One of the things I absolute LOVE about traveling with my in-laws is that we share a love of good food. Our plans are adventurous, but they always take into account good meals along the way. So when we went to Mexico, you know we got some good meals in. Here are a few of my favorite Playa del Carmen restaurants!
The award for best ambiance goes to Alux! Pronounced ‘aloosh,’ it looks like a nice – but unassuming – restaurant lobby from the outside. Step into the miniature jungle that’s behind the lobby and go down the stairs. Whatever you expect, it’s probably not a system of caves, well-lit and furnished with modern furniture and chandeliers.
Even better than just one big room, the restaurant’s layout follows the cave’s meanderings. Full of private tables for romantic dates or private functions, the whole space is very cool. After we finished our meal, it was late enough that the staff let us take a quick wander through the place to see each “room!” They ranged from tables for two to banquet-style spaces complete with a stage. It felt like the kind of place you’d want for a wedding’s rehearsal dinner: beautiful, intimate and memorable.
In a space this cool, the food almost felt secondary. But it was really good! The menu had a bunch of notable options too: stalactite peppers, cenote duck, and the mayan sacrifice. My favorite part was my dessert, a trio of mousses served inside a cocoa shell!
Madre Tierra has become a tradition for our family. It’s a steakhouse right on the main pedestrian road of Playa del Carmen, and the steaks are fantastic!
Our favorite part is the guacamole made table side. It’s so good that my in-laws, who don’t feel strongly about guac one way or the other, always request it! Logan, in full Ron Swanson fashion, ordered the mixed grill. Which is essentially a pile of various meats. He was so excited about it he didn’t even get any side dishes – meat only for this guy, and he was in heaven.
I don’t go to Mexico and think of Italian food, but it’s one of the most common options! We decided to skip ahead to the best one and headed to Cenacolo.
The thing about Cenacolo that first catches your eye is the chef standing next to the street hand-rolling pasta! It’s mesmerizing; how anyone walks by without stopping is beyond me. If you’re lucky, you’ll watch him making their green caps – green tortellini filled with ricotta cheese.
Their menu has a paralyzing effect because everything sounds so good! Of course we opted for the fresh pasta options. I chose the Red Marinara Black Guitar Spaghetti and it was my favorite bite of the night – squid ink pasta in a classic marinara with fresh clams, shrimp, and other ocean goodies.
Their dessert menu is worth checking out as well: the deconstructed profiteroles are incredible, as were just about everything that hit our table!
Want something that’s ultra local? Go for El Fogon! Translating to “the stove,” its name tells you what you need to know about the restaurant: the cooking is right there in sight. The biggest draw is the doner-style cooking (read: meat on a stick, see above!) done right in the seating area. It smells amazing, drawing in customers off the street with its open air seating.
If you come with a group, your best bet is the parrilladas: a mixed grill platter served over a smoking log to keep everything nice and toasty warm! It’s a ton of food and worth sharing, especially if you want to try cactus! My surprise favorite were the roasted onions – they look like they’d taste bitter, but they’re actually the sweetest onions I’ve ever tried.
Keep in mind, it’s a local spot: don’t expect the entire staff to speak English, and air conditioning isn’t really a thing. But it’s one of those experiences you should definitely have – step a toe out of the tourism-laden Playa del Carmen and try it!
Bonus: Puerto Madero
I call Puerto Madero a bonus only because it’s not in Playa del Carmen. It’s in Cancun, and it’s worth the drive. Puerto Madero is an Argentinian steakhouse. The meal started off well with beef empanadas – I could have eaten a meal of just them! Main dishes are served on cast iron platters, sizzling and hot. I got lobster and Logan got steak, so of course we shared. Both were absurdly good! When looking at the side dishes, don’t skip the roasted vegetables.
If the food isn’t enough of a reason to check it out, the back patio view is fantastic. Go early to watch the sun set over the water!
There are so many options in the area, but these are a few Playa del Carmen restaurants I love. Next time you’re visiting, check these out!
What kinds of things do you look for in a restaurant when you’re traveling? Leave your answer in the comments below!
Opinions are my own & I didn’t receive compensation for my writing. The links above contain affiliate links, which means I get a few cents (at no extra cost to you) if you book or buy something via that link. This helps me keep costs down & posts up! All images copyright Teaspoon of Nose.