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 Mexico on vacation might stop-by at one of the diners to take a quick meal out, and foreign residents living in Mexico can often be seen taking a meal there, or using the diners as venue for a working breakfast or lunch.
The principal restaurant diners in Mexico are Sanborns, TOKS, VIPS, 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.
Diners are a good place to grab a square meal in Mexico. They are not fast food outlets, and instead provide fully-waited tables and all-day menus which include traditional breakfast favorites like cereals, granola, eggs, hotcakes, and popular Mexican dishes including molletes, tacos, quesadillas, tostadas, flautas, sopes, chiles rellenos and pozole among others. You can also select from a range of “international” dishes including home-made burgers, steaks, chicken and fish dishes, sandwiches, french-fries, salads, soups, etc.
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.
Mexican diners 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 sweet bread roll, although since the specialty coffee houses have become popular in Mexico, customers’ buying habits have changed, but you can still call-in to a diner for a quick coffee if you’re passing-by.
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. Theme-based promotions have been popular of late, for example, spotlighting a specific Mexican state or region and offering a range of traditional dishes 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 some also offer a range of cocktails in the evening. Some have an adjoining bar where, on selected evenings or weekends, a live cabaret act may perform.
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 best of the ‘diner coffees’. The restaurants are annexed to all Sanborns department stores and almost all have an adjoining bar which is open during the evenings. Sanborns most famous 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.
TOKS completed a 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, albeit at generally higher prices than its peers. TOKS offers a wine ‘corkage’ service whereby you can take your own bottle of wine and, for a set fee, the waiter will open it and provide wine glasses to your party. Many (but not all) TOKS diners are found adjacent to Soriana supermarkets.
Wings diners are most often found in retail shopping centers as well as airports across Mexico. 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. It’s owned and operated by the same group that runs the VIPS diners.
Vips restaurants are generally (but not exclusively) found in the same location as Wal-Mart supermarkets. This diner chain passed through a period of gentle decline after Wal-Mart purchased it in 1997, and the decline has accelerated since the VIPS restaurant business was sold to a multi-brand restaurant management company that owns several restaurant chains in Mexico. We recommend you choose Sanborns or TOKS instead.
All diners are particularly busy in the early mornings—between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m.—as people in Mexico are big on eating “breakfast out” and many business meetings held at a restaurant commonly take place over breakfast.
Lunch (in Spanish la comida) is the main meal of the day and is traditionally taken between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.; supper in Mexico, la cena, starts from 8 p.m.
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