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Jul 12, 2013 08:25 PM

Playa del Carmen local picks

This summer we opted for a condo in Playa del Carmen as our vacation getaway, and have been having a lot of fun chowhounding around Avenida 30 and calle 24, not far from the Mega supermarket.

Our favourites so far are a collection of places we've visited on previous visits to Playa and several new discoveries. My oldest son swears by the cappucino and chocolate cake at the Coffee Stop, for example, while we are still loyal to brownies and Mayan Chocolate at Ah Cacao.

We've visited our favourites, Los Aguachiles (both locations so consistent and great) and El Fogon (also wonderful at both locations) a few times, as well as grabbing delicious early morning deep-fried empanadas from a food cart at 12 y 20 near the second ADO station.

Today some of us tried and enjoyed Tacos Cadeza (beef tongue) in front of Mega near El Fogon, and we like the tortas of cochinita pibil from the vendor a block over along 30, by the sacred tree near DAC. Other highlights included catch of the day grilled perfectly at La Pesca and some Venezuelan brunches at Kaxapa Factory.

I've been documenting our adventures (and some of the recommendations we've yet to try) here on my pinterest board.

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  1. Nice pics and good selections! I'm sure you have found Dac's on 30th Ave. just North of Constituentes, and be sure to try the torta de lechon under the blue tarp some morning at 30th and 30th. La Pesca is one of few with fresh conch, either ceviche or broiled al mojo de ajo, and they do a great boquinette with a crunchy garlic sauce. I also get a side of Veracruz sauce, never a charge for it. Don't overlook Pastorcita for tacos al pastor, extra rich with cheese and a bit of pina. Lots of good eats along 30th Ave.
    buen provecho!

    10 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      Oh good, more! We're planning to go to Dac's for lunch today if we can get a table. I found the shop handy for getting some good Jasmine rice and coconut milk although I haven't cooked more than once while here. We loved the boquinette with garlic at La Pesca on our last visit, might need to head back. What is Veracruz sauce?

      1. re: Plateaumaman

        Veracruz sauce has green olives, capers, often a little tomato, onion, garlic, occasionally golden raisins. Goes well on any fish or shrimp dish.
        If you do a beach lunch, try La Tarraya at the end of 4th st. Nice palms and tables in the sand, an old original owned by a fishing family and very popular with locals. Good ritas, chiladas, nuclear salsa.
        Let us know how you enjoy Alux!

        1. re: Veggo

          Oh, that does sound like a great sauce. We made it to Dac - big portions! and also enjoyed La Cuevo del Chango. Didn't make it to Alux this time around but at least we had more empanadas on 12 before taking the bus to the airport. So many great things to eat. La Tarraya sounds very good. We ate on the beach at El Pirata but it was a serious meh and my kids were horrified by the prices after hanging around 30 so long. Now I'll have to work on my Mexican cooking at home till our next adventure. Thanks for your help!

          1. re: Veggo

            Veggo, is Negro Sal worth a dinner? I saw you shouted out their octopus appetizer.

            Do you have any comments on Sur the Argentine steakhouse? Not sure I want to eat anything but Mexican but if I have a craving for something else.

            Also, any thoughts on these:
            El Serape
            Las Palapas Hemingway

            I appreciate your feedback. I dug around here pretty deeply again, I have a pretty good list already plus the standouts from my trip a year and a half ago (El Fogon, Aguachiles). Feel free to say any of the above suck, I have enough places to go to for a 3 week trip and I'll only be in playa for 3 days this time.

            1. re: chowhounder411

              Negrosal closed, to my dismay. You should get a decent arrachera steak at the Argentine steakhouse. Babe's is very good but not Mexican, it 's Asian fusion and Swedish meatballs, which are very good. Mojitos there, also. Per also does half orders of entrees, and an interesting range of appetizers. Don't overlook La Pesca on 30th Ave for a great fish dinner and good service. very Mexican. Ajua and Como Como are good. Hemingway is attractive but touristy.

              1. re: Veggo

                Thanks for the info. I'll go to HC de Monterrey for arrachera. La Pesca is on my list - would you prefer it over Il Pescatore da Ileana? Como Como was good but I eat plenty of Italian here and I thought their fish wasn't fresh - nice pasta though.

                1. re: chowhounder411

                  Arrachera by the kilo is a bargain at HC de Monterrey - get enough for next day tortas after a visit for bollitos if you'll have a fridge.
                  I highly recommend La Pesca, one of few spots that still prepares grilled conch and ceviche mixto with conch, shrimp, and octopus. Their whole fried boquinette is their signature item, they will bring you a tray of fresh fish and let you pick your dinner. I likewise tend to avoid Italian in Playa.

                2. re: Veggo

                  Thoughts on Luna Maya? I'm looking for one nice dinner in a somewhat elegant setting in case (when) the girlfriend gets tired of taquerias and plastic chairs

                  1. re: chowhounder411

                    Luna Maya will do it and GF should thank you later!

        2. There are so many good foodie choices along 30th. Having visited Playa many times I would say La Tarraya, La Pesca and Il Pescatore da Ileana at 10A y 24th are the best seafood restaurants in Playa. We especially enjoy Il Pescatore. Fresh and perfectly cooked every time.

          1. Hello,
            I'll be visiting Playa del Carmen towards the end of the year and I'm looking for a few local places that really define the Mexican/Mayan culture. What food MUST I try and where must I get them? I like authentic places but will be with my family (2 small children) so easier access is preferred. Thanks for any help!!

            8 Replies
            1. re: Qball

              "towards the end of the year"
              So you'll be travelling in 10-11 months?
              Just note that information thats good today might be sketchy or even incorrect at that time.

              Mexican and Mayan culture are different. Granted, lotsa "Mexican" staples grew out of old world cuisine and there are a few dishes that are almost mainstream (I'm thinking Cochinita and poc chuc and turkey in black sauce). However, true Mayan cuisine isn't quite fully available or represented.

              I think Yaxche is the obvious choice in PDC (for Mayan) and they have their fans and critics.

              If you want more of a Mexican experience (eat as the locals do), most of this thread is a very good starting point (cruise along 30th instead of touristy 5th).
              But then again, its been a few years since I've visited...

              1. re: porker

                Yeah, I'm getting a jump on the planning. I may stay near some better restaurants. I like to plan early! I have been reading how Maya and Mexican differ and i really wanted to experience some of each. thanks for some tips.

                1. re: Qball

                  The original, most authentic, and least slicked-up Mayan restaurant in PDC is El Faisan y El Venado, on 307 just north of Juarez. Yaxche is slicked-up. You'll find the better Mexican restos on the board here.

                  1. re: Qball

                    Like porker said, be prepared for half your list to be irrelevant in a year. Also, openings before you leave may be noteworthy, so check - though probably not. As Veggo suggested previously, stick with what's tried and true. Playa gets shinier every year and you pay for the atmosphere in these new establishments not the quality of the cooking. In Mexico, the most lo-fi kitchens prepare the best stuff.

                    I would like to add El Fogon to my list of must tries. Everyone goes everyone likes it.

                    1. re: chowhounder411

                      Understand. I'm mostly interested in the tried and true places. Ones that have been around for a while. What's El Fogon's specialty?

                      1. re: Qball

                        Maybe tacos al pastor? They have all kinds of dishes the menu is varied like it's a Mexican diner

                2. re: Qball

                  I've said it here many times: Los Aguachiles is one of my favorites restaurants ever. It is very comfortable to eat at with children because it's a little noisey and the atmosphere is fun and relaxed. Tostadas of fresh tuna or smoked tuna amongst other seafood items, aguachiles, traditional seafood cocktails, seafood tacos and non-Mexican items like incredible seafood fried rice (MUST!) and coconut shrimp. Extremely fresh seafood. Two locations make it convenient whether you stay near Playacar, center of town or the North like Coco Beach area. 5th Ave location is open for lunch and dinner but the one in the north is open only until 6 or so last I checked, maybe it's later now.

                  1. re: chowhounder411

                    agree...I've been here for a week and a half and have had dinner there three times. it's fantastic. i've become addicted to their "tempura" style fried shrimp. such great texture.

                    i've had the mixed aguachiles both times and it's quite good. but i prefer the ceviche (was a shrimp and scallop mix) in a soy and serrano sauce. great balance, including the grated cucumber. they have bay scallops which I usually buy for ceviche and they usually become tough (though not bad). at this place, they were pillowy soft, but not mushy. amazing.

                    and for anyone going with kids...they food comes out within 5 minutes of ordering. so if you have cranky hungry kids...relief is on the way.

                3. this is a great thread btw. for some, PDC may have gone downhill as it's become glitzier, but i'm in heaven (keep in mind, I'm from toronto a virtual wasteland for Mexican food).

                  strolling around the 30th ave and around the agenda juarez area (the single digit streets) i'm tempted to eat at every spot.

                  we're in a condo, so mixing eating out and in. hence, haven't eaten meals exclusively at restaurants. the places that I've really enjoyed so far are el fogon and aguachiles (eaten thrice at both).

                  another place I'd recommend, though I don't know the name, is a charcoal-grilled chicken place on calle 2 somewhere between 10th and 25th avenue on the south side. it's under a big tarp and tin roof. there's a huge charcoal grilling station with i'd say 30 chickens going at a time. it says Sinaloa-style and I think the flavouring is just S&P and CHARCOAL. so delicious and perfectly cooked. a whole chicken with tortillas and condiments sets you back 110 pesos. i brought it home around 3pm and re-heated it for dinner at 6-ish and it was amazing.

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