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Sep 6, 2009 07:20 AM

Yucatan Eats - requests and a belated report

I realized I never posted a report on my short trip to Playa Del Carmen in Jan 09, and now that I am looking for recs for my Yucatan trip over xmas (yes, I get into planning ahead) I'm thinking about it all again. FYI, I grew up in Texas so am very picky about Mexican food.

Playa Del Carmen -
best meals:
torta stand near the Collectivo stop, across from a little city park. You can sit at the bar and chat with the owner, she cooks everything on a tiny grill. Super moist stewed pork, lots of fresh ingredients in bowls to throw on your own sandwich.
John Gray's Kitchen - seriously good food, upscale, with some Mayan influence. Do not miss it!
Hotel Kinbe beach bar: I just had nachos, but they were really, really good - chorizo in the beans, fantastic, reminded me of nachos in Austin - beans on each chip, like a little pizza, not like a big plate of chips with stuff thrown on them.
Mayan spiced hot chocolate at the Cacao cafe. There is an Italian ex-pat scene in Playa Del Carmen, and they all hang out here for their espressos, etc. The baristas speak some Italian as well, as a result. I learned from them that Italians are moving there because it reminds them of years gone by in Italy - so I bet there are some decent Italian places in Playa now - Kinbe is Italian-owned, but serves Mexican food.
Tacos Gomez good, but not as good as it looks: next to the Collectivo Stop. meat was a little too gristly and chewy.
worst meal - boquinette at Las Palapas Hemingway on the Quinta Avenida. I read about boquinette on this board, but I thought it was terrible here - dry, overly salty, totally boring. Sitting at this place was nice and the ceviche was very good, but I wouldn't recommend eating here.

Isla Mujeres:
Picus near the boat doc - fish tacos, a generous quantity. thanks to chowhounds for the rec.

Tulum - right at the ruins, Don Cafeto serves a great plate of chilaquiles, and they are very friendly. The waiter quizzed us on our spanish vocabulary.

So now for my request:

I'll be in Merida for Xmas and Tulum for New Year's - any recommendations on where to go for a special /or traditional dinner?
I'll be in Puerto Morelos for a week after New Year and know John Gray's original place is there so it's on my list. Anything else I shouldn't miss?
Any good places to eat near Chichen Itza, Ek-Balam and Celestun?

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  1. redbecca,
    When in Playa try Cocina 38 on 5th Ave and 38th class food!!!!!!!!
    Also Wickys will open next week and will have real KC style BBQ and Prime steaks that are aged and brought in frozen. John Grey will suffer!! Better location better kitchen and better food. They are on 10th street and the ocean at the light house. They have 300 feet of deck right on the ocean for dining and a beautiful restaurant inside as well with AC. Ask for Damon the manager is from Colorado or Filipe the floor manager. The winelist will have over 250 wines.........and 16 by the glass.

    4 Replies
    1. re: wineman3

      Cocina 38 has announced new hours during October:

      Dear guests,
      During this season our opening hours for the month of October will be Thursdays to Saturdays from 6pm to 11pm. Bookings can be made via email or calling (984) 873 0655. Thank you.

      COCINA 38
      5ta Avenida entre 38 y 40 calle
      Playa del Carmen

      1. re: wineman3

        From a couple of Playa del Carmen travel forums, tourists and locals-ex-pats alike are singing the praises of Wicky's:

        "By the way, Wickys has the best hamburger in town, hands down. "

        "be hungry if you go
        huge and tasty, if there is a better one, i have not met it
        nice fries, too "

        1. re: wineman3

          Hey wineman, could you kindly email me? Thanks!


          1. re: wineman3

            try NECTAR is in merida in the north part of the city

          2. By the way in Tulum if your up for another world class dining experience try Ichizo right at the entrance to Shian Kan at Rancho San Eric.............

            1 Reply
            1. re: wineman3


              you should post that information about Wicky's on
              My new Playa forum hangout.
              I used to moderate for years at

              John and Libby Bekas run the site.
              Also, loads of great information about Playa there for locals, ex-pats and we who love it and visit often. Again, give a shoutout to Michele and Rob Kinnon. cochina 38 has been getting MUCH better reviews (especially about the wines and the pour for the $) and you should check it out.

              Someday, I'd love to buy you a drink in Playa. usually we stay at The Luna Blue Hotel and you can find us about town, especially though, at the Luna Blue for music on Tuesday nights. The owners, Tony and Cheri, are great folks from San Francisco and love a good wine.

            2. almost looks like we're going on the same trip: i'll be in progreso xmas week ans akumal ny week... i'll keep an eye on your post, didn't get any luck 2 years ago when I posted a question about this area: zero answer... i'll forward all info i get by other means (friends).

              1. I usually don't recommend anyone to go into Cancun, but not to be missed are the tacos al pastor at the La Parrilla in ole Cancun. They also have a store in Merrida off the main drag coming in from Progresso in the eastern part of town, not sure of the address. I have eaten tacos al pastor all over Mexico and these are the best in the yucatan. Only street tacos al pastor in Monterrey will beat them. Also on the beach just east of Tulum is the Resturant Cenote if still there has excellent food ran by an american that was real good food several years ago???

                1 Reply
                1. re: daveverner

                  La Parrilla in Playa del Carmen on Ave. 5 y calle 8 has been there since about 1990, and has been the highest grossing restaurant in Playa for many years.
                  I'll poke a little fun at you about " just east of Tulum...", that's the Caribbean Sea ;) I think you mean a few kilometers north. And that cenote has a fairly strong current because it so near the sea. The restaurant is still there.

                2. Cetli in Tulum with Chef Claudia is a must do dining experience. Charlie's is a good mix of locals and tourist and the mole rocked. Authentic meals picked from pots in the kitchen as there are no menus at El tacoqueto. There are much better options for a pork taco than La Parilla. I love the bar at Luna Blue and the owners can help you pick a place by what you are in the mood for. Happy Eating!