Take a stroll along 5th Avenue (Calle Quinta Avienda) and you may well become over-whelmed with the bright lights illuminating the countless restaurants, bars and cafes all seemingly offering delicious bites to satisfy any pallet. From Thai to Italian, Argentinian to local Mexican, and dedications to Vegetarians and Vegans there is certainly something to suit every travellers appetite and budget.
I’ve come across a few lists online advertising the “best” places to eat in Playa Del Carmen, but what you like to devour is subjective isn’t it. So, here are a few tried and tested places which are sure to satisfy your rumbles before you get hangry:
- El Fogon – A few days in to my stay in PDC, the receptionist at our accommodation recommended that we visit here for authentic Mexican dishes. At first sight, I was a little unimpressed and cautious – from the outside it looks like a kebab house complete with turning slow-cooked meat facing the street. Now, all my British instincts were telling me that I was definitely not drunk and it was certainly not 3am, so why was I planning to sit on plastic furniture and eat meat being cooked on the street? – I’ve travelled many a country and learnt the hard way to be wary of street vendors, so I would surely be regretting this decision in a few hours time?! Turns out – the food was bloody great and I had a portion of humble pie for dessert. The cost of a meal here is very reasonable ranging from £4 for quesadillas to £6 for a large portion of steak fajitas. Be aware, there is no English menu and so your best translation skills are required. Top tip – this place is popular with locals and tourists alike. If you turn up after around 7pm, you will be looking at a 20 minute wait to be seated as the ever increasing queue grows down the street.
- Po Thai – I love me some noodles! This small restaurant located just off 5th Avenue, boasts genuine Thai chefs who serve up extremely tasty Thai dishes in large portions. So good, I visited twice in the space of three days. Although slightly more expensive at around £9-£10 a dish, the food and service is certainly worth the extra few pounds and rivals that of Thai meals I have been served in the UK.
- Mr Dog Del Caribe – Burgers are a staple option on most menus and regularly my choice of meal when casually dining out. On searching for burger joints in PDC I noticed that Mr Dog’s repeatedly popped up and decided to give it a try. After taking a wrong turning or two, I found this diner style venue tucked into a quieter street behind 5th Don’t be deceived by its basic appearance as the food is anything but. The choice of burger toppings is notable – I went with the Mr Mexican – Delicious! The burgers are big, as are the portion of chips that is comes with. For around £8 you can get a burger, chips and soda drink meal and for what you receive, that’s a bargain.
- Eat Italy – On a popular corner of 5th Avenue you’ll find this pleasant spot. The restaurant and staff are immaculately presented, as is the Italian food. This is a solid option if you are craving Italian carbs, but the portions are on the small side.
- Fah! – Serves a variety of Mexican inspired dishes. I stopped in here by chance during lunchtime on our first day in PDC after being captured by the look of their nachos. A HUGE portion of beef nachos with all the trimmings will set you back £7 and fill you up for the foreseeable future. Top tip – they serve fresh lime and a hot dip with the nachos. This hot dip is HOT. In the evening this venue has great live music and a relaxed atmosphere which removes you from the bustle of the stampede along 5th Avenue.
- Famigilia – Was stumbled across after a day trip to Chichen Itza as it was late and close to our accommodation. Little did we know that the pizza would be some of the best available in the area. One pizza will easily feed two people and you can be as creative as you like with the toppings, including choosing two different toppings for each half. Most people appeared to be there for the pizza but the pasta dishes looked equally appeasing.
- 500 Gramos Grill – If you are hungry for steak, look no further. Tucked away in a square at the farther end of 5th Avenue is this small restaurant. With experienced staff, the extremely reasonably priced cuts of meat are cooked to taste and flavoured beautifully. The service staff are attentive and ensure that you are enjoying your meal (a treat which is lacking by staff in a few other restaurants). At £9 for a fillet steak with sautéed potatoes and roasted vegetables you certainly receive value for your money.
- Ah Cacao – Now, I know that a Chocolate Cafe shouldn’t really feature here but, here it is. For the best chocolate based drinks and cakes head to Ah Cacao. They are a Mexican chain and can be found dotted regularly around PDC and along the length of 5th Avenue. The brownies at £1 each are a definite must.
- There are also a number of Vegetarian and Vegan places emerging in PDC. Try 100% Natural for light lunches or BIO & Natural Organic Store for healthy smoothies and organic produce meals. Falafel Nessya offers great tasting falafel snacks and Clorofila has a specific Vegan menu.
PDC can get very busy during peak seasons. Despite there being a vast amount of eateries, they do get busy and/or full so you will be looking at delays in your food reaching you/waits on a table becoming available. Top tip – The locals and many who visit from Central/South America tend to dine later in the evening and so if you are able to head out at around 7pm to eat dinner, you will have a better chance of beating the crowds.
Something that would have been useful to know about before arriving at PDC is the tipping etiquette. The Mexicans in this section of the Yucatan Peninsula have adopted the American culture of tipping, with waiting staff expecting a 15% – 20% tip. Now, as many Europeans will agree; you receive a tip for a good service not simply for turning up to do your job and a 10% tip is more than sufficient. When travelling and eating out most evenings, a 20% tip for each meal will soon eat into your budget. Be firm and do not feel pressured into adhering to this negative reinforcement of the tipping culture if you do not wish to do so.