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Meals and Mealtimes in Mexico

Dining in Mexico

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Many a tourist has arrived at a restaurant in Mexico at noon for lunch and had to wait an inordinate amount of time for service. Restaurants that cater to tourists will have service throughout the day, but others that are geared towards locals may only serve during typical mealtimes, and noon is not one of them. To make the most of your dining experience in Mexico, you should try to adapt to Mexican mealtimes.

Here's a list of the names given to meals in Mexico and the time of day that they're usually consumed.

1. Desayuno

© 2006 Suzanne Barbezat
A light breakfast eaten first thing in the morning - perhaps just coffee, hot chocolate or atole (a thick hot drink that is made with corn, rice or oats) and sweet bread or fruit. A heavier morning meal is usually refered to as almuerzo.

2. Almuerzo

Almuerzo
© 2006 Suzanne Barbezat
This is a heavy breakfast or brunch, usually eaten sometime between 9 am and noon. This morning meal may consist of an egg or meat dish, or a dish made with fried tortillas and a spicy sauce such as chilaquiles or enchiladas.

3. Comida

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Generally eaten between 2 and 4 pm, comida is the main meal of the day. It may consist of several courses, including soup (sopa) or salad (ensalada), a main dish (guisado) and dessert (postre). It is often accompanied by a fruit flavored water (agua fresca).

Many restaurants offer comida corrida, a set meal with a few options. This is often the most economical choice, though prices can vary greatly (from around 30 up to 100 pesos). Many businesses and offices close between 2 and 4pm, not necessarily for "siesta", but for comida, so that workers can go home to enjoy the main meal of the day with their families. Correspondingly, traffic in cities may be heavy between 1:30 and 2:30 pm on weekdays.

4. Cena

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For many Mexicans the final meal of the day, la cena (pronounced "seh-na"), may consist of just a hot drink and some bread, but it could also be a nice meal eaten in a restaurant, or a chance to try out some authentic Mexican tacos at a street stand. This meal is usually eaten between 7 and 9 pm, though customs may vary throughout the country.

5. Botanas, antojitos and tentempiés

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These are different terms that are used to refer to snacks and you'll find plenty to snack on as you go about your day in Mexico. Botanas generally accompany drinks and can be as simple as salted peanuts or nachos and salsa. An antojo is a craving and antojitos satisfy those cravings for yummy Mexican snacks - these vary regionally throughout Mexico.
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