Dining in Playa Del Carmen
…choosing the right places to eat…
The other week I met an English couple who kept complaining that they couldn’t find authentic Mexican food in Playa Del Carmen.
I asked what they meant by “authentic.”
They said, “You know, like fajitas and the stuff they have in the Mexican restaurants at home.”
What were they thinking?
That’s like believing Pizza Hut is the pinnacle of Italian cuisine.
Or that the only restaurants in Japan are all you can eat sushi bars.
Trust me, if you come to Playa Del Carmen, you can find authentic Mexican food.
And I’m talking about the real stuff, not just a wrap stuffed with fried meat and smothered in cheese.
But Playa Del Carmen is so cosmopolitan that I can understand why people think there isn’t Mexican food.
This complaint is a testimony to the variety of food in Playa Del Carmen.
The Variety Of Dining Experiences In Playa Del Carmen
There are hundreds, maybe thousands of restaurants in Playa Del Carmen.
Every day can be a new dining experience.
Perhaps sitting at a table on the beach and ordering fresh barbecued seafood.
Or finding a dingy backstreet and gorging yourself on a plate of tacos bigger than the table.
In Playa Del Carmen there is the intimate, the loud, the bizarre, the fun, and the luxury fine dining experience.
Then there are waiters that carry drinks on their head.
And street food with so much spice that your all-inclusive resort room service has to keep coming up with fresh toilet paper so often that you may be blacklisted your next time through. Ouch!
Italian, Mexican, Mayan, Japanese, Indian, German, Spanish, Argentinian, American, the list of culinary influences is endless.
Then there is a giant ugly Burger King in the middle of 5th Avenue.
Where To Eat In Playa Del Carmen
Dining in Playa Del Carmen depends a lot on where you go.
I don’t mean which restaurant, I mean which area of town.
There are hundreds of restaurants on 5th Avenue.
Some are delicious, others aren’t that great.
These places have atmosphere, because the whole street buzzes with life.
Coming to 5th Ave offers lots of alcohol, great human sightseeing, and endless restaurant choice.
You will find something that suits your budget and taste.
But when it comes to dining in Playa Del Carmen, there is little better that gazing at the ocean.
The restaurants on the beach come in two types.
Either those in upscale hotels, which I find to be snobby, overpriced, and full of people who like to complain about the smallest of things.
Then there are restaurants / bars on the beach.
These are prime places because you don’t have to leave the restaurant to find the party afterwards.
For the tastiest food in Playa Del Carmen you’ve got to get off the beaten track and down some of the streets that aren’t 5th Avenue or 10th Ave.
Try my Playa Del Carmen restaurant guide for some excellent places to seek out.
Expensive Prices Doesn’t Mean Good Food
One thing I love about dining in Playa Del Carmen is how cheap it is for amazing food.
It’s not like in the States, where the restaurants quadruple the price because they know the only alternative in town is KFC.
Even if you’ve got the cash, don’t stick to the fancy, expensive restaurants.
Some have started taking the heat from their arrogance.
I understand charging $50+ USD for eating lobster.
But for a chicken fajita that you can buy on the street for $2 USD?
The cheaper, less fancy restaurants, have a much better atmosphere.
Moreover, they’re probably owned by the head chef or manager.
Thus, it’s personal – they absolutely want to ensure that you enjoy your meal and come back a second time.
Dining in Playa Del Carmen is so cheap that you can eat at a restaurant for every meal and not go broke.
It’s not like when you’re traveling in Europe and have to survive off bread and peanut butter because it costs 12 EUROS for a stale sandwich.
Breakfast Dining In Playa Del Carmen
Screw the hotel breakfasts a couple of times and get a breakfast that maximizes Mexico’s local produce.
I’m talking fresh fruit juice in 1-liter containers, barbecued corn, cute little pastries, and the freshest coffee.
The worst place for breakfast is the big restaurants.
They charge too much and seem to have some inexperienced substitute chef working the morning shift.
Try Oh Lala, or Kaxapa Factory.
Both of these are especially good on a hangover when the vitamins are most needed.
Plus they have a soothing kind of prepare-yourself-for-the-day atmosphere going on.
Alternatively stop at La Crepacabana or Ah Cacao Chocolate Cafe.
Down to earth vibe, great crepes, sugar boosts, and friendly staff.
Lunchtime Dining In Playa Del Carmen
People spend hours agonizing over which restaurant to pick for dinner.
But at lunchtime most people just walk into the first place they see.
Don’t do it!
Here are five great lunch spots:
- La Cueva del Chango – check out their amazingly green garden and tell me you didn’t fall asleep there after lunch.
- Caminito Parrilla – Argentinian steak burgers? Yes please!
- Mestizaje Sin Fronteras – For a slow lunch over good wine, come to this place on 5th Avenue.
- La Vagabunda – Intimate atmosphere, cheap menu, great food. Lunchtime dining in Playa Del Carmen at its best.
- La Portena – Out on Calle 38, this shack grills steak right in front of you. Plus the beer’s cheap. A great choice when the hangover hunger kicks in.
Fine Dining In Playa Del Carmen
In most of the world, fine dining means some snotty restaurant where all the waiters are so polite that you want to punch them.
Fine dining in Playa Del Carmen means great food and a good atmosphere.
You don’t need to wear a suit.
In fact, why not go barefoot?
“No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem!”
The absolute best fine dining restaurant in Playa Del Carmen is Ajua Maya.
I’ve also compiled a list of the best restaurants in Playa Del Carmen.
It includes the cheapies as well as the places to splurge.
These all offer great fine dining experiences.
Remember To Tip!
Service workers primarily live on tips.
So they always give good service.
10% is a reasonable tip here and you can read my article about tipping in Mexico for more information.
DO NOT TIP MORE THAN 10%!!!!
Just remember, when dining in Playa Del Carmen, tip the waiters what they deserve.
So if they bring out drinks on their heads, throw them a few extra pesos.
Most importantly, just enjoy the dining experience in Playa Del Carmen!
Lots of love,
It’s your turn. Do you have any suggestions about dining here? Please leave your tips, hints, and advice in the comments section below!!