There is somewhat of a dilemma when looking for "cheap eats" in Cancun . Most of the economical restaurants are located in the Downtown area, but it will cost you a lot of money to get to the Downtown area in a taxi. 

So here is how to beat the system.  Take the bus from your hotel to the Downtown area.  You will know you are in Downtown Cancun when you pass the big turnaround at Ave. Coba and Bonampak .  There is a nice bus stop of Coba Avenue where you can also pick up a taxi. Now you are in Downtown Cancun and taxis will be cheaper than in the hotel zone.  So now take a taxi to any of the below restaurants mentioned and it will cost you only $20 pesos - $1.30 USD (Feb. 2009).  

For delicious low cost food ,go where the locals go...

The Cancun Bull Ring.   Under the bull ring are a lot “cantinas.” Cantinas are Mexican bar-restaurants that are frequented by middle-class Mexican business men.   If you go will see a lot of hotel and tourism people having drinks and lunch.   Some of the more popular restaurants are “La Guadalupana,” “La Provedencia”, and “La Faena.”   All are excellent, have typical Mexican dishes and are very reasonability priced.

The Parque de las Palapas , is very cheap and good for a snack.   However around the outside of the Parque de las Palapas you will find some excellent Bistro style restaurants which are also frequented by the locals.   Here you will also find "La Habichuela," which is one of the best restaurants in Cancun.

Merchado 28 is the biggest market in Cancun is Mercado 28, at the western end of Ave. Sunyaxchen which is off of Yaxchilan. While there are some food stalls and tiny restaurants here you will also encounter some of the best Mexican-style seafood restaurants in Cancun . Be sure to check out “Cejas,”  “Pescado con Limon” and "Los Jarochos."  Los Jarochos sits by itself in Market 28, instead of being in the food court.  The open kitchen sits in the middle of the restaurant and you can watch them cook your fresh seafood.  They have great Menudo-like soup with tripe, supa de marisco, and ceviche.   If you want Yucatan style food go to “Cochi-Pavo” for some of the most original and cheapest Yucatan-Mayan food in Cancun . Shops and Restaurants close at around 7pm, so arrive early for delicious food. 

Mercado 23, is much smaller but makes a relatively peaceful venue for a decent Mexican lunch. Around the bus station are several cheap restaurants, and if you walk a few blocks along Tulum Ave. you will find some other restaurants that cater to tourist at reasonable prices.  

Plaza Peninsula on Av. Bonampak towards the airport form the hotel zone has some great restaurants which are frequented by the locals.   In addition to a "Starbuck’s" you will find a "Ruben’s Burgers," which is a Mexican chain serving one of the best burgers in Mexico .   "Belgian Waffle Boutique," serving every kind of waffle you can imagine. There is also an excellent sushi restaurant and an Argentinean Steak House – all reasonably priced.   At night there are also a couple of night clubs located in the upstairs of the building.

Plaza Hollywood is located on Xcaret Ave. in front of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.   Here you will find “El Platon” which has an international menu with some Mexican specialties.   Priced right too.

La Pasteleria, La Creperia is one of the best breakfast places in Cancun .   Here is where breakfast get “infused” with Mexican and Mayan flair.   Don’t pass this one up.   It is located on Coba Ave. across from the Chrysler dealer.   Breakfast will be less then $7.00 per person and it will be something to “write home about.”

Xtabentun is the place you will find the locals eating tacos after the nightclubs close.  It is located behind the Coral Negro market and faces the entrance to the Black Pearl and Nectar. All seating is on a small outdoor patio. Reasonably priced and good food but not really a restaurant – more of a quick sandwich place.

Spice & Ice was recommended by a couple on the bus. They asked about the tamales bought form the local woman outside of Walmart near the bus stop (they were extremely good and only 10 pesos - about ninety cents) then mentioned that Spice & Ice was their favorite place to eat.  Located across from the Coco Bongo (the bus will get you there - just mention Coco Bongo) & the  Plaza Forum by the Sea.  It's a small hole in the wall that sells tacos (traditional soft shells).  You choose your meat then you can heap on all the condiments (beans, rice, pico de gallo etc etc) you want .  Everything was good but the best was the spiced pork - carved off a giant roast not unlike the ones you see at Gyro stands in NYC .  it's about $1 a taco, very messy and about as authentic as you are going to get.  They don't start serving food till 3 o'clock though.