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Yucatan Eats - requests and a belated report

r
redbecca Sep 6, 2009 07:20 AM

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?

  1. TheCigarChick Nov 20, 2009 06:44 AM

    Just got back from Merida and the food there is fabulous if you love pork. (In the Yucatan pork and chicken are staples followed by seafood.)

    I'm a big fan of cochinita pibil, which is more or less the Yucatecan national dish. For a more comfy setting amongst locals go to Restaurante Los Alemendros, which is right across from the Parque a la Mejorada. They have ever major Yucatecan dish--many of which you can get from roadside stands, too--but here most people who aren't super risky with testing the waters will be fine. Another restaurant that is FABULOUS but a more upscale dining experience is La Habichuela, which has a regular menu and a Yucatecan menu and a decent wine list. You can't go wrong with the Sopa de Lima, Cochinita, and the Flan de Chocolate.

    When you're in Centro walk towards the outskirts of town for a block or so from the Hotel Trinidad to a little Calabrese spot on the corner. Luca is from Torino but was raised in Calabria from age six and he built a brick oven in the back. VERY trad'l southern Italian specialties there for very fair prices, plus he makes a mean Jamaica because he doesn't add too much sugar.

    4 Replies
    1. re: TheCigarChick
      r
      redbecca Nov 21, 2009 04:39 AM

      wow, thanks, hounds, I hadn't checked this thread in a while, but I'm glad I did!

      1. re: TheCigarChick
        e
        Evaristo Nov 21, 2009 03:47 PM

        Los Almendros! mmm Queso relleno, papatzules, cotzitos, mucbipollo, sopa de lima, sopa de frijos con fideo, cochinita, venado.....why would anyone want some BBQ or nachos? whatever...

        1. re: Evaristo
          r
          redbecca Dec 5, 2009 05:48 PM

          I just saw Bourdain dissing nachos as inauthentic, un-Mexican on his Mexican/US Border show, but the ones I ate when I was growing up in Texas were on a whole different level than what you get most places. Tex-Mex has its own special qualities and since I can't get it in NY, if I find a place in Mexico that makes em like they made em in Austin, I'm happy to eat them.

          1. re: redbecca
            coloradowanderer Jan 10, 2010 04:17 PM

            For Tulum, Chef Claudia's Cetli is a must for dinner. Pollo Asado Dona Rosa and the attached carnitas place for lunch.

            Isla Mujeres:
            Poc Chuc, La Susanita and La Lomita

            Playa del Carmen:
            Tacos Gomez, El Fogon, El Faisan y Venado for inexpensive Mayan, La Pesca, La Cueva del Chango for breakfast, Zenzi Beach Club for coconut shrimp.

      2. porker Oct 24, 2009 03:08 PM

        I don't know so much about a special or traditional dinner in Merida, but I would strongly suggest a stop in the mercado municipal. I discovered one of my favorite foods in the world here - kastacan. Deep fried pork belly, oooohhhh boy.

        Theres a bar/resto on the very corner of the central park (I'm thinking corner of 63 and 62, but I may be wrong) had fantastic al pastor.

        Outside city limits you can find plenty of roadside BBQs, fantastic chicken and ribs (almost as good as Tulum chicken) and very cheap.

        Merida takes pride in their cichinita "we do ours the real way: in the ground" winked a street vendor one morning. Breakfast of champions, washed down with Mexican coke in a bottle pulled outta the plastic cooler filled with ice.

        Kastacan, though, try to get it fresh and hot...I'm getting jealous...

        A bit off topic, but when heading to Celestun, remember to take cash. I'm going back 18 months or so ago, but there ain't no ATMs, no banks to draw off a credit card, etc etc - I knew this fact previously, but somehow forgot and learned a tough lesson the hardway. It was a pretty quiet ride back with the wife...

        1. coloradowanderer Oct 24, 2009 02:16 PM

          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!

          1. d
            daveverner Sep 18, 2009 08:41 PM

            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
              Veggo Sep 18, 2009 09:12 PM

              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. p
              PascaleinMontréal Sep 16, 2009 11:17 AM

              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. w
                wineman3 Sep 10, 2009 10:53 PM

                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
                  c
                  Cuffedlinks Sep 13, 2009 07:11 PM

                  Wineman3...

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

                  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. w
                  wineman3 Sep 10, 2009 10:51 PM

                  redbecca,
                  When in Playa try Cocina 38 on 5th Ave and 38th Street..........world class food!!!!!!!!
                  Also Wickys will open next week and will have real KC style BBQ and Prime steaks that are aged and brought in fresh......no 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
                    c
                    Cuffedlinks Oct 5, 2009 11:48 AM

                    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
                      c
                      Cuffedlinks Oct 17, 2009 09:08 AM

                      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 "

                      http://www.wickysplayadelcarmen.com/

                      1. re: wineman3
                        cristina Oct 29, 2009 08:21 AM

                        Hey wineman, could you kindly email me? patalarga@baddog.com. Thanks!

                        Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

                        1. re: wineman3
                          h
                          huayabin Dec 22, 2009 10:19 AM

                          try NECTAR www.nectarmerida.com is in merida in the north part of the city

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