Mayan and Yucatecan around Cozumel/Playa del Carmen area
I'll be going to Cozumel and the Playa del Carmen/Tulum/Coastal Mainland area this December for about 5 days and am looking for any recommendations on traditional foods to eat while in the area. I've never had any exposure to Yucatecan or Mayan food, so I'm in pursuit of "Mayan and Yucatecan must eats".
I feel my palate is currently in a heavy state of Tex-Mex, and I'm really looking forward to it blossoming a little.
My list of foods to find thus far is ensaladas de nopales, cochinita pibil, pozole, xtabentun, mexican hot chocolate....and of course, all the fresh fish and conch I can handle.
Any other thoughts on foods/drinks/liquors that I should experience while I'm in the area (and recommendations on where to find these foods) is much appreciated. I'll have a car and am used to driving hours and hours, so I'm open to whereever I the exploration takes me. Other than time, my only limitation is that I'm trying to keep in the area of "reasonably priced", with maybe one or two splurges.
Thanks for any advice you can offer
In Playa, there are 2 mayan restaurants. Yaxche is on 8th st between 5-10 aves. Expensive, small portions, but pretty good. The owner is from Merida, it opened about 2000. The last original resto in the area is El Faison Y El Venado (the pheasant and the deer) on 307 just north of Juarez, now in the shadow of a new Office Depot. It was there in 1988, when Playa had 2000 people. Greater Playa is now over 100,000 population, and not a single resto that opened in the last 5 years does anything local/authentic. And most of the old/originals have been squeezed out of business. In Cozumel, La Choza is your best bet for cochinita pibil; that and mole are it's signature dishes. It is one block east of the southern side of the square in San Miguel. It's an old original.
Playa has little conch, you will find it in Cozumel no problem. Plaza Leza on the square does a good caracol al mojo de ajo, grilled conch with garlic. The Paradise Cafe, AKA Bob's Marley Bar, at the southern point of the island, does the best conch ceviche I have had. The Pelicano in Puerto Morelos (just south of the dock) does the best grilled conch and conch ceviche on the mainland, along with Cueva del Pescador in Akumal. Whole fried boquinette at Cueva del Pescador with crunchy garlic sauce is superior. I have not seen cactus salad on any menu. The Yucatan is a low canopy jungle, and cacti are scarce and not eaten.
You can buy Xtabentun at Covi on the corner of Constituentes and 307, (about $8), also in town (Playa) on 5th ave between 4-6 st in the tacky tourist store.
Try agua de jamaica, a cold hibiscus drink, nice taste and beautiful scarlet color. Also agua de sandia, watermelon juice. And have a chaya liquado, very Yucatec.