into the buffet. For example you will have Italian night with many Italian dishes. It is best to ask the restaurant manager or your tour operator what night has what so you can make plans.
Most resorts have an Italian restaurant and a Mexican restaurant. Usually the ambiance is much nicer than the buffet room. It is usually smaller, cozier and air-conditioned. The waiter staff will be the resorts top personnel and you can expect excellent service. You may order special drinks and wines, but some times at an extra cost.
Sometimes you get lucky and the restaurant is good and what you select turns out to be marvelous. Sometimes it can be bad and most resorts only let you make one reservation in the specialty restaurant. Some resorts let you eat in all of the specialty restaurants so long as you make a reservation.
Most specialty restaurants enforce a dress code that includes no shorts, sandals, t-shirts and tank tops. We have however broken all these rules on several occasions. Just eat quickly and be respectful to the staff. Leave a nice tip.
If you read some of the on-line forums about certain resorts you will see complaints about food being cold at the buffet. This may occur if you go to the buffet late. It is recommended to go to the buffet when it opens. You will get the choice seats. The food is piping hot and fresh and there is not a crowd of people.
At the old Robinson Club resort on the Riviera you get an hour and a half for everyone to squeeze into this small restaurant. It reminded us of a school cafeteria during lunch.
NOTE: Some resort buffets use shared seating arrangements which means you share your table with other guests. Because of the size of many of these buffets this means complete strangers will be rubbing elbows with you and sharing the salt and pepper shakers etc. If you do not mind this then no problem, but if you do not want this arrangement then check the fine print in your brochure on the resort. We mention this because we have had problems ourselves with crazy people sitting at our table and we have heard other negative things as well.
TIP! If you find yourself at a resort that uses shared seating and you prefer not to eat in the restaurant you can take the food back to your room or if they object have them deliver the food to your room. Most resorts will do this and you only need tip the waiter who delivers the food.