Good Eats in Playa del Carmen

While in Playa del Carmen, we got into a familiar routine. We would work in the morning, eat lunch at our condo, lay by the pool, and go out to dinner every evening. When it came to dining in Playa del Carmen, the decision was always Mexican or not-Mexican. I know, tough decisions plague our roving retirement. 🙂

Location, location, location

Our condo was well situated just off of 5th Avenue, the major pedestrian area in Playa filled with bars and restaurants. Our location on the north end of town made the restaurant pricing near us a little more reasonable compared to the pricing in the touristy section of town.

Every evening we would start walking in one direction or the other down 5th Avenue looking at menus as we went. Soon, our neighbors told us of good places or we found restaurants that were recommended by the Facebook ex-pat group. Many of the places recommended were actually quite close to our condo, which made for short walks for me. 

Mexican, Tex-mex and Seafood

There are certainly plenty of Mexican restaurants and they fall into 3 categories:

  • American Mexican food (we might call it Traditional when in the US).
  • Local Mexican food, which is mostly Mayan food
  • Seafood places that all have ceviche (a Goble favorite)

Here is a list of some of the restaurants we tried along with lots of food pictures.

Micaela’s – Touristy place on 5th Ave.

Tiny Tiki Hut – Small place with really interesting tacos

Amate 38 – Traditional Mayan cuisine

Axiote – Traditional Mayan/Mexican cuisine see Rick Bayless Comes to Playa del Carmen

Fifth Rock – Upscale Mexican food on 5th, they made guacamole at the table

Muy Salsa – On the north end of 5th, traditional Tex-Mex

Las Hijas de la Tostada – Our local ceviche place, on the corner of our building

Chiltepin Marisquillos – Another seafood place that actually had a line out the door

El Fogon Taqueria – Local taqueria on 20th Ave.

Zitli – Near centro, specializes in ceviche

La Cueva del Chango – Great for breakfast, large Mexican menu

On the Beach

These restaurants kind of double as beach clubs and you can drink and eat with your feet in the sand. Prices are usually not much different from 5th avenue.

Lido Beach Club – Good food

Zenzi – Popular with local expats

Not so Little Italy

Italian food is very popular in Playa del Carmen. We only ate Italian food a few times because we figured we could get Italian food anywhere.

Imprevist – Great food, but closed while we were in town 🙁

Piola – Local favorite with nice pizzas, pastas and live music on the weekend

Roma on CTM – small dive, well recommended but not really our cup of tea

Sorrento – Nice place way off 5th. We got some good takeaway there when we didn’t want to hang out

From the grill

Right down the street from where we were staying was a small restaurant called La Carboneria that had fantastic margaritas, 2 for 150 pesos, which is about $4 each. They also specialized in grilled meats, so one night we ordered the large grilled meat platter called La Parrillada. It started with a large dish of Queso Fundito followed by all types the grilled meats, potatoes, and tortillas. Another time, they had two for one burger night and we ordered one regular burger and one short rib burger. The short rib burger was phenomenal, slow-braised short rib on a bun with cheese, so rich.

Other gems

La Brioche de Playa – An authentic French bakery right across the street that kept us in French baguettes and pastry.

Rockas Jerk Chicken – This tiny place was a bit of a walk but had really good jerk chicken and interesting sides. They also do jerk chicken tacos and an off the menu jerk chicken alfredo.

Luma – A Mediterranean restaurant on our street near the beach where I had a wonderful Osso Bucco.

Mae Thai – A very good Thai restaurant that was actually in our building. We had several good meals there including a duck breast in tamarindo sauce. And of course a good Pad Thai.


Desserts were usually ice cream and there was a really good place right next to the bakery called Aldo’s.

About the Chairs

The only complaint we had about dining in Playa del Carmen was the lack of comfortable chairs. All of the places seemed to get their very upright, all hard wooden chairs from the same vendor. Sometimes we would go into a restaurant and ask them to rearrange the chairs so we could have ones that felt a little better. I suppose the stiff chairs do help them turn the tables a little quicker.

Interesting Bars

Originally we thought we might be able to do an article about the bars in Playa but it turned out we just didn’t go bar hopping much. We did make an exception for The Dirty Martini, which had 2 for 1 drinks on Tuesday nights. I read about this place being an ex-pat hangout on the Facebook group and our neighbors told us about 2 for 1 martini night too. So we went twice. The drinks were good and strong, but the second time, maybe too strong. Still, a good time was had by all.

Where would you like to eat in Playa?

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  1. OK, it is only 8:30am here and this post has made me hungry for a hearty lunch! Wow PdC has really developed since I had visited there. Back then it was a sleepy port town for the ferry. Our hotel was basically a crude hut a block off of the beach. There were only a handful of cafes catering to tourists and none were as fancy as any you have pictured in this post. Looks like y’all are having a lot of fun!

  2. Places like you remember do exist elsewhere in the area. I think the duration of stay and personal preference play a big role in what will resonate with you.

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