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Apr 2, 2012 10:56 AM

Good eats in the area of Solidaridad (near Playa del Carmen)?

I'm vacationing in Solidaridad for five days and I'm hoping to get off the resort for some adventurous eating. I'm open to all varieties of venues, but I'm especially keen on really good seafood (because I live in a land-locked city), street food and authentic local cuisine. Any suggestions?

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  1. Solidaridad extends from Puerto Morelos to the north and as far south as Tulum. Here's a few of my favorites. Puerto Morelos - Los Pelicanos has great guac, ceviche mixto, and their grilled conch is simply the best anywhere. (caracol al mojo de ajo). You can get conch and eggs for breakfast there, the only place I know of where it's possible.

    PDC has many good options, even though numerous restos have closed in the past year. I like La Mission for whole fish, La Floresta for shrimp tacos, Veracruz for ceviche mixto, La Tarraya for shrimp, check the boards for others.

    In Akumal, the 'ritas and conch ceviche at La Cueva del Pescador are the best around, and their fried whole boquinette with a crunchy garlic sauce is delicious. They have their own dedicated fisherman.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Veggo

      Hi folks! I was only able to venture out to PDC for one day, so I hit up La Bomba Jarocha for ceviche mixto (the best I've ever had!), then got a paleta de coco while walking to DAC, where I picked up dried peppers, mango and one of those fresh-squeezed juices. I then walked around the corner and got tacos arrechera from HC Monterey and walked off my full stomach so I could get some fruit from those ladies who sell on the beach. Thanks for all the sugerencias!

    2. Head to Tulum. For the freshest seafood and a 'local flavor' head to El Camello in the pueblo (Tulum town) .. El Tabano on the beach road is outstanding. Street food in the pueblo is not to be missed. Tamales Don Taco cart for example. Food in town is cheaper than on the beach .. and more authentic. Have fun - I'd recommend checking out for more eating options as there are many.

      27 Replies
      1. re: Maggie19

        I think people should be aware that much of the "fresh" seafood served in the area is frozen and farmed. This is always true of shrimps, and depends on the season for other seafood and fish. Even when it is fresh, if you look at the fridge you'll see that because of the very poor fishing and storage practices, the fish is often in poor condition.

        1. re: Gargle

          I guarantee that the fin fish- boquinette, huachinango, grouper - at the restos I recommend were wild caught no more than 24 hours earlier. Every restaurant I recommend is Mexican owned and has a special relationship with the last of the local fishermen. I have done my homework and I know who's who over the last 24 years there and I have lived there off and on for 16 years. Your sweeping comment is unfair and inaccurate. I can't think of any place I would rather go for fresh, fresh fish. Have you never noticed the fleets of ponga fishing boats tethered by afternoon in Puerto Morelos, PDC, Paamul, Puerto Aventuras, Akumal,Xpu-Ha, and the refer trucks from Isla Holbox? Go to a resto on the MexRiv or Cozumel at noon and they will proudly show you their morning catch of whole fish with clear eyes and let you reserve one for your dinner. Take a tour of the massive purified water ice plant in PDC.

          1. re: Veggo

            Just take a look in the fridge at any place in PDC that will show you their fresh whole fish - El Pirata being a prime example, but also a fishmonger like Pescaderia Oceano or any place in Mahahual that'll serve you fresh fish. Let me know where and when you see a fish with clear eyes, deep red gills, firm flesh... I haven't seen one yet and I'm sure not going to Cozumel for it. :) (but I've been told there's either one place in PDC with fresh fish like you describe, or maybe not even one)

            And where do they fish for shrimps exactly? and how come these are always the same white tasteless farmed shrimps? And how come they have octopus each and every day? and caracol? and spiny lobster that tastes like freezer burn?

            Yes, boquinette is from around here for sure, so is mero, so are many other whole fish, but usually they are far from fresh by the standards you'd find in Europe, Japan, or even the better markets in the US (although that's hit or miss) because they're handled poorly, left to rot in the net in warm water, not bled or subject to ike jime.

            Putting fish on ice when it's already too late is something we did in the Mediterranean in the 70s and fishing around here is more or less at that level, if not worse.

            And none of this means the ceviche and whole fish aren't delicious, just no reason to be delusional about it.

            1. re: Gargle

              p.s. and don't get me started on the local tilapia. It's very very scary and nobody should be eating it due to the conditions under which it's farmed.

              1. re: Gargle

                There are no local tilapia in the Yucatan. Tilapia is farmed in warm shallow ponds, and there are no shallow ponds in the Yucatan. There are deep cool cenotes, underground rivers, wonderful cave diving, and no other surface water.

                1. re: Veggo

                  Really? I must have been on some serious drugs when I visited a working tilapia farm just a three hour drive from PDC last week :)

                  1. re: Gargle

                    Nice side trip. Maybe next trip you can visit a landfill or sewage treatment plant and you will really fall in love with Mexico.

              2. re: Gargle

                You twice mention "around here" as if Quintana Roo is your home, but your posts suggest you live in Manhattan. And as a student currently, I'm not sure what you might have been doing in the Mediterranean in the 70's, or whether you were born yet. Shrimp in the Yucatan come from the Bay of Campeche, Veracruz, and some from Holbox. No, they are not from the MexRiv. And the shrimp you eat in Manhattan are not from the East River or the Hudson. So? Octopus, conch, and spiny lobster are local. If you ate freezer burned stuff at La Pirata, (a laughable tourist trap near the dock) or near the cruise ship dock at Mahahual, then you never got beyond the tourist zone. There is better, but clearly you are not comfortable there.

                1. re: Veggo

                  1. Why do you think I'm a student?

                  2. I've been spending several months a year in QR since 2006. I own property here (and I don't mean a condo unit) and I've logged some 1000km just this past couple of weeks driving around to meet friends and talk business to locals.

                  3. My father owned four commercial shipping boats, was a partner in a (failed) tilapia farm, and was one of the first to introduce on-board fish processing facilities in the eastern Mediterranean.

                  4. La Pirata is not El Pirata, El Pirata is a great and super popular local spot on calle 40 & 10th that is attached to a fishmonger.

                  5. I've never been anywhere near the cruise ship dock at Mahahual.

                  6. In Manhattan I can get fresh florida shrimps (farmed), live wild spot prawns, live kuruma-ebi imported from Japan, wild fresh shrimps from around north virginia. What I'm telling you is the shrimp in playa, without exception, are the lowest grade of farmed shrimps.

                  You sure seem very confident of your very incorrect facts, but I'd still like to know where I can get a really fresh fish in PDC for example without catching it myself.

                  1. re: Gargle

                    July 6, 2006, you posted "some of us are students". And the $1000 dinners you inquired about on the Manhattan board are not available in Q.Roo.
                    In Playa del Carmen, you are free to catch and spear all the fish you want. I did for years.
                    What exactly DO you like about the area, that you bought a lot? Respectfully, PDC is not fancy; all the fancy restos fail. John Grey, Negrosal, Calle 38, all gone. Put Wicky's on the watch list. I like the old originals there without the 10021 zip coders with 'tudes.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      When you try to "profile" someone from a handful of old posts you need to make fewer assumptions, my friend. 2006 was some time ago and isn't it the strangest coincidence that this was the year I started spending time in QR? :)

                      I like a lot about the area, and even though I have no idea why you're raising this point, there are many high-end (relatively speaking) restaurants here (meaning a meal for two with a good bottle of wine is easily $150 compared to about $30 for two for a full meal at a good local restaurant), in fact there are far more of them than ever before. For every Negrosal there's a Como Como and for every Cocina 38 there's a Luna Maya. The low end places close just as often but nobody ever notices.

                      But tell me, where do I find that fresh local fish for sale?

                      1. re: Gargle

                        The best way is to get to know the owners of the ponga fishing boats, which takes a looong time and developing friendship and trust. Second best is keeping track of the fishing charter boats as they come in. The half-day charters are back by 1:00, the full day by 4:30. Tourists catch stuff they can't possibly eat or take back to a hotel. You may score a 50" wahoo, sometimes for free. Or a permit or dorado or cobia. Pass on the nassau grouper, they are tough and tasteless, but the smaller gray and strawberry grouper are good eating. We used to catch large redfish off Cozumel and bake them in banana leaves with all the pibil trimmings.
                        Oceana is still the best retail market, but it's a rewarding challenge to get fish before it gets to market. Now and then, Chedraui will have perfectly fresh boquinette filets and mangrove snapper (hauchinango), go figure. Every day is hit or miss.
                        Billfish and other pelagics run through the Cozumel channel in late May, great time for a marlin for smoking and the freezer, or a big eye tuna.
                        In Manhattan, everything is for sale. In Playa, many things you have to do yourself. And why not? The Caribbean is a giant fish market, with no waiting lines or cash registers on the way out.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          Ok, so we agree there's basically no fresh fish to buy.


                          1. re: Gargle

                            Wow, you and Veggo are really going at it! Sounds like you both know your stuff, but have some serious differences of opinion. I don't want to get hit by any stray verbal bullets between you two, but I do have a question or two for you. Have you ever heard of or used Epicurian Chef Services, a husband wife team who prepares meals for you at your residence/vondo? Any opinion or suggestions about them. My wife and I will be staying at El Taj Oceanside to celebrate her 65th birthday in November and considering the beauty of the units, I thought it might be fun to try ECS if they are really good (we are both really foodies).

                            Also, what suggestions do you have as to the best restaurants in the playa area? We probably would go to a couple with great atmosphere (like the one in the cave), but we really love great food (of all kinds), no matter what the decor or price of the restaurant. Some of the best meals we have ever had were in real holes in the wall, although some of the best were in magnificant settings as well. If you have the time, please give me your suggestions and/or descriptions and meal choices. THANKS!

                            1. re: andym

                              Sorry I got dragged into a harsh exchange about a festive resort area. Sounds silly, doesn't it? I guess I have a higher opinion of the area.

                              I don't know about ECS.

                              Two nice, quiet places come to mind you may like. Byblos is a small french restaurant with linens, stemware, and nice food, wine, and ambience. Sylvie does fish and lobster dishes with french style sauces. I used to live above the restaurant, and I could tell when she was cranking up for the evening. She is in her 10th year on 14th St. betweem 5th and 10 Aves.

                              A high end Mexican newcomer on the scene is Xulam on 10th Ave. Sur, by the entrance to Playacar Phase 1. Numerous good reviews. Check out their website

                              1. re: andym

                                Across 1st Ave. from where you are staying is the Martini Bar. Classy. Ask for Grecko, the owner, mention me and your wife's birthday. Grecko (from Holland) is so cool he doesn't even know it. But he knows everything going on in PDC. Everything.

                                1. re: andym

                                  A few recommendations -

                                  Luna Maya does excellent high-end renditions of Yucatec cuisine (I haven't been to Xulam, which Veggo mentions, but it's probably similar) with decent service. Book ahead if you'd like to sit on the terrace.

                                  Aguachiles on 34th Street - only open for lunch or very early dinner, only fish and seafood in a large variety of preparations - a hipster take on local (and some not so local) standards. They also have a second place called Canibal Royal - try this for a midweek lunch and sit on the second floor - the view is striking and the food is excellent.

                                  Cocteleria El Pirata on 40th Street and 10th Avenue (not the one Veggo poopoos, correctly) is also a lunch place - their Salpicon Mixto is one of the tastiest plates of food in Playa, and the whole fried fish isn't half bad either. This is a real local spot, plastic tablecloths and all.

                                  I cannot recommend Byblos anymore. On their best days it's very nice, but they've been having some very bad days recently (Sylvie isn't always around, unfortunately)

                                  One place I haven't been, but have heard great things about is Cenacolo - this is a high end Italian restaurant (and by high end I mean Manhattan prices) on 5th Avenue that seems to always be full, I guess they have some concierge relationships...

                                  1. re: Gargle

                                    Gargle - paz, hermano. What is your opinion of Yaxche? I liked it in its early days, but I hesitate to recommend it on CH. For a long while it got away with its claim as the authentic (?) Mayan resto in town, but El Faisan Y El Venado has been the real deal for 25 years. I think Luna Maya and Xulam will give Yaxche a run for their money.

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      I liked you guys better when arguing - HAHA, joke.
                                      For seafood, I like to reccomend La Bomba Jarocha in PDC...

                                      1. re: porker

                                        La Bamba Jarocha has some good items, like the huge pile of crabs in garlic, and the unlikely dish of zarzuela de mariscos that comes with a ball of cheese in it (strange but true)

                                        1. re: Gargle

                                          I don't know about the zarzuela, but they used to serve some soups in a giant lava-rock molcajete. A nice touch, but....they'd preheat the stone bowl to maybe 450F then ladle the soup in. It arrives at the table still bubbling. Took 25 minutes before it cooled enough (for me) to eat.
                                          The locals didn't seem to mind, but my northern ass had a hard time eating piping hot soup in 90F heat.
                                          They have a good selection of seafood from crab as you mention, to different fish (whole or fillets), to lobster to ceviches.

                                          1. re: porker

                                            I ate at La Bamba Jarocha in February and I enjoyed it. Nothing heart stopping good or out of the way special but a solid tasty meal. Nice mix of tourists and locals. With the wife and kids we shared the giant bowl of soup and it was wonderful. It took a very long time for four people to finish. A banana leaf wrapped fish was fine as well. Nobody should visit PDC without a stop at La Floresta. Sure, it is not the same as when it was alone on the hiway outside of town, but its still a must visit. I won't comment on where the shrimp come from, but they taste really good.

                                            1. re: stuartlafonda

                                              "I won't comment on where the shrimp come from" - Haha!

                                      2. re: Veggo

                                        I tried Yaxche once in its previous location. The food was okay, but it felt very Disney and the waiter just wouldn't let go of asking us where we're staying (I'm sure to give kickbacks where kickbacks are due). Luna Maya is much better, and yes, Faisan + Venado is of course the real deal (the one down at Felipe Carillo Puerto even more so, although it's sometimes closed for no apparent reason, so don't drive all the way down there just for that :)). There's another place on my list that I haven't tried yet - a simple looking place called El Comal y la Olla on 35th Ave. I have a feeling it's good.

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          Yaxche, before they moved onto 5th, was excellent. Now they are living on their reputation. Last meal there (and I do mean last) I ordered a pasta dish with mussels. It came with 2 mussels. We will not return.

                                          1. re: Veggo

                                            I have found that the best seafood restaurant on a consistent basis is El Pescador. The name might be different now due to a conflict with an all inclusive restaurant. The Italian one on 10th and 22nd (if memory serves me right). It is north of Constitution. It is on a corner, big fish sign out front, and open air. If you ask for what just came off the boat, that is what you will get. By far my favorite restaurant in Playa. The seafood is as fresh as you can get and prepared perfectly. It is not well known but absolutely worth the trip.

                                            1. re: Enigma3

                                              I think that's the old Garden of Eating location? I used to enjoy breakfasts there, a lovely spot. Iliana from Italy used to own the original El Pescador on 10th St. near 1st Ave, long gone.

                  2. Hey MoriahBee! Congrats on the vacation! I spent my first vacation there in November. Can't wait for June so I can go again and venture further south!!
                    I'd like to recommend one place off of 5th on Calle Corazon, called "Lateral". Check out their reviews on TripAdvisor! Disclaimer: I'm one of them. ;) The food (Seafood/Steaks) was absolutely fabulous (Pork was amazing and perfectly cooked, their specialty cocktail was superbly balanced and the bread they serve right when you get there, with the wine-soaked sea-salt on butter was interesting- simple and delicious) and the service... good god... I've never been waited on so attentively as when I was here!!
                    I went to Yaxche as well. I really enjoyed it. I've never tried Mayan food before, so I have nothing to compare it to, but the service and food were both fantastic when I went in November. Also, the evening drink, table-side fire show was totally awesome, and delicious! (Mayan Coffee) Have a great trip!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: TravelLover93923

                      Further south? I highly recommend an excursion to Laguna Bacalar.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        Yea, I was actually considering a horseback riding tour at Laguna Bacalar! We'll be staying at a vacation rental north of Mahahual, so we might just be able to swing a drive out there... thanks for the suggestion!