By Jules Siegel
Supermarkets here are not much different from those in the United States and Canada, but the selection is smaller; meat quality is, at best, fair; fruits and vegetables don't have the blemish-free appearance to which you may be accustomed, but will usually taste better. Beware of major American brand name products that say "para exportation internacional." They are often lower quality being disposed of to third world consumers. Mexican packaged foods vary in quality but are always acceptable. In Part 2, I'll consider what to buy in more detail. For now, the one cultural taste clash to avoid is butter. Only imported New Zealand and Danish butters will be acceptable to the American and Canadian taste. Lurpack (Danish) has great flavor; Anchor (New Zealand) is better for baking. Supermarkets have large wine and spirits departments. Housewares sections are good places to find Mexican dishware, especially the Santa Anita brand, and CIPSA glasware.
In alphabetical order:
Downtown, on Av. Tulum, facing the first traffic circle as you enter town; also in Plaza Las Amï¿½ricas and other locations in city. Av. Tulum store not for the claustrophobic. Good place for inexpensive jeans and other casual clothing. Claims to have the lowest prices in town and tries hard to do it. We received an e-mail from chain owner Antonio Chedraui several years ago assuring us that Chedraui not merely tries to be the least expensive, it is, according to the Consumer Protection Commission. Gourmet section in Las Americas store has imported rice, pasta, cookies and other high quality imported and domestic gourmet items.
Downtown, facing 2nd traffic circle. Ruta 1 Hotel Zone bus stops at entrance. We prefer the main store at Av. Lï¿½pez-Portillo and Kabah, which has has bigger selection, better prices and is less crowded. Busy supermarket with all the usual stuff. Good bargains on specials. Good delicatessen. Meat is edible. Good bakery section. About the best liquor selection in Cancun, especially good on imported wines. Main store has decent lunch counters and restaurants. Adjacent Costco has a very ample food department, but almost all items come in large family sizes.
Not a supermarket, but a very large liquor store with an extensive offering of wines and spirits, it has a high quality selection of delicatessen, packaged snacks, cocktail items, pasta and other imported and domestic specialties. Sells paella to go on weekends. Prices are lower than Wal-Mart on many items, such as imported French jam. Hotel Zone store does not have as extensive a selection, but there is a nice terrace out back with tables and umbrellas that is perfect for a picnic lunch overlooking the lagoon. They will make sandwiches for you.
Intersection of Kabah Ave. and Avenida del Sol. The easiest way to get there is to take any Hotel Zone bus, get off at the first stop in downtown, and hail a taxi, going rate about $1.50.
Prices as a rule are higher than Wal-Mart and Chedraui, but about the same as La Comercial Mexicana. The best buy in beef is the club steak, usually about $7 a kilo. Somewhat firmer than American beef, but not tough, it's flavorful and does not reek of chemicals and hormones like the American beef that sometimes shows up in Cancun supermarkets.
The bakery on the premises makes great bread of assorted types. Gourmet cake counter also offers prepared desserts such as chocolate mousse, as well as various candies made on premises. Fruit and vegetables selection is sometimes better than other supermarkets, but quality varies from week to week.
Downtown. Take 2, 103 or 15 Hotel Zone bus to third stop after sea shell monument. Driver will call out Wal-Mart before stop, so pay attention. Signs then point you to the store, which is about a block away. All taxi drivers know where it is. Very competitive prices. Open 24 hours.
The classic Wal-Mart, well-translated into Spanish, this is easily the most popular supermarket for tourists. Sam's Club shares parking lot.
Very good prices on specials. Neck and neck with Chedraui on prices, but noticably less expensive than La Comercial Mexicana or Soriana. Has Price's American milk and other imported foods, including Black Angus American beef. Best liquor prices in Cancun, with a nice selection of Mexican, Chilean and Spanish wines. Lots of imported beer brands. Bakery has American-style cakes at budget prices. Very reliable butcher, but most beef cuts are considerably tougher than American beef. Even the packaged hamburger here is acceptable, which cannot be said for any other supermarket butcher shop. Santa Clara dairy counter has wonderful ice cream (try the Triple Chocolate), natural and flavored yogurts, and high quality milk.
Jules Siegel is an American journalist whose work has appeared in Playboy, Rolling Stone, Best American Short Stories and many other publications. He has lived in Cancun with his family since 1983. He is the author of the Cancun User's Guide.