Explore the ancestral cuisine of the Maya people in Valladolid, Mexico at Ix Cat Ik's tremendously unique and delicious restaurant just outside the tourist areas of town. Indulge in traditional beverages served in coconut shells, artful platters of pork and seafood wrapped in banana leaves, and a twinkle-lit jungle atmosphere full of romance.
Note: Always Pack Tissues represents many tried and tested travel sites as what is called an 'affiliate' partner. That means if you click on my ads I may get a commission from a resulting sale.
Tell Me More
Walking into the open-air restaurant, diners can choose to sit under a roof partly indoors or outside in their garden. Either way the atmosphere is hard to beat, with candles on every table and tropical foliage adorning every wall.
Having visited the Coba ruins earlier the day we visited Ix Cat Ik, we learned about pok a tok, a particularly brutal game, which is a part of Mayan ancestral history. We were happy to see the connection made upon the walls at Ix Cat Ik, painted with murals and nods towards the game along the path to the restrooms.
Even further proving the authenticity of the restaurants traditional Mayan roots, stations full of baskets with achiote, garlic, xcatic peppers and cacao line the walls waiting for demonstrations to inquisitive guests.
Upon arrival at your table, diners receive a welcome chaya drink, green and frothy almost like a matcha tea found in Japan.
We were extremely curious, so they brought us some of the leaves to the table to understand further about this plant that was completely foreign to us.
Offering beer, wine and cocktails, Ix Cat Ik is a full service mid-range restaurant with heart, history, flair and a whole lot of flavor.
Exploring the Menu
First of all, when looking at a Mexican menu, remember $100 is Mexican Pesos, so for every $100 it is about $5 or $6 in USD. At time of writing, $1 USD is about $18 pesos.
When exploring a traditional Mayan menu, you may find a lot of unique flavors you are unfamiliar with. I suggest trying them all!
For starters, the Mayans really enjoy Sopa de Lima, which sounds like a basic lime based soup but trust me - it is exploding with flavor. No matter how hot it is outside, make room in your stomach for this wonderful starting plate.
Next, you will find several items on the menu that are completely new to an uninformed Americana like myself.
First, we discovered chaya. Having already tried it in our welcome beverage, we found it showed up everywhere on the menu as well. Chaya, as we learned, is a leafy plant used at Ix Cat Ik for beverages, sauces, in dishes as a green, and then some. We tried the T’zotobichay, which was a tamale made with chaya and pumpkin topped with tomato.
We also had the chaya empanada and the Polok waaj, which was a truly unique corn and bean dough base topped with chaya, xcatic (ex-sh-cah-tick) pepper and onion.
What is xcatic? Well, not only the namesake of this restaurant, but like chaya it is a strongly heralded vegetable in Mayan gastronomy used in everything from sauces to meals. A green pepper looking much like a jalapeno in shape but with a banana pepper color, it's vibrant flavor enhances many Mayan dishes.
Another very popular and traditional item on Mayan menus is their longaniza sausage. Coming from Spain, my husband and I are familiar with the European variety, but this is much different! Taking on a more red and crumbly texture like a Mexican chorizo, this sausage is a wonderful option for the meat lover.
I personally had the Camarón Ix Cat Ik, which did not disappoint! A shrimp dish, it was piled on top of sauteed chaya and prepared with a wonderfully creamy sauce made from the xcatic pepper.
My husband is a big fan of cochinita pibil so he had the K’éek’en Píibil, wrapped in banana leaf and served with orange and achiote.
Is Ix Cat Ik Kid-Friendly?
Absolutely! Everywhere in Mexico is kid-friendly, in my opinion. They always love catering to children and making them smile. If you have a picky eater you can depend on basic items like their homemade tortillas or shrimp and chicken dishes.
Take your children to see the palapa hut near the restaurant entrance where on any given night you will find a woman preparing tortillas in the traditional Mayan way from scratch, over a firewood flame. Kiddos will love sampling a hot tortilla right off the platter it was cooked in. Bring a little tip money to show your appreciation.
The Website Mentions a Tour?
Not so much a tour, but the restaurant host will share with you a good 5-10 minute demonstration on how to make Mayan chocolate, as well as a demonstration on making a Mayan paste for sauces from achiote and other spices.
The process is really interesting, all using fruits of the Earth. We noticed that not everyone got the special demonstration, so be sure to ask if they have time to show you.
Anything to Note Before I Go?
Yes, if you plan to eat outside bring/wear bug spray! We were lucky enough to ask the server and he had some available to use, but we got bitten up terribly before we finally asked!
Also, the restaurant is cash only (as of April 2022) so plan to bring plenty of cash and price out your meals in your head before you purchase.
If You Go
Make a reservation in advance on their website Restaurant Ix Cat Ik.
They are open Monday - Sunday 12pm to 21:00.
Military Colony, Valladolid, Yuc.
39th Street between 20 and 22.
There are only a few parking spaces at the restaurant, so plan to get there early or expect to park on the street. Note that the neighborhood is not touristy and is very residential. You may find that the street is dark and deserted of people, so park at your comfort level or take a taxi to the restaurant.
After a day of exploring colorful, colonial Valladolid, do yourself a favorite and enjoy a beautiful meal at this truly special and authentic Mayan restaurant.
Discover nearby shopping, cenotes, Mayan ruins and more, and get a sense of times past. Enjoy!