El Cuchupetas offers dishes such as oysters and ceviche. // © 2015 Melita Kuburas
Feature image (above): La Mazatleca serves traditional and modern Mexican cuisine. // © 2015 Tanja M. Laden
While Culiacan Rosales may be Sinaloa’s official capital, Mazatlan is the region’s most important city when it comes to tourism. The beachside community provides ideal shorelines for locals and travelers and offers mouthwatering Sinaloan cuisine.
Foodies looking to get a true taste of this northwestern Mexican state will find this dining excursion through Mazatlan an immersive crash course in Sinaloa’s gastronomy.
Begin the culinary journey with breakfast at the flagship Panama Restaurant and Bakery, run by chef Luis Osuna and brother Nacho, the sons of its founders. With more than 30 locations across Sinaloa, the spot is favored for its home-style meals and freshly baked goods. Sip a spicy Mexican coffee while you choose from sweet treats such as donuts, fruit tarts and cream-filled cuernos (horn-shaped pastries) or savory dishes like huevos con jamon (ham and eggs).
Next, stop for a drink at La Vinata de Los Osuna in La Noria, a charming rural town 23 miles northeast of Mazatlan. Built in the 1800s and located on one of Sinaloa’s largest blue agave plantations, the small distillery uses traditional machinery and modern methods to make 100 percent blue agave spirits. The world-class Los Osuna agave spirit is available in three varieties: anejo, the darkest and most aged; reposado (“rested” in Spanish); and blanco, the lightest and youngest.
Lunch at El Meson de los Laureanos in the lush, rural town of El Quelite, a 40-minute drive north of Mazatlan. The restaurant’s rustic, homey vibe reflects its authentic fare. Try the homemade tortillas and dishes such as chilaquiles, codornices (quail) and regional specialty chilorio — slow-roasted pork cooked in chili sauce and fried in lard. Follow it with a ToniCol, Sinaloa’s prized vanilla-flavored soft drink. It’s made from a recipe passed down through generations of a family-owned business.
Given Sinaloa’s location on the Pacific, it should come as no surprise that shrimp is one of its main delicacies, and at El Cuchupetas you’ll find plenty of tasty shrimp dishes. Located in the small town of Villa Union, about 15 miles southeast of downtown Mazatlan, Manuel Sanchez Villalpando’s local spot opened in 1987 as a tiny seafood eatery and has since grown to a full-fledged restaurant. Wash down the aguachile (ceviche with chilies) and camarones rellenos (bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp stuffed with cheese) with a cold bottle of Pacifico, which is brewed in Mazatlan.
For a late-afternoon pick-me-up, head to Mazatlan’s Centro Historico to indulge in handmade nieve de garrafa (a sorbet-like dessert). A small, unassuming stand at the corner of Avenida Benito Juarez and 31 de Marza serves flavors that range from plum and guava to cheese and burnt milk. If it’s a boozy boost you’re after, visit Onilikan. This artisan distillery specializes in mango spirits and liqueurs and serves gourmet treats such as mole and chocolate spiked with mango spirits.
For dinner, try La Mazatleca. This sleek new restaurant near Zona Dorada serves a fusion of traditional and modern Mexican cuisine. With the beach as its back patio, the eatery offers a beautiful sunset view for diners indulging in dishes such as pulmonia (named after Mazatlan’s famous white open-air taxis), which comes with shrimp, baby scallops and spicy habanero sauce on the side.
Full yet? There are countless food destinations to discover in Mazatlan. Los Panchos Restaurant, at the end of a small, narrow mall, serves a traditional Mexican breakfast with a beachfront view of Deer Island. More adventurous types can arrange for tours of Pinsa, one of Latin America’s most profitable tuna factories, or check out Suaves Espuma Froth, a candy factory that makes marshmallow-like treats covered with coconut.
You’ll find many other hidden gems along the way. But no matter your taste, Mazatlan is the go-to destination to get the flavor of Sinaloa’s cuisine.