We wanted to share some of the places we have been enjoying eating since we've been in Playa del Carmen. Over the years, we've always done a lot of cooking at home and usually don't go out to eat all that much. But here, we don't have a dishwasher or a lot of room for food storage, nor all the cooking items we're used to. And there are so many reasonably priced local places a short walk away, so going out to eat doesn't mean getting into a car and driving someplace. For all these reasons, we're eating out a lot more, and it's been fun exploring the many choices here in Playa.
Here are the places we've tried so far....
El Ceiba de la 30
El Ceiba de la 30 is a great little spot for dining al fresco (nearly all the restaurants here are open-air, which we love) on Avenida 30, our closest busy main street This is where we had these delicious vegetable burritos on our first night in town. The menu is heavy on healthy choices with lots of fruits and vegetables, including decadently delicious fruit and veggie smoothies in all kinds of exotic-sounding combinations. It's a tiny bit pricier than some other places around, but still very reasonable, and for healthy food beautifully presented, the price is quite reasonable.
A few mornings ago, we tried El Ceiba for breakfast, and was it ever a treat. The coffee is delicious, and the food was amazing. Barry went whole hog with a grande fruit smoothie and Huevos a la Mexicana with tortillas, beans, and potatoes. One of his favorite breakfasts!
I ordered their special of the day, fruit crepes. I had a choice of three sauces: Aguacate (a sweet avocado sauce), Nutella, and Chocolate. Needless to say, I chose the chocolate, but I think any of the three would have been good. They were beautiful and delicious.
El Ceiba is attached to DAC, our favorite vegetable and fruit market. In the photo below, DAC is on the left, and El Ceiba is on the right, beyond the cars.
El Ceiba is named after the gigantic Ceiba tree very close by. The Ceiba is a sacred tree in Maya history and according to an information board beside it, is deciduous. It will be interesting to see when the leaves fall here as it is not even showing any autumn color yet.
Another place close to our rental that we tried for dinner recently is Los Aguachiles. This place specializes in fresh seafood ceviches and all kinds of tacos and tostadas topped with ceviches and other seafood items (even octopus!) Shrimp (camarones) seems to be the most popular item, and we've seen this place packed with locals at lunch time every time we've walked by, so we knew it must be tasty (and it gets great Tripadvisor reviews!)
At our old-folks' early dinner time, it was not crowded at all; it may get busy later in the evening in addition to the lunch crowd.
Since this was our first visit, we weren't sure exactly what to order, so we tired a variety of different shrimp tostadas, tacos, and lettuce wraps. The one on the left below has a bit of creamed spinach on top; while the one on the right has refried black beans with the shrimp. Everything was absolutely delicious and addictive! They also had a special on Sol beer running the night we were there, two for 40 pesos (around $3 US), a great deal.
Barry wanted to try the apple dessert, which was called an enchilada on the menu, but this is what we were served. The apple slices were absolutely delicious, crispy, and sweet-tart, and the outside was covered with some sort of a coating that included sugar, cinnamon, and salt. The sauce in the middle was salty and tasted Asian to me (they serve tempura here as well, so...). I was not a fan, but Barry liked it. We probably wouldn't order this again as it was a little pricey for what it was, but it was fun to try once.
With all the different things we tried (plus two beers apiece), this was our priciest dinner, coming in at just under $35 US including tip. Still, quite reasonable by US standards, especially for seafood. And the shrimp was really fresh and good! I can't wait to return and try a couple of different items.
A less expensive option where we've had a couple of yummy dinners now is El Fogón. This place is frequented by locals as well as expats/tourists and always busy. Meat and vegetables are cooked over an open grill in addition to the traditional "al pastor" wheel. The restaurant is loud and bright, and service can be a bit hectic (since they're busy), but the food is delicious and cheap.
We love all the sauces and "extras" that come with your meal -- chiles, radishes, limes, cucumber. And the beer is really, really cold!
Servings are large, so there's nearly always some to bring home, making a visit to El Fogón even more cost-effective!
There are several El Fogón locations in town, with the one we have been going to the very busiest as it's right across the street from the huge Mega store. We may try the one up on Avenida 30 next time as it looks much less crowded. If the food is the same, that would be fine with us!
Three Cornfields (?)
We fell in love with the Yucatecan specialty Panuchos when visiting Mérida in Mexico's Yucatan state in 2012, and Barry was quick to locate a couple of tiny hole-in-the-wall spots that serve Panuchos here in Playa del Carmen.
We had a yummy and very inexpensive lunch of Panuchos de pollo (chicken) in one of them the other day. However, I have no idea what the name of this joint is. "Aqueria" doesn't translate, "3 milpas" translates to "three cornfields", and "antojitos" is just a generic name for small dish foods, like tapas in Spain.
Whatever its name is, the food was tasty and cheap. Our lunch with two Panuchos apiece plus a bottle of orange juice each set us back just 70 pesos (about $5.50 US), including tip. Hard to beat that, especially for homemade goodness like this!
Sweets and treats.
Mexico is not known for ice cream. In the hot climate, it melts fast, and with the sometimes erratic electrical supply, it can be subject to numerous freeze-thaw cycles, causing graininess. So when we found this small local ice-cream place super close by, we weren't expecting Ben & Jerry's quality.
And sure enough, it was grainy, just like we expected. But it was also cold, sweet, and tasted good. And the price was right: just 20 pesos for my medium cup and 40 pesos for Barry's large. That's less than $5 for both of our desserts.
Sure enough, the second week we went back on Wednesday night and got our double scoops two for 20 pesos (around $1.50 US), no strings attached. Now that's a deal!
"El Pan Man"
This post would be incomplete without mentioning the bread man who rides around on his tricycle in the evening selling mostly sweet breads. We happened to hear him tooting one night as we took a walk after dinner and immediately stopped him to check out his wares. Sweet breads in Mexico are fairly simple and most taste similar, but they are all good. We came back to our rental with this haul for just 28 pesos (just a bit over $2 US). No worries, we didn't eat them all that night!
So far, we have not gotten sick from eating anything here. Restaurants serve purified water, and a couple of times a week we buy the big jugs of drinking water jugs for the rental from the "agua" boys who come by on their trikes. We're keeping our fingers crossed that Montezuma doesn't find us, and in the meantime, we're enjoying all the great eats here in Playa!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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