Americas Destinations Featured

Taco Tasting in Playa del Carmen & Tulum

February 9, 2018
best places to eat in Playa del Carmen

I looove Mexican food, especially tacos in all variations – fish, meat, vegetarian – I want it all! I admit, NYC spoils you pretty much with cheap, good tacos widely available, but I saved my hunger for our trip to Mexico. We had our base in Playa del Carmen which is not exactly known to have the best Mexican food, most likely “thanks” to the millions of visitors that flock in every year. The famous tourist mile Quinta Avenida is packed with restaurants and bars and they might be a fun place to hang out to watch/soak in the atmosphere although the prices, not surprisingly, are adapted to American standards. But if you walk away a few blocks, the tourist density thins out and you’ll easily find local places that satisfy your cravings and even save you a few pesos. So we ate our weight in tortilla chips, guacamole and tacos and the result (apart from gaining a few pounds) is this independent, randomly ranked (and of course incomplete) list of best places to eat in Playa del Carmen 🙂 Provecho!

1. El Fogon

Of course we did some research beforehand and the first place we popped into right after our arrival was this hugely popular BBQ restaurant in the centre of PDC, not far from Walmart 😉 The line formed by Mexicans and tourists alike looked promising but the efficient staff made sure the wait wasn’t too long. We were hungry (and greedy) and ordered a huge meal consisting of a meat platter, a gringa and of course tacos. Their specialty has to be the pastor – roast pork with pineapple – and the BBQ master knew how to handle the pork skewer by artistically cutting off the meat and catching it with the tortilla! The pastor was excellent, the service quick and friendly and the atmosphere busy but not uncomfortable. The menu is meat-heavy (like Mexican cuisine in general), so if you’re up to that (and into giant cocktails and fruit juices 😉 ) you will like this place too! – see location

2. La Cochi-Loka

I guess it wasn’t only the cute pink with the pig logo why I felt so attracted to that mini restaurant (basically a window with a few seats). They focus entirely on conchinita pibil which is a traditional specialty from the Yucatán made of slow roasted pork in a banana leaf. Served in a taco or torta (sandwich) the juicy, slightly sour pork is a flavourful treat (especially when you add the super spicy salsa!!) Perfect as snack on the go – maybe that’s why this taqueria has become our favourite of PDC and we became frequent visitors 😉 – see location 

3. Taqueria Billy The Kid

You wouldn’t tell from its name but this is pretty much as local as it gets. The setting is super simple as the menu is – just check their wall and you’ll be surprised how cheap tacos can get in a tourist town like PDC. Basically they serve the most common meat tacos for less than a dollar each. Although it’s quite close to all the tourist action, I’ve mostly seen only locals coming to this place and that was quite a nice change. The tacos were decent although they quite don’t reach the quality of El Fogon and La Cochi-Loka. – see location

4. Guacamole Grill

This was a pleasant surprise as we didn’t expect anything outstanding. Apparently they claim to be famous for their guacamole (which was good indeed) but I loved their carne asado – marinated pork – so much that we went there twice (once as a steak and once as tacos). Still, I’m thinking this was one of the juiciest, most tender pork I’ve ever had! It’s a small, cozy restaurant with a big menu, a nice mix of locals and visitors and as they open at 8 am it seems like a good place to go for breakfast, lunch or dinner. – see location

5. Kaxapa Factory

This popular Venezuelan eatery comes just right if you wanna sample some other Latin American staples. Although “sample” might be the wrong word: The portions are big and Venezuelan Cuisine isn’t necessarily known to be light (unless you go for the ensalada like I did) because they serve lots of rice, beans, plantains and cheese like other countries on the continent. Whether you’re really hungry or wanna load up on carbs that last you the whole day, you can’t go wrong with it. But no worries they have a wide range of appetizers and other items too! – see location

6. Mi Pueblo

You can’t visit PDC without going to its busiest shopping street Quinta Avenida, the pedestrian’s promenade that never sleeps. Yeah, the restaurants may be all similar and pricier, but it’s probably not a bad idea to look around and see what appeals to you – after all, you can just relax and simply enjoy being a tourist 😉 We chose Mi Pueblo to do so and we actually liked it. The food was nicely prepared on really beautiful plates – true eye-candy that’ll pimp your Instagram feed! The ceviche tasted fresh and the cactus salad – well, let’s say, interesting 😉 Anyways, it was a welcome break from our very meaty diet – see location

7. Las Hijas de la Tostada

Equally a hip bar and restaurant, there are several locations in PDC that offer a wide range of cocktails and a seafood-heavy menu with a creative touch. I’d have loved to try more of their dishes but we were quite full already… However I couldn’t resist their coconut breaded shrimp and I’m glad I’ve had them 🙂 We went to the location in Playacar – a gated hotel/residental area – which probably was the most quiet one. For more action I’d try the one at Quinta Avenida next time. Just because the menu looks so tempting! see location

8. Ah Cacao Chocolate Café

Mexico and especially the Yucatán are known for excellent chocolate. You get all kinds of cocoa products at these cafés, all located on Quinta Avenida. Try their Mayan hot chocolate! It’s very rich in flavour and texture! – see location

9. Más Pan

Despite the Spanish name, this is a totally non-Mexican bakery. It’s actually a kosher spot, run by a friendly lady and surrounded by a bunch of other Jewish shops. I added it to the list because you might get tired of Mexican food at some point 😉 Also they serve delicious European-style pastries, sandwiches and popular breakfast items like shakshuka. – see location


10. Places to eat in Tulum

Tulum is the younger and hipper sister of PDC with a completely different restaurant scene: Health conscious, organic, vegan, gluten-free are the magic words and you’ll most likely find every superfood you’ve ever heard of. If you’re vegetarian or vegan this might be your paradise and you’ll have a much easier time to find restaurants that cater your taste. There’s no lack of top-notch restaurants, most of them hugely popular (or over-hyped?) and of course in its own price class. We didn’t spend enough time in Tulum to give you a detailed review but we’ve tried two places we were quite happy with:

Zamas fulfilled all our imaginations of a laid-back beach restaurant: Great seafood, sipping piña coladas while watching the waves and feeling the sand below our feet – could we ask for more? – see location

Somehow we like shacks on the road and our experience tell us that they usually serve simple, but good food. That also was the case at La Tilapia – a colourful family-run outdoor restaurant with a few tables under palm trees. Their menu focuses on seafood as well and see there – they easily win the prize for the nicest presentation! This might be a hidden gem among the mostly upscale restaurants in Tulum, especially if you’re looking for an affordable alternative 😉 They aren’t listed on Google Maps but you find them on the main road (no. 15) right after the entrance to the Kape-Ha cenote (look out for the sign).


11. Bonus: Isla Mujeres

If you happen to “strand” on beautiful Isla Mujeres and love simple taquerias like we do, head over to Taqueria Glenssy. They serve super fresh Mexican staples on the street and for that reason it’s a traveler’s favourite! see location

Of course there are many more great restaurants that area has to offer! Let me know in the comments if you have recommendations!


Don’t miss my other Mexico article:

The ruins and cenotes of Tulum

 

Best places to eat in Playa del Carmen: From famous restaurants to hidden eateries - we ate our way through PDC and Tulum and created a list of our personal favourites! Mostly tacos of course ;)

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18 Comments

  • Reply The Wayfarer February 9, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    I can’t with this. I miss Mexican food so much! Spain just does not compare. There is one Chipotle-like burrito place in this small city and it’s good… but it’s not the same! I’m so hungry now 😛

    • Reply sileas February 16, 2018 at 5:00 am

      I feel you! I got hooked on Mexican food since my first trip to NYC and nothing comes close here :/

  • Reply tayonthemove February 9, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    Okay, this is seriously killing me. Ever since I moved to Harrisburg I have not been able to find good tacos. All I want in life are delicious tacos! In fact I just had some for lunch today. lol

    • Reply sileas February 16, 2018 at 5:02 am

      I’m sure you still find better tacos there than here in Austria though 😉

  • Reply Mayan ruins and less visited cenotes in Tulum, Mexico - sweet/escapes February 10, 2018 at 3:07 am

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  • Reply shoestringdiary February 11, 2018 at 8:31 am

    Miss this kind of Mexican food. We haven’t been to Mexico but our 2+ years stay in San Diego near the border gave us access to authentic Mexican food anytime we wanted.

    • Reply sileas February 16, 2018 at 5:03 am

      I heard the fish tacos in San Diego are amazing, so I’d love to try them!

  • Reply Felicia February 11, 2018 at 10:24 am

    Currently drooling since this is my favourite kind of research 😀 Headed to PDC next week and I love that you’ve shared authentic eateries to check out. Thanks so much for this, Julia!

    • Reply sileas February 16, 2018 at 5:04 am

      Oh I’m so jealous! Hope you’re having a wonderful trip and I’m so happy about your lovely comment 🙂

  • Reply SueT唐 梦 琇 February 11, 2018 at 8:10 pm

    Some fabulous restaurants here Julia – you are right Mexican does have a lot of meat but I do recall a great Mexican restaurant in Sydney where I ate lots of beans, cheese and guacamole – little bit unhealthy but delicious.

    • Reply sileas February 16, 2018 at 5:08 am

      Oh yeah Mexican is definitely on the heavy side, but it’s such a treat now and then 😉

  • Reply Paleica February 12, 2018 at 2:05 am

    hungerrr! das sieht alles so unfassbar lecker aus! mein problem mit mexikanischem essen ist nur, dass ich scharf nicht vertrage. das ist da ein ziemliches hindernis -.- was ich jedes mal sooo schade finde!

    • Reply sileas February 16, 2018 at 5:10 am

      Solange du dich von jeglicher Sorte Chilis fern hältst ist alles in Ordnung, vor allem bei den Salsas ist Vorsicht geboten 😉 Ich habe so die meiste Zeit auch mild gegessen…

      • Reply Paleica February 16, 2018 at 5:32 am

        😀 😀 das ist ja mal gut zu wissen, hehe!

  • Reply Nat Worldwild February 15, 2018 at 10:46 am

    Das sieht köstlich aus!!

    • Reply sileas February 16, 2018 at 5:12 am

      Mmmm ich könnt auch wieder eine Portion Tacos vertragen 😀

  • Reply Vicky T. February 17, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    All of the photo just looks sooo good!

    Vicky
    http://vickysscrapbook.com/

  • Reply Amazing beaches and best snorkeling in the Riviera Maya - sweet/escapes February 20, 2018 at 3:08 pm

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