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Playa Del Carmen, Need Help (also some kid friendly options)

I am going to Playa Del Carmen end of October for my Husband's 40th Bday. His family will be joining us which includes 4 adults and 2 kids (5 & 3 yrs old). We are staying at Playa Maya on the beach. We live in Los Angeles, so looking for good local food.

I have researched the boards and need some recommendations for lunches/dinners that will be delicious but also kid friendly. The kids are picky eaters. We will probably have 1-2 nights without the kids so a couple nice restaurants would be helpful.
Also, my sister in law is allergic to shellfish so there needs to be a chicken/beef option. As you can see, I have some tough restrictions.

Here is what I have so far and I was hoping you could let me know your thoughts on if its a good place and whether any are kid friend?

El Fogon
La Tarraya
El Oasis Mariscos
La Cueva del Chango
Fusion
Casa Mediterrania
Carboncitos - Are there only tacos?
Cocina 38 - Coming from LA, will it be unique to us?
Karen's Pizzeria & Grill - mostly for the kids

Any other places? We are there for 4 nights. Thanks in advance!

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  1. My 2 pesos:
    *La Tarraya and Oasis are 90% fish and shellfish. If your allergic SIL doesn't eat fish, 86 them. I like both. La Tarraya is locals and is less expensive, and has palm trees in the sand with tables underneath and hot sauce with chips that are dangerous.
    *The taxi union will not allow your group to ride in one taxi, and 2 taxis is cumbersome, especially getting back. So your meals for 6 should be walking distance.
    *Good news is there are really good eats within walking distance for 6, because the Playa Maya is so centrally located. Lunch at the Playa Maya is one of the better on the beach. The breakfast buffet at the Pelicano, adjacent to your hotel on the south, is very good. My favorite breakfast is Garden of Eating, 1 block N. of Constituentes, between10-15 aves. Charming solitude, mini-waterfall, good food/service.
    *El Fogon and La Cueva del Chango are too far for your group to walk.
    *Cocina 38 would be a very good choice for one of your adult dinners
    *Carboncitos and Karens are ok and walking distance but not remarkable. Backpacker budget food, in my opinion.
    *Easy walk for lunch for all is 10th ave between 8-10 st. Kids will love shrimp tacos at Dr. Tacos, SIL will love tacos al pastor next door, just south. And there is a pizza take out there, too.
    *The newest resto in Playa is Wicky's, 1 block north of your hotel, on the beach by the lighthouse in front of the new high-dollar condos. It opened last Friday, and has a BBQ and steak theme, and a large wine selection, which is uncommon in Playa.
    *Menu at the Jaguar hotel, 8th st and 5th ave right above you, is very good, especially the chile rellenos. ALL drinks on 5th ave are overpriced. Have a happy hour in your hotel room, then go out.
    The Playa Maya has a lovely pool with a shallow section where you can safely watch your little people playing. Good choice, overall.
    Buen provecho!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      Did Dr. Taco change locations? While in Playa, went to where it used to be and there's another restaurant there now. Assumed it closed and felt so sad.

      1. re: GabachaYucateca

        GY, I don't do summers there now, but I put the question to my year-around sleuths, about both Dr. Taco locations. Also how the grand opening went at Wicky's, and opinions of it. I'll advise.

    2. Thanks for the info, especially what is walking distance.
      I have found a couple more restaurants and was hoping for some thoughts?
      What do you think of:

      El Asador de Manolo
      HC de Monterrey
      Renzo's Pizza (for the kids)
      Pozoleria my Abuelita

      Do you think Fusion would be a nice/fun restaurant for a Birthday dinner, where the kids could still have fun and enjoy. Since its on the beach I thought that might be a good call.

      Thanks again!

      2 Replies
      1. re: CarlieInLA

        Fusion is next door to your hotel, easy to check out when you get there. You may feel that it is slick and exclusively adults in the evening.
        HC de Monterrey is the great take out arrachera, although they have a few open air tables, it is not an inviting location. Get a kilo of arrachera and a few roasted onions and cups of sauce-delicious, and makes great sandwiches on bollo rolls. A bit of a walk but your husband can go fetch on his birthday. The grill should be lit by around noon.
        There is pizza by the slice to go all over town. A good sit down spot for a wood fired oven pizza is the former Dagabi's (John leased it out) at 1st ave and 12th st. , the NW corner. I'm pretty sure the new operator is also dinner only. An easy walk for you.
        A great place for the birthday dinner with the kids is La Parrilla, on 5th ave at 8th st. They will have the mariachi band play, they do flaming dishes and desserts around you, and it's a fun family spot. Big menu, fair prices, pretty good food. It's been the highest grossing resto in Playa for years.
        Hopefully someone can advise you on the others.

        1. re: Veggo

          When I saw you were staying at Playa Maya I just had to comment. You will love this hotel. Service is great and the food is great there(breakfast & lunch). And breakfast is included with the room. Keep it simple and stay at the playa Maya for breakfast and lunch.

      2. My dos pesos:
        La Tarraya and El Oasis are seafood places with little else, so I suspect they would be out given your sister in law's allergy.
        La Cueva del Chango is about 16 blocks from Playa Maya, which makes it a pretty good hike. It is mostly a breakfast place, good for the kids, with lots of small dining alcoves. IMHO, lunch and dinner are not as good as breakfast.
        El Fogon has 3 locations, one of which is 6 blocks from Playa Maya (calle 6 bis and Ave 30). Good, inexpensive grilled meats and delicious frijoles charros. Carboncitos is closer to Playa Maya and has practically the same menu for about 30% more (11p tacos al pastor vs 8p at El Fogon). Carboncitos has been expanding their menu, so now have additional items. Both places are open air and fine with children, but not too much entertainment. Closer to Playa Maya is La Parrilla. Normally, I would recommend steering quite clear of it, but with kids along, they might be amused. The food is generally overpriced and under-flavored.
        Karen's is also fine for the little ones. It suffers from the same dining challenges as La Parrilla.
        Fusion is just a block from Playa Maya - just down the beach. A little reggae in the evening followed by the famed fire dancers. The food leans mostly to seafood, but includes other items. Generally pretty good.
        Cocina 38 was still having portion problems when we were in Playa in March, so we bypassed in favor of Antica. I understand the problem has been rectified. It would not be kid friendly and is 16 blocks from the hotel.
        Sorry to say, we have passed Casa Mediterrania more times than I can count, but have never entered.
        For breakfast, we have just eaten on the beach in from of Playa Maya (stayed there 12 days in March). For a change of pace, head for the taco carts at the zocolo and get either a torta or some tacos de cochinita pibil - best breakfast in Playa.
        I understand that El Asador de Manolo is in the process of moving locations and may not be open when you are in town. Otherwise, it is a good Argentinian steak house.
        HC de Montrerrey is located on Constituyentes (calle 18) at Ave 30, which makes it about 15 blocks from the hotel. IMHO, the best arracherra in Playa. I have heard that they have opened a new location on Vae 10 between calle 12 and 14 - about 6 blocks from the hotel. The original small location still serves arracherra, but is now owned by another person/group. It is called CH Super Carnes and is located on calle 1 sur between aves 15 and 20 - about 7 blocks from the hotel.
        I can not comment on Renzo's, but I understand there are at least 3 new sit down pizza locations in the area.
        Poseleria de mi Abuelita is one of my favorite lunch locations. It is on 30th Ave just north of Consituyentes. It is a small place - about 6 or 8 tables - and I would not think it too kid friendly (not much to do, right on the street and small)

        1 Reply
        1. re: Ron_in_Dover

          WOW....thank you so much for all the detailed information. This defininitely helps when picking out dinners with the kids. I have a feeling we will be spending most breakfasts/lunches on the beach so I am glad to hear that Playa Maya has good options for both.

          I think we will do a walk by on La Parrilla, I am not a big fan of loud touristy places but with our demographic, it might be the best place for a birthday dinner.

        2. 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/

          3 Replies
          1. re: Cuffedlinks

            It's amusing and somewhat understandable that the ex-pats are longing for a good burger, in part because most of them there are pretty awful. I don't think I ate a single one in the times I lived there. (Just lots of fish burgers at La Tarraya)
            What I don't understand is tourists seeking burgers and fries in Mexico.
            EDIT: I carefull read the Wicky's menus. I'm sure it is quite nice, but it is not affordable to 98% of the ex-pats and locals, more for the occupants of the high-dollar condos on the former El Faro and Corto Maltez sites.

            1. re: Veggo

              Everyone carries their lifestyle with them. If you are Mexican and traveling in the US it is damn hard to find good tacos in many, many places. If you are Korean then it is Kim Chi etc etc. When Americans travel or living abroad and they have tired of the local fare they look for what is comforting to them..........Pizza and Burgers are the most eaten food in America and so when someone is abroad I think it is Great that someone suggests where to find something comforting!!!!!!
              Do you really think that Wicky's opened to rely on locals or Ex-Pats or that Wickys will rely just on who is living in the maybe 100 high end condos around? NOT. They are there to cater to those on vacation who want to enjoy a nice meal as well as the locals and Ex Pats. Maybe the price is in line with what you would pay in the US but that is what people are looking for when they travel. Maybe it is more of an adventure to you to find 4 out of 5 restaurants that have mediocre food and charge high prices and then find one really good in the five. To me that is a waste of money. But I for one like to know that what I am getting is high quality and I will pay the price for it. I can cook at home here in Cancun and get ten times the meal for the price than in 80 percent of the restaurants from Cancun to Tulum to Isla to Merida. In fact I find that with restaurants like Wicky's it will make the avarage restaurants that charge way to much for what you get to improve their standards. Is it dissapointing that playa is growing up......yes but it always happens in popular tourist area. YOU CANNOT ALWAYS JUDGE A RESTAURANT BY PRICE ONLY BY PRICE QUALITY FROM PADAGONIA TO FAIRBANKS.
              What I don't understand Veggo is that you are saying that 98 percent cannot afford Wicky's when in many blogs you recommend John Grey's place which is equally expensive. In fact 80 percent of the locals are too poor to go out to restaurants period. I do believe still that Wicky's and Cocina 38 are the go to restaurants in Playa for a good price quality ratio and that is my opinion.

              1. re: wineman3

                wineman3, we agree on most points. First, that most of the high end restos cater to free-spending vacationers - Cocina 38, Negrosal, and now Wicky's. Locals and ex-pats are more budget minded, you will agree. And there is nothing wrong with nice places designed for vacationers in a resort destination. My personal links are with residents of more modest means.
                Each and every time I mention one of John Gray's 3 restaurants, it is with the caveat that it is expensive and it is not mexican, to an audience that is usually solvent vacationers. And I say mention simply to let it be known that the option is there. I have never recommended John Gray's. I like to patronize mexican restaurants, and I like authentic mexican food, and that is what I eat in Mexico. I respect everyone's right to eat whatever they want, but I try to be fiercely loyal to original Yucatec owners, and I cry more than most gringos for those that have been squeezed out for the sake of progress, even in Cozumel. If I can help inform people what it is, and what it isn't, and what it costs, I am being helpful to a newcomer.
                And I do enjoy the adventure of exploring 5 unknown restaurants, as you described, and coming up with 4 dry holes and one winner whose praise I can sing. That's what Chowhound is all about. I could show you some neat places in Bacalar, Chetumal, Corozal, and Holbox.
                In summary, you are a wine distributor to the higher end restos, for which there is a need, and for which you have a personal interest and bias. I have zero bias, and a great love for Mexico. You can be a little harsh where we are not in agreement, but I forgive you, hermano. Buen provecho.