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Adventures in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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Eating Like a Local: Mexican, Mayan & More…for Cheap

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 25, 2008

One of the great things about living down here is the food! As many tourists and travelers already know, Playa Del Carmen has some of the best restaurants around, including all of our favorites like El Fogon, La Pesca, H.C. de Monterrey and Las Cazuelas. But there are also a lot of great places off the beaten path in the nearby neighborhoods of Playa where we have found cheap, high quality Mexican and Yucatanean regional foods. Since visitors often don’t know about these places, we thought we would list some of the ones we like best. Next time you are down here on vacation, check out one or two of these places for a truly local experience. And you’ll spend a lot less at any of these places than you will on Fifth Avenue.


Cactus Café. 30th Avenue at Calle 20. A French chef in a small Mexican café. We go here often for desayuno (breakfast). They have the best chilaquiles in town. Chilaquiles are a kind of breakfast nacho with tortilla chips cooked in a mild red chile sauce with cheese and cream. Sometimes they are served with eggs on top as well. They also make “Pain Perdu” (lost bread) which is a french toast made of thick slices of bread soaked in a sweet cream batter and lightly fried in something that tastes like brown sugar. It’s like bread pudding. Cactus Cafe
El Faisan y el Venado. (The Pheasant and the Deer). On the east side of Highway 307 just north of Juarez. This is the first restaurant ever opened in Playa Del Carmen, back before the town was famous. They specialize in giant platters of traditional Mexican and Mayan dishes including pheasant and venison! It is a huge hall of a restaurant with excellent food and service. Our suggestion…let one of the waiters help you order the first time and try something new. Full bar. El Faisan y El Venado
Los Amigos. 30th Avenue at Calle 26. A small restaurant serving traditional Mexican meals in a cute little semi open-air setting. Very cheap. The staff speaks some English. Try the sopes con pollo, a thick fried tortilla (but chewy, not crisp) served open face with beans, lettuce, spicy chile sauce, chicken, cheese and cream. Two huge tortillas covered with good stuff (enough to share) for about $4.00. Full bar. Los Amigos
Doña Mary. 30th Avenue at the corner of Calle 28. No tourists here for sure. An open-air group of tables in front of a kitchen bustling with local woman cooking up cheap but tasty foods for people in the neighborhood. In the afternoon you can see a line of the ladies working as they chop veggies and clean chickens before the restaurant opens. In the evening the place is packed with locals. They are famous for their tamales, and their chicken soup is sure to cure any cold. Doña Mary
Nativo. On the west side of 30th Avenue just north of Constituyentes. Nativo draws both locals and tourists with good Mexican meals emphasizing natural fresh ingredients. We recommend the enchiladas. They are also famous for their liquados, or fruit and yogurt shakes. Nativo
Acavera. 30th Avenue between Calles 24 and 22. A little hole in the wall of a place. It has only a few tables but the food is very good and very cheap. Basically a quick lunch stop type of place. We like the empanadas, tortillas folded over and stuffed with various goodies then deep fried. Acavera
Oasis. On the west side of the highway between Constituyentes and Juarez, next to the large Telebodega building. It is a big palapa (open air and thatched roof) with the best shrimp tacos in town. Period. The have a full seafood menu, and we always mean to try something new, but when we get there and sit down, we can’t resist those tacos. $16 pesos per taco. They have a large fancy restaurant in the hotel zone with the same menu, but we think the food is better here. Full bar. El Oasis
Pollos Asados Al Carbon Estilo Sinaloa. Calle 2 at the corner of 20th Avenue. Our friends from South Dakota, Tim & Ruth, turned us onto this great little place. A big open-air restaurant that’s filled with the aroma of roasting chicken cooked Sinaloa style. For a couple of bucks you get half a chicken fresh off the spit and accompanying side dishes. Cheap and always busy with local working men from the nearby area. It’s near the corner where you catch the colectivo for a ride down the coast. Pollos Asados
El Pollo Bronco. This place is on the east side of the highway in the town of Tulum. If you are going down there for either the beaches or the ruins, this little place is worth the stop. They have wonderful, flavorful moist roast chicken (order a quarter, a half or a full chicken) which is served with the greatest potatoes ever made. They are twice baked, with the potato removed from the skin, whipped with cheese and cream and put back in the skin to cook some more. Heaven! Beer and soft drinks. El Pollo Bronco in Tulum

So there you have it. These are a few of our favorite places to eat in the traditional style of Mexico and still stay on our budget. We hope some of you will try them. Remember, part of the adventure of exploring includes trying new places and things to eat! None of these restaurants is very difficult to get to, and most of them are less than a 15 minute walk from the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden. Let us know what you think.

7 Responses to “Eating Like a Local: Mexican, Mayan & More…for Cheap”

  1. Great tips you guys! Good call on Cactus. Not too many people know about that little gem!

  2. Ron Fong said

    Thaks for the culinary tips! Looking forward to trying some of these tried and true tested restaurants!

  3. Tom Beggs said

    Thanks for the info. We will be staying the month of January in the Calle 30 area. Now we know some nice little places to eat without walking to far. SEE YA’LL IN JANUARY!

  4. Robert Coleman said

    Thanks for the additional culinary choices. They look great! We will be staying with you again next year and will checkout this additional places. Hope the bar is doing well.

  5. Enjoy your website and honesty about Playa. Wife and I been vacationing there since “94”. Will stop by swing bar in Nov. Bones

  6. Wayne B said

    Just so you know… Ah Cactus is at Calle 20th and Ave. 30


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