Masseria in DC was one of the most exciting dining experiences we’re had lately.
During our travels, we tend to focus on eating as part of the overall experience.
Usually, we research a few restaurants ahead of time nearby places we know we’ll be visiting, not wanting to leave good food to chance.(Thanks, Trip Advisor!)
Often really great places can be found going just a little bit off the beaten path.
But we’re spontaneous too if we see something that looks good, fun, or interesting.There’s more to say about this at the end.
Like all our trips, Cancun had some really nice food. Here’s a peek at some of our favorites. (You can see my post about favorite meals in Ireland here.)
Green chili enchiladas at Piknik
Churros at Parque Las Palapas Night Market
Chilaquiles at Sanborns
Gazpacho and chicken tacos at Rooster Café on Isla Mujeres
Piggy cookies from a bakery
Everything we ate above was delicious and we suffered no ill effects from it.
Unfortunately, we did have one negative food experience on the last night of our trip, which I take full responsibility for. I knew the risk I was taking and I did it anyway. Sean was against the idea the whole time…
Crispy Haus, it was called. It was a food truck with a 1950s theme.
“Everything Crispy, Crunchy, and Crusty” was its motto and we passed it every time we walked from our airbnb to the bus station in the center of Cancun.
They played 1950s music and the waitresses wore pink uniforms. It just looked like it could be a fun experience, but I know, I know! Nothing good could from a food truck with “crusty” in the motto…
We ordered fries, a chicken burger, and a chocolate milkshake.
The fries and burger were okay, but that milkshake.
Let’s just say I don’t think it was made from ice cream or milk or even chocolate.
I don’t know what it was.
Sean did not drink any of it, and sure enough, a few hours later, I was wishing that I hadn’t either.
The beach at Tulum is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
On the last day on our Cancun vacation, we took the bus to Tulum, an ancient Mayan site on a cliff overlooking one dreamy aquamarine beach.
If you find yourself in the Yucatan Peninsula, you must go here! And wear a bathing suit because you will want to jump in.
You can probably tell from the photos that it was blazing hot, but it was fun walking around the stone paths, walls, and archways. The vegetation is so interesting and there were plenty of iguanas to entertain us.
There are so many tourists here as you might imagine, so get there early to avoid the crowds.
Our reward after walking around the site was that crystalline beach below!
Many tour companies offer day trips to Tulum (about a 2 hour ride from the hotel zone)
But those tours are pricey (over a $100 US), and you can easily just take a bus on your own.
We picked up a bus from the main bus station in Cancun city center for about $8 a person. There are buses that leave at least once an hour and they make a few stops on the way. You can even reserve your seats ahead of time.
Actually, the bus was really comfortable and not an ordeal by any means. Because we showed up last minute for an early bus, Sean and I weren’t able to get seats next to each other. I sat next to a Hemingway man character who kept me entertained the whole ride. Seriously the guy had a long white beard and had traveled all over the world. It was fun listening to his stories.
When you finally arrive to Tulum, just take a taxi from the bus station to the entrance of the ruins, where you pay admission fee and you can hire a guide.
Here’s Sean zip-lining into a cenote in Mexico last March during our trip to Cancun.
(Yes, its the middle of summer, and I’m just now wrapping up this trip from months ago. There’s lots more to come too as I get caught up…)
Anyway, one of the best things we did there was take a Cenotes tour that visited 4 different ones in Cancun. Cenotes are natural sinkholes that form when limestone collapses, exposing the groundwater underneath. In Cancun, many of them are inside caves or in the middle of the jungle, so they are all unique from each other.
While you can drive around and find some of them yourself, many of the public ones are very overrun with people. Some are located on private property though which restricts your access. While Sean and I normally steer away from tours, we booked this one from Xenotes Maya Tours, and it was totally worth it.
Don’t you just wanna jump in? That water was so refreshing, but cold!
On this tour, we visited 4 cenotes and got to enjoy them in different ways including swimming, kayaking, zip-lining, and rappelling.
For the first one, we repelled down into it. It was pretty fun to go from bright light outside to this dark underwater cave…
Once we were inside and swimming around, the tour guide shone the light in the ceiling and we saw dozens of bats. Creepy! And I didn’t even know they were there until he showed us!
The zipline approach was fun too. They let you do it however you wanted- sitting on the stomach, head first, spinning, one foot in the harness. This particular cenote had the strangest warm and cold currents running through it, but I loved the lily pads right there next to us.
All the cenotes here were naturally formed, but because the land was private property, the owner developed facilities around them to make them more people friendly and easier to access. That’s why you see stone paths, and thatched roofs, etc. To preserve the natural environment though, you are not allowed to wear your shoes or sunscreen.
As stated earlier, we usually don’t enjoy tours very much, but we highly recommend this tour company.
Overall, it was well-organized and a good experience. The only downside is that they try to sell you an expensive (over $100) photograph package at the end (We laughed at the price, but I thin we were the only people on our tour who didn’t buy the pictures!) If you want your own photos, I recommend you take a water camera or a GoPro (like we did).
Our second day in Cancun, we headed to Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the coast accessible by ferry. Can you believe the color of the ocean?
It was an easy 15 min ride over and once we disembarked and made it through the gauntlet of people trying to rent us hotels, scooters, and time shares, we discovered some really charming and colorful streets.
We had the most delicious meal of our trip in Isla Mujeres at the Rooster Cafe. I had gazpacho and tacos, while Sean had a sandwich with sausage, peppers,and cheese. I’m still thinking about my soup!
After lunch, we made friends with this little guy just hanging out on the street.
Everything was going great… nice weather, nice meal, nice doggy.
And then we rented some bikes to ride to the tip of the island about 5 miles away. There was a nature preserve and a sculpture garden I really wanted to see.
That’s when things started to go bad.
We got our bikes and off we went. The ride was fairly easy, but we had to share the road with cars, motorbikes, trucks, and everyone else heading that way.
About 45 minutes into our ride and nearly to the tip of the island, Sean stopped. I was way ahead and didn’t even realize he wasn’t behind me for the longest time. Then I cycled back to him to find out the problem.
Turns out his bike just stopped working. Chain was attached, nothing looked obviously broken, but it just wouldn’t go forward.
So, what choice did we have but to abort our plan and head back into town? I rode ahead to see if I could get some help and Sean started walking his bike back. Not fun, guys.
I ended up convincing a taxi driver to hang our bikes out of the trunk of his car and drive us back into town. When we took the bikes back to the rental place, the guy who ran this business accused us of breaking his bike!
Yeah, we broke your bike by riding it, dude.
I stood there and argued with him for a good 20 minutes and finally we had to walk away. There was some yelling (from me) and head ducking in shame (from him) but he refused to give us a refund for renting a crappy bike, the taxi ride back into town, time lost, whatever. It was not pretty!
Heads up: Don’t ever rent bikes in Isla Mujeres from Omar!
We ended up venting with a few bottles of Dos Equis on the beach and all was good again before taking the ferry back to Cancun for the day.
For Spring Break in March, Sean and I headed to Cancun for some fun in the sun.
It had been pretty cold in DC, so it was a relief to get somewhere warm (On a side note, DC had a freak heat wave while we were gone and we came back to 70 degree temps)
Instead of staying in one of those big resort spring break hotels, we opted for Airbnb, which turned out to be a great experience our first time.
I chose a place that looked cute online, had good reviews, and then just left it up to trust. It worked! This is the place where we ended up, which was in the middle of downtown Cancun, and it was only about $60 a night (a great bargain here)
Getting in to the little house was a little adventure… the owner said her father would be at the house when we arrived, but when he didn’t answer after we kept ringing the doorbell, I had to yell “Oye! Oye!” until someone from the house next door came out. Turns out the father lives next door. But it was all good.
This little sitting room above was just perfect. That big window faced the front garden next to the street and we could hear nature sounds, the ice cream man go by, and other chatter outside. Very sensory overall.
I have to say, staying in someone’s house is pretty interesting. In this case, the owner wasn’t there and we had the place to ourselves but it felt so cozy. We also really liked her bizarre decorating style.
As I said, this little cottage was in downtown Cancun, so it was very much out of the tourist hotel zone, which was good in many ways, but not good in others. It would’ve been nice to easily walk outside our room and stroll down to the beach. That’s not how it worked out for us, though we did learn how to use the bus system pretty easily.
The upside was that we were in the middle of a very busy local part of town with plenty of shops, restaurants, parks, and people-watching. Our first night, we walked to the Parque de las Palapas, where we had dinner and then hung out in the main square watching kids ride around in remote controlled cars. There were some really cute but young kids in those cars… one little baby was about 6 months old I think and couldn’t even hold her head up!
We found this restaurant, Piknik, a little pricey for a local place, but the food was tasty. The waiter talked me into this spicy shrimp dish, which tasted good and all, but I would’ve preferred something more simple, I think. In any case, the guacamole was good!
In fact, we went back to this same restaurant a few days later for an afternoon snack of drinks and guacamole and they ran out. As in, NO. GUACAMOLE. AT. ALL.
One bizarre thing we discovered in Cancun is that there is a super Walmart there. This Walmart looks exactly like a Walmart you’d find in the States and has all the same stuff, except apparently a very robust selection of alcohol that goes on for aisles and aisles. (We met an American couple in the park looking for this Walmart for that very reason)
We felt like we had to check out the spectacle of this Mexican Walmart, you know, just to see it, ridicule it, and then never return.
Because why would we go to a Walmart in Mexico when there are Walmarts everywhere in the States? (That’d be like going all the way to Italy and then eating at Pizza Hut or something instead of a real Italian place).
We’d never do that!
Well, except the very next day… we had to go back to the Walmart and buy a few things. An ipad charger (Sean left it at home), a towel for Sean (he left it at home), and something else I can’t remember that he left at home.
That first day in Cancun was very casual, but Day 2 was when the exciting stuff started to happen.
I’ll give you a few hints:
and something you can’t do in the States, walk around the streets with an open cerveza in hand.
One of my favorite things to do lately is browse Yelp food reviews.
I discover so many new random hole in the wall joints (my favorite) this way.
Like Republic Kolache, for example.
I happened to see the thumbnail for it while browsing for something else. Texas style Kolaches in DC? How can that be?
But alas, it is true and Yelp brought this lovely little place into our life last Saturday.
Republic Kolache is only open on Saturdays from 10 am-1 pm inside the American Ice Bar downtown. It’s a pop-up which uses the bar space in the am.
They feature unique different flavors each week and we tried them all including egg & cheddar, half-smoke, sag paneer, cream cheese & pecan, and spiced apple.
They were all really good, but the sag paneer (a tex-mex version of the Indian dish) and the cream cheese pecan were my favorites.
The decor is really Texas inspired and I was impressed by the tray paper featuring all the famous Texas motifs.
This woman is particularly meaningful for Texans… do you know who it is? Selena, of course! (On a side note, I once went to her shrine in Corpus Christi where she is forever immortalized in a bare- midriff top like this one.)
We understood all the Texas motifs easily, but the only one we couldn’t figure out was the cherries??? Can some Texan out there explain?
All this bread was certainly filling for a few hours, but we had to go home and make some space in our stomachs because that night, we met some friends at the Korean/Southern hybrid restaurant in National Harbor called Succotash.
Here is my “Dirty Chicken” which reminded me of chicken wings with spicy sauce and blue cheese. It most definitely had a Korean flavor though with Korean red chili spice.
Some of our other dishes included fried green tomatoes, watermelon and peanuts, BBQ ribs, and chicken with waffles.
We also had Korean chicken wings, collards with kimchi, and a ham and sausage platter.
One of my favorite dishes of the night was this pimento fundido with caramelized onions.
I would’ve loved to try dessert, but as you can imagine our stomachs were full after all this food. How could we not be full?
While we all thought our entrees were fine, everyone felt the appetizers and the sides were more special and worthwhile. We agreed if we ever come back, we’d skip the mains completely and just order some drinks with small plates instead.