Confessions of a spice-challenged visitor to Mexico

By Bob Schulman

Photo by Jack TylerFirst, let's get this straight: I really like spices. The trouble is, they don't like me. Anything with even a tiny chile in it gives me an instant heartburn. So when I'm in Mexico, enchiladas are out. So are quesadillas. Ditto for huevos rancheros. I can't even be in the same room with chipotles a la poblana.

Where does a spice-challenged traveler chow down south of the border?

As a travel writer, I've been there lots times. Over the years I've learned to look for international chain hotels that cater to families -- because their restaurants tend to offer simple fare for kids. Like hamburgers, hot dogs and pepito (steak) sandwiches.

What about side dishes? I order papas fritas (french fried potatoes) to go with my burgers. Can't go wrong there. Well, usually.

At night, I make a bee-line for restaurants of the ilk of Senor Frog's and Carlos 'n Charlies'. Places like those tend to serve up stateside-type burgers and fried chicken and even fairly tame barbecue dishes. For instance, Carlos' “Moo Peep Oink” (barbecued steak, chicken and ribs). Ay caramba! That one really hits my non-spicy spot.Photo by Bob Schulman

Sometimes I drop in at dining spots a few notches up where I've made exciting discoveries for the spice-impaired. For example, the Presidente Intercontinental in Ixtapa serves a wonderful broiled lobster (if you ask, without incendiary stuff on it). And Pedro & Lola's on the corner of Mazatlan's Plaza Machado serves a fantastic breaded shrimp plate (all the spicy things come on the side). Also, I found the Barcelo resorts in Los Cabos, Manzanillo and the Riviera Maya have buffet heavens for the no-hot-stuff set.

In a real bind, when I'm in a town off the beaten track (and as a writer I go to many places like that) I can get by with a bowl or two of tortilla soup.


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