Food and Drink

Eating Out at Mexican Diners

VIPS Mexican Diner Sign

Meals out at Mexican diners are affordable, and offer an opportunity to enjoy a square meal amidst a choice of traditional Mexican dishes as well as international menu staples like burgers, sandwiches and pastas. People visiting on vacation might stop-by at one of the diners to take a quick meal out, and expats living in Mexico also use them to take a meal at some time during the day, or even as a venue for a business meeting.

The principal restaurant diners in Mexico are VIPS, Sanborns, TOKS and Wings.  They are owned and run by major retail groups and are often situated next to, or inside, retail centers.  They have outlets in most major towns and cities, and Wings may also be found at several of Mexico’s airports.

As eating out at diners is so popular here, the chains compete against each other for your business by offering ample menus with an assortment of Mexican and international dishes, promotional discounts, and monthly a-la-carte specials.

The establishments are open extended hours seven days a week serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in addition to a range of all-day meals and light snacks.  In years past, these diners were often frequented for coffee and a roll, although since the aperture of Starbucks and other specialty coffee houses in Mexico, customers’ buying habits have changed.

You won’t find haute gastronomy at these diners, but you can get a good tasty meal for a reasonable price accompanied by fully-serviced tables in an agreeable atmosphere.  During festive periods the diners usually offer Mexican specialties related to the season and festivity. Throughout the year you’ll likely find other theme-based promotions happening here, for example, spotlighting a specific Mexican State and offering a range of traditional regional dishes which are served there.  On occasions when foreign countries are spotlighted in this way, the dishes usually have a Mexican twist applied to them, adding to the variety and novelty of flavors on offer.

All of the dining establishments offer a wide range of beverages including freshly-pressed juices from locally-produced seasonal fruits and vegetables; sodas, coffees, teas, beers and cocktails. Some have an adjoining bar where, on selected evenings or weekends, a live cabaret band might play background music.

Here’s a summary of the principal diners in Mexico, with links to their web sites:

Sanborns is the most traditional of the diners.  The department store (and its restaurant) have been in business since 1903 and their famous ‘100 year blend’ filter coffee is arguably the better of the ‘diner coffees’.  The restaurants are annexed to all Sanborns department stores and almost all have an adjoining bar, open during the evenings.  Sanborn’s much-talked of flagship restaurant is known as ‘Sanborns Azulejos’, a reference to the beautiful mosaic tiles which adorn the old colonial building where the restaurant is situated; you’ll find it in the heart of Mexico City’s historic district, on the corner of Calle Madero and Eje Central.

VIPS has been making a comeback after a period of decline.  Wal-Mart sold the VIPS restaurant business and the new owners have been trying to inject new vitality into the diners, with a range of gourmet coffees, a re-launched menu, and improved food choices and tastes.  You can find VIPS next-door to most Wal-Mart stores throughout Mexico, although stand-alone VIPS restaurants can also be found across the country.

TOKS has completed a much-needed makeover of its aging diners and today the establishments provide a very pleasant and agreeable ambiance to dine in, with an attractive and well thought-out menu of food choices to enjoy.  TOKS is owned and operated by a supermarket group, so you can find TOKS diners adjacent to many (not all) Soriana supermarkets.

Wings diners are most often found in shopping centers as well as airports across Mexico.  Wings is part of a retail group that owns a number of popular contemporary Mexican restaurants.  Some of the Wings diners also have an adjoining bar named El Baron Rojo.   Like all the other restaurant diners, Wings offers an ample range of Mexican and international food dishes to suit most tastes, including vegetarian options.

See Also: In Praise of the Humble Comedor

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