Excellent seafood features heavily on the menus of most restaurants, from the condensed strip of palapas (thatched-roof shelters) on the malecón just south of the aquarium to seafood restaurants in Boca del Río. Fusion and international places are scattered throughout the city, and some of the best cheap eats, including street food, are found in the historical center.

Gran Café de la Parroquia

To say that Veracruz' greatest ‘sight’ is a cafe might seem like a slur on this grizzled port city’s reputation, but walk into the Gran Café de la Parroquia – over two centuries old – and the penny will quickly drop. With its immense but un-showy interior, the Parroquia pulls in anything from 2000 to 4000 customers a day, and every facet of Veracruz' diverse personality is on show here. Patrons hold court, make noise and, more significantly, tap their spoons on their coffee glasses. The spoon-tapping – a Parroquia tradition dating from the 1890s – is to attract the attention of the ultra-professional waiters. Gliding like ballet dancers between the tables, they carry two huge steaming jugs, one filled with coffee and the other with hot milk. The de rigueur drink in the Parroquia is lechero, a milky coffee brought to your table as an espresso measure in the bottom of a glass. Tap your spoon on the glass rim and – hey presto – a white-jacketed waiter quickly appears, extends his jug high in the air, and fills your glass with scientific precision.

The Parroquia has inspired some spin-offs in recent years (including one right next door, which some people confuse with the original), but none come close to matching the atmosphere and spirit of the original on Veracruz' Paseo del Malecón. It also serves meals, but they're pretty so-so.