There are so many restaurants to choose from in Playa del Carmen it can be almost overwhelming. There are 760 listed on Tripadvisor, and that doesn't even include some of the tiniest local places far from the tourist zone. Every week we've been trying one or two new places so we can develop a list of "favorites" for repeat visits. So here are the latest new to us places we tried over the last week.
We'd heard nothing but good things about this French patisserie, and since our little waiter friend Jose from our excellent Thanksgiving dinner at Salt Rock Grille said he worked breakfast there, we hoped to get him as our server when we headed over for desayuno earlier this week. Unfortunately, we didn't, but we did get to say hello.
We had a lovely breakfast with good coffee, excellent bread with homemade jam, and fresh-squeezed OJ. I chose the mushroom and parsley omelet, which was good, though certainly not the best omelet I've ever had. The hot sauce was a nice touch, though. Breads are their specialty, and that was where they really shined.
Barry had this fruit, yogurt, and granola bowl. Very pretty and healthy!
Service was excellent and very attentive. There were so many polite and well-groomed waiters and waitresses working, all in matching uniforms. This is a very popular place in the mornings and doesn't even open until 8 am, so I have read that there can be lines. That's one reason I wanted to be sure to try it before next week, when folks spending Christmas here start arriving.
After eating we went inside to grab a couple of pastries to bring home. Oh my! We got two large croissants (almond and chocolate/almond) plus a scone with raisins and nuts. We thought they were reasonably priced (especially for 5th Avenue, the tourist drag in Playa del Carmen) as we got our nice-sized bag of pastries for 73 pesos (a little over $5 US).
We demolished the scone when we got home because it was still warm and absolutely melted in our mouths! Since Barry had such a light breakfast, he then started in on the almond croissant, and seeing his weak-kneed reaction, I had to take a couple of bites even though I was as full as could be. Oh my! I don't even know how to describe these pastries except that I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
I managed to save most of my half of the almond croissant and bagged up the chocolate/almond one untouched for another day. We will definitely return to Chez Céline for takeout pastries again, oh yes we will!
This little local seafood spot gets rave reviews on Tripadvisor, so we were excited to try it. However, it was a bit of a disappointment.
The food was very good indeed. My shrimp ceviche couldn't have been prettier or fresher.
And Barry's giant shrimp diablo was very tasty and came with some nice sides, though the shrimp were in shells, which he was not expecting and didn't care for.
Where this place disappointed us, though, was the service. It was okay when we first arrived, not overly friendly, but competent. But after our food was delivered, nada. No checking to make sure we were okay, if we needed another beverage, nothing. This can happen at times at Mexican spots, and when they're busy, we forgive them, but this was a quiet Tuesday night with more employees in the place than guests.
There was one table of regulars, apparently, that they served over and over while they walked by our table without stopping many times. They also only had two of the eight or so Mexican beers listed on the menu. Not a big deal since the beers they did have, Modelo and Corona, were nice and cold, but a little surprising.
Based on the service we received, it looks like we won't be adding this one to our "gotta return list". There are just too many other places where you can get good food with good service as well.
La Bodeguita Del Medio.
Last but not least, we decided we'd better eat on Fifth Avenue one last time before the huge onslaught of tourists started arriving for Christmas and the unofficial start of high season this weekend. This Cuban place had caught our eye (and we love Cuban food), so we thought we'd give it a try.
They're well-known for their mojitos, so we tried them out. Delicious and very refreshing, they went down so easy we ended up having three apiece!
For our entrees, I ordered the shrimp fajitas, and Barry ordered Cuban Pollo (chicken). Both were tasty and portions were ample.
We also had guacamole and chips for an appetizer, which leads me to my only real beef with this place since the service was attentive and the food very good. My entree came with a side of guac, yet the server asked me if I'd like it first, as an appetizer. I didn't understand that that meant I'd be charged 55 pesos for it. I am sure it was a larger portion, but still; I think the server should have made that clear.
Also later in the meal, the server asked if we'd like water. I said sure, and it ended up being bottled water at 35 pesos (more than a lot of places here charge for a beer), when we got the bill. Once again, I think they are a bit less than forthcoming on the "extras" they "offer" that end up being an extra charge. I had read this on Tripadvisor, so we are not the only ones who experienced it. Definitely something to be aware of if you dine here.
We asked our server about the sign in the picture above my head as we were not able to translate it using our little pocket Spanish-English dictionary. He said it was Cuban slang for "Carry Your Drunks Away". Or something like that!
While we were eating, these cute little boys came up to our table and sang a little song for us. December 12 is the Virgin of Guadalupe Fiesta in Mexico, a big celebration day and a public holiday, so judging from the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe they were holding, that was what this was about. We were aware of this important day here from our trip to Mexico at this same time of year in 2012, so were happy to give them a few pesos -- they were really cute.
For dessert I couldn't resist this caramel flan. I had gone to el baño (the restroom) when it arrived, so Barry helped me save a few calories by eating half of it before I got back. Rude, eh?! Fortunately he took a photo before he dug in!
After paying our bill, we headed down 5th Avenue (Quinta Avenida), finding it hopping and festive. After a few drinks, the crowds don't bother us so much, and the vendors don't pay us much mind when there are plenty of other "victims" around.
We ended up stopping at Ah Cacao for Barry to grab a cup of chocolate brownie ice cream. I was way too full for another bite of anything!
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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