There’s good, bad, expensive, cheap, greasy, organic, home-style and chain restaurants to choose from when visiting Cancun. If you stick to the Hotel Zone you’ll only ever come across the American-style chains like the Hard Rock Cafe, Outback Steakhouse or Applebees – tired options that you can have any day of the week while back home. If you are looking for real Mexican food while enjoying a vacation in the tropics, you have to get out of the tourist zone and enjoy some of the places that we eat on a daily basis since we live here. Such as Ya Estas! here in the heart of downtown Centro.
At first glance, it might not seem like much. They’ve got a handful of chairs and tables set up under an awning, and inside is a small area where they have the grill, the prep area, the cleaning area and the fruit counter where they make smoothies and juices. But just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, the humble surroundings that make up Ya Estas! should not be taken for granted, because they hide a subtle fact that you won’t know until you sit down and eat: this is one of the best tiendas de antojitos in all of Cancun.
I’ve been coming here since I first arrived in Cancun in late 2010. Back then the owner (Miguel) had his shop set up on the corner of Calle Rosas and Yaxchilan, just around the corner from where I was living my first few months in the city. Shortly after he changed to the current location where they have been for about three years (as of this writing); a move that, in my opinion, was better for their business. More space, better location, and it’s off the main strip so they have more of a “off the beaten path” appeal these days as opposed to a purely tourist crowd.
My drug of choice? Their eco tortas (short for economica, or the economic/cheap option). Specifically, the milanesa de puerco con huevo extra. Talk about a delicious and filling mid-day snack or a quick breakfast when you don’t have time to prep one in the house! Toasted bread, fresh-made jalapeño and habanero salsas to choose from, fresh tomatoes, lettuce and onions, refried beans, a little bit of mustard…for 15 – 20 pesos you really can’t go wrong (like 1.25 to 1.50 in USD).
They have a lot more than just tortas to offer, however. Their quesadillas are massive and just like most other little antojito place throughout Mexico they make their own tortillas fresh in their own restaurant. Often they are so fresh that they are actually making them just before prepping your food, so you can watch them heat up the tortilla and then fill it + cook it to perfection just the way you like.
Of course, these aren’t the only options. If you check out their menu over at their website, you’ll see that they have a whole variety of different Mexican classics, such as memelas, tacos, chilaquiles, enchiladas, burrotes, tacos durados and more.
They also have an extensive breakfast menu of combination platters that include juice, coffee or tea along with your selection. For us, we almost always get the Mexicanote, which is a strip steak grilled up with nopal (cactus) and fresh refried beans along with tortillas and some of their home-made jalapeño or habanero salsa, depending on how hot you want to go.
They also make fresh fruit juices and smoothies on the spot, as well as agua de fruta, with whatever type of fruit you want.
Speaking of which, that’s one of the things I really love about Ya Estas!, and it’s one of the things that’s kept me coming back over the years. Miguel and his staff make just about everything fresh, from scratch, and they take the time to ensure that their ingredients are only of the highest quality. He shops at the same markets as we do (I see him a couple of times per month at 6 a.m. in Wal Mart, and sometimes in Sams’ Club or Costco picking up supplies), and their soups and salsas are all made from fresh ingredients.
They also have free WiFi and are open every day of the week, although for a limited time on Saturdays and Sundays (depending on clients, but they usually close early afternoons on the weekends), plus they have home delivery if you live in Centro.
As far as personal recommendations go…everything on their menu is worth eating. Cristina likes the Milan-Milan torta and the tacos durados, and we are both huge fans of the Mexicanote breakfast combo, and for about a year I was hooked on their burrote gigante, which is a steak-filled burrito that is out-of-this-world delicious. But for your money’s worth, the breakfast combos and their tortas are where it’s at.
They also have the typical menu del dia, which is the lunch-of-the-day dish, which usually comes with soup, meat, tortillas and a drink, along with a salad or vegetables. No matter what you go with, you won’t leave hungry, and you’ll also be assured that whatever’s being served, it’s fresh and made right there in the tienda by people who know what they are doing and care about the quality.
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For more Mexico-specific posts, don’t forget to check out:
If you are looking for more information on Cancun or Mexico in general, you can pick up our Live Like a Local guide for the city, packed with other restaurant recommendations, apartment and condo referrals, tips on navigating the public transportation system, local negotiation tips and strategies, market and discount day overviews and more!
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