Not far from the Señor Frog’s restaurant and jewelry shops where the more than one ginormous cruise ship docks each day in the island of Cozumel’s main town of San Miguel, there’s a small market serving the local population. Few tourists venture past Avenida 10, so the market sits several blocks beyond the border of where real Cozumel begins.
When the Mercado Municiapl de San Miguel opens at 7am, vendors are hawking fresh fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, and chiles. Soon the loncherias open. Two of them mention they serve Lebanese, Phillipino, and Indonesian foods (the latter two to serve cruise ship workers I’m told), as well as Mexican. I sit down at the busiest, Loncheria “Chelly.” There’s one rickety fan blowing, but it’s not doing any good. I’m sweating profusely so I order up a horchata. It’s brought out in a plastic cup with one large ice cube in it and a bowl of tortilla chips made from the tortillas of the day before is placed on the table with two bowls of Yucatecan chile sauces (one from chipotle peppers, another from habaneros) that were made fresh in the tiny kitchen.
I glaze the long, handwritten menu. There’s chilaquiles, tortas, quesadillas, tacos, ceviche, Pollo de Mole Poblano, Pescado de Mojo Ajo, and a dozen or so other dishes. It’s the early afternoon so most are ordering the three course menus, la comida corrida (food on the run). I wanted something light and refreshing. The young waitress, probably 17, and only cook recommended Sopa de Limon, or Yucatan lime Soup. It’s one of the most traditional dishes from the region. Basically it’s chicken soup with red and green peppers, and onions seasoned with lime, cumin, and cilantro. It has bits of tortilla that sink to the bottom. It uses the lima agria, though the key lime is close in size and flavor. What would Carlos n’ Charlie think?
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.