Food and Drink

Eating Out at Mexican Diners

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 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.

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 aperture of Starbucks and other specialty coffee houses 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 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 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.

VIPS 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 Alsea, a multi-brand restaurant management company that owns a number of restaurant chains in Mexico.  We recommend you choose Sanborns or TOKS instead.

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 is owned and operated by a supermarket group, so most (not all) of the 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 run the VIPS diners.

See Also: In Praise of the Humble Comedor