La Opera (Mexico City; tel. 55/5512-8959)
This legendary cantina, in the style of an opulent European cafe, has attracted illustrious personalities for decades -- Pancho Villa shot a still-visible hole through the roof. In the historic center, it doubles as a restaurant, but it's best as a late-afternoon watering hole.
El Sacromonte (Guadalajara; tel. 33/3825-5447)
Various dishes delight the senses with novel tastes and textures and skillful presentation. The menu describes each dish in Spanish couplets.
Adobe Fonda (Tlaquepaque; tel. 33/3657-2792)
Delicious Mexican food is served inside one of those gorgeous decorative arts stores that line Tlaquepaque's Calle Independencia. The point of departure for the food is some uncommon Mexican recipes, which are then given sparkling Italian and Argentine accents.
Daiquiri Dick's (Puerto Vallarta; www.ddpv.com)
A Vallarta institution, this beachfront restaurant combines scrumptious Mediterranean cuisine with excellent service and a lovely setting. Come for fresh fish creatively prepared and wash it down with a daiquiri or two. You'll find this casual restaurant as compelling for a romantic occasion as for a fun night out with friends.
Trio (Puerto Vallarta; www.triopv.com)
Most locals will tell you Trio is their favorite restaurant in Vallarta, a modest but stylish cafe where chef-owners Bernhard Güth and Ulf Henricksson's undeniable passion for food imbues each of the delicious Mexican and Mediterranean dishes.
Le Fort (Bucerías; www.lefort.com.mx)
Diners are treated to a culinary show by acclaimed chef Gilles Le Fort followed by the chance to sit down with him and other guests in a communal gourmet dinner. The prix-fixe menu includes three courses and matching wines, and the table seats 16.
Zibu (Acapulco; tel. 744/433-3058)
This chic open-air restaurant combines Mexican and Thai architectural and culinary styles to create one of the nation's best dining experiences, including a breathtaking view of the sea.
Los Flamingos (Acapulco; www.hotellosflamingos.com/restaurant.html)
If you're in Acapulco on a Thursday, you can enjoy a bowl of pozole, a traditional hominy-and-meat stew. Although you'll find it served at lunchtime throughout town, the best place to savor it is at Los Flamingos' cliff-top restaurant.
Mariscos Villa Rica Mocambo (Veracruz; tel. 229/922-2113)
Nobody else does seafood the way Veracruz does seafood, and this restaurant is the showcase for the region's cuisine.
The Club Grill (in the Ritz-Carlton Cancún; tel. 998/881-0808)
Two of the only AAA five-diamond restaurants in all of Mexico sit inside the Ritz-Carlton Cancún, which also operates a world-class culinary center. Consider this jazz and supper club for a special occasion; anything you order will be superb.
Labná (Ciudad Cancún; www.labna.com)
In Cancún's old downtown, this authentic Yucatecan restaurant offers deliciously unusual cuisine from the region like lime soup, poc chuc, and pork pibil. The gracious staff takes good care of diners, ensuring they have an enriching experience.
La Pigua (Campeche; tel. 981/811-3365)
Campeche's regional specialty is seafood, and nowhere else will you find seafood like this. Mexican caviar, coconut-battered shrimp, and chiles stuffed with shark are just a few of the unique specialties, along with the regional trademark pan de cazón, a layered casserole of baby shark. La Pigua's pompano will have you checking flight schedules.
Don Emiliano (downtown San José del Cabo; www.donemiliano.com.mx)
Don Emiliano wields farm-fresh ingredients laced with Mexican tradition and emerges from the kitchen with modern delights such as stepped-up chile en nogada for Día de Independencia and lemon atole with candied pumpkin for Day of the Dead. Don't miss the regular menu, which combines the likes of locally made cheeses with roasted tomatillos and dried hibiscus flowers with beef tenderloin.
Palapa Azul (La Paz; tel. 612/122-1801)
Almejas (clams) can be found everywhere from roadside shacks to gourmet restaurants in Baja Sur and are prepared raw with lime and salsa or baked inside their shells. The best place to enjoy this local treat is Palapa Azul on La Paz's Tecolote beach. The shells are stuffed with cheese, jalapeños, bacon, butter, tomatoes, and a secret ingredient the chef won't reveal. They are then wrapped in aluminum foil and tossed into an oven. The result is delectable and so is the view of the Sea of Cortez you will enjoy.
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