Dining at Playa del Carmen | Riviera Maya, Mexico

Mexican food is my most favorite cuisine in the world, so you could only imagine my excitement visiting the Riviera Maya.  Prior to heading to Playa del Carmen, I did a little research of my own and narrowed down my list to a few interesting places to try purely based on reviews.  Even if you don’t research ahead of time, you really can’t go wrong with the food along Avenida 5 (5th Avenue) which is a quaint, mile long strip of upscale shops, bars, and amazing restaurants.

Speaking of restaurants, the Mexican food in Mexico is quite different in comparison to the Mexican food found here in the United States.  For one, enchiladas appears to be more of a breakfast item than a dinner item.  Also, both enchiladas and burritos were not seen on the menu at most Mexican restaurants as they are here in the United States.  On the contrary, you’ll find tacos, fajitas, chilaquiles, tostadas, quesadillas, and chips & guacamole to be amongst the “most” popular dishes in Mexico.  Additionally, the food in Mexico is light and not as greasy and cheesy as it is in the US.  Quite honestly, I didn’t miss the grease whatsoever given the amount of flavor in most food items. 

In terms of cost, I didn’t find the cost of food to be expensive in Playa del Carmen, but then again I’m used to dining prices in New York City.  Having said that, cost is relative based on the region you dwell in.  In Playa del Carmen, entrees will run you anywhere from 50 pesos (~ $4 USD) to 220 pesos (~ $18 USD).  And finally, since a buffet breakfast was included as part of our daily hotel package, my husband and I only ventured out for lunch or dinner, and dessert.  For now, here to share with you are my lunch and dinner meals.  Enjoy! 
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1. El Fogon (lunch)
Local cuisine with dirt cheap prices slightly off the beaten path.  Best & Cheapest meal of our trip!  Definitely a daytime spot, don’t venture out here at night.el fogon

Complimentary starters… looks like Green Beans (left) and Nachos with Bean Soup (center).  Both were mighty delicious.  My husband and I kicked off our vacation with cocktails (right).  I went for the Lemon Margarita and he went for a Mojito.  Both were yummy!  el fogon

We ordered Guacamole as our appetizer and it was so fresh.  We split the Chicken Fajitas which were beyond delicious and incredibly flavorsome.  The fajitas were served with roughly 10 corn tortillas on the side.  Loved how they grilled scallions and served it with boiled potatoes and crème fraîche in a foil.  Delicious! el fogon

LOCATION: Calle 6th & 30th Ave., Playa del Carmen
CUISINE: Local Mexican
VERDICT: 5 / 5  
El Fogon was highly rated on all the major websites.  This local gem is slightly off the beaten path and about a 15 minute walk from Avenida 5 (5th Avenue), hence it is best to dine here for lunch while it is still daytime.  You don’t want to venture out too far at night in Mexico.  Upon arrival, El Fogon was pretty packed, and that’s how you can usually tell when a place is good.  Now the food… the drinks, the guacamole, and the main meal were fabulous, and all for just $20 USD, I know, right!  I really should have tried the Chicken Tacos since they are famous for their tacos, but my hubby and I settled on chicken fajitas instead which were enough to share between 2 people.  Great food, great deal, and my favorite Mexican food on the entire trip!  YUP!

2. Casa Mediterránea (dinner)
Amazing Italian food with the most romantic ambience.  A must-do when in Playa del Carmen.casa mediterranea

Both my husband and I started with a glass of Cabernet which we enjoyed with Complimentary Bread and Bruschetta that was infused with garlic and extra virgin olive oil and then topped with a grilled tomato and Italian seasoning.  OMG, I salivate just thinking about the bruschetta, I have to make this at home.  casa mediterranea

Since I was on vacation, I couldn’t resist ordering the Camarones de Alfredo (shrimp fettuccine alfredo) which was creamy, indulgent, and just the right portion.  My husband went for the Ravioli filled with Spinach and Ricotta Cheese, and although his portion appears small, it was very filling.casa mediterranea

We ended the meal with Tiramisu which I thought was above average, but certainly not the best I’ve ever had.  The cocoa powder on top had me coughing since it was too dry.casa mediterranea

LOCATION: 5th Avenue, between Calle 6 & 8, Playa del Carmen
COST: $$
CUISINE: Italian
VERDICT: 4.5 / 5 
Casa Mediterránea is considered as one of the best and most romantic restaurants in Playa del Carmen, and although it was Italian food, I had to see what the hype was all about.  Speaking of Italian, Italian cuisine is quite popular in Riviera Maya, that is after Mexican cuisine.  Casa Mediterránea offers an extensive menu along with a good selection of vegetarian entrees.  Located in a private courtyard, the ambience is so romantic with gorgeous lanterns hanging all over the restaurant.  While you wait for your table (we waited 15 minutes), you can visit cute little shops within the private courtyard.  The food here is excellent and very reasonably priced given the beautiful atmosphere, however the tiramisu was the only letdown.  A must-do in Playa! 

3. Mi Pueblo (late lunch)
Average to Good Mexican food with a live Mariachi band at night.  Great place for people watching.mi pueblo

As you can tell I love them margaritas, here I am with a Mango Margarita on the rocks which was good.  We started off with Guacamole as an appetizer which came with a side of chips and red & green sauce.  The guacamole wasn’t flavorful and lacked lime and spice.  On the other hand, the green sauce was flavorful and extremely spicy.mi pueblo

As our entrees, we split the Camarones Tostada (3 shrimp tostadas – left) which was pico de gallo and bland shrimp topped over a fried corn tortilla.  The concept was good, but the shrimp lacked flavor.  We also split Pollo Tacos (3 chicken tacos - center) which were good, but again the chicken could have really used more flavor.  And here is a soft taco (right) I made for myself.mi pueblo

LOCATION: 5th Avenue and Calle 8, Playa del Carmen
COST: $$
CUISINE: Mexican
VERDICT: 3 / 5 
Unfortunately, Mi Pueblo wasn’t on my list of places to dine, however given how packed this place was during the evening hours, I assumed it would be excellent, but I was wrong.  I don’t think it is possible to have bad Mexican food in Mexico, but you certainly can end up with average Mexican food.  With that said, the food here was average to good, but wasn’t flavorful and amazing as one would expect of Mexican food in Mexico.  You really are paying for the ambience and the super friendly service.  A great place to people watch, but very disappointing food.  Skip this.

4. Carboncitos (early dinner)
Very friendly service with great food and ambience especially if you dine here at night. carboncitos
Both my husband and I each started with a HUGE Lime Margarita on the rocks… amazing drinks!  Our waiter came by balancing each drink on his head.  Now that’s talent!
los carbonitas

We were served Complimentary Chips with a spicy sauce and pico de gallo.

As for my entrée, I went for the Pollo Enchiladas, I believe Carboncitos is one of the few places that serves enchiladas as dinner.  This meal consisted of 5 shredded chicken enchiladas that weren’t too greasy or cheesy for that matter.  Really good.  carboncitos
My husband went for the usual, yet again, Chicken Fajitas… that’s his favorite Mexican dish. Open-mouthed smile The combined flavors of sautéed chicken, peppers, and onions was yummy, however I still thought El Fogon's version was much better.

LOCATION: Calle 4th & 5th Avenue, Playa del Carmen
COST: $$
CUISINE: Mexican
VERDICT: 4 / 5 
Carboncitos offers great ambience, excellent drinks, good food, and the friendliest waiters.  The menu here is extensive and you will find they serve items such as enchiladas and burritos, they definitely cater to the American taste palette.  The food here is very good, but I didn't leave with that wow factor as expected.  Overall, a great restaurant which meets the 4 star criteria in every category.

Other Dining Recommendations:

La Mission - Mexican cuisine
La Exquisita de la 38 - Mexican cuisine
Yaxche – Mayan cuisine

TELL ME: If you’ve been to Playa del Carmen, what are some of your favorite restaurants?
What’s your absolute favorite Mexican dish to order?


  1. Er I'm definitely having Mexican for dinner..even though my idea of Mexican (throwing a jar of salsa over rice & some kind of protein) would make the locals cringe haha! I would love to eat authentic Mexican food in Mexico- all your eats look yum..especially the chicken fajitas! I love tacos & fajitas but can't say I would turn down any Mexican dish so long as guac is involved ;)!

  2. WOW! You pretty much sealed the deal for me - V and I are going to Playa del Carmen sometime soon! This food looks amazing. And I love how fresh everything is. I'm seriously drooling over here, N! And my favorite Mexican dish would be bean enchiladas with a healthy dose of guac on the side!

  3. I am loving all that Mexican eats and cocktails :) this is certainly on the list of places to visit. My fav mexican food is soft tacos with lots of guac or fajita :) and places where they offer unlimited fresh warm tortilla with homemade salsa.

  4. I love mexican meals and this looks yummy:) I hope you will follow me back dear:)

  5. OMG! I was salivating as I read this! Looks so yummy I love mexican food! Mango Mojitos my favourite!

  6. Mexican food is amazing, everything looks incredible. I would eat guac everyday lol Thanks for sharing.

  7. I need Mexican food now my friend, your photos are brilliant :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  8. @Guru - thank you.
    @Natalie - me too, I could eat guacamole all day too. haha.

  9. @diaryofanindianmum - Love Mango Margaritas/Mojitos.. makes no difference.

  10. @Dixya - you will love Playa, as most people will. Love warm soft tacos and unlimited salsa too. :-)

  11. @Parita - So glad you guys are thinking about visiting, it's so beautiful. Bean Enchiladas are hard to find in Playa, but there were options for Vegetarian Fajitas. :)

  12. @Khushboo - can you believe I'm still not Mexicaned out? I love it! yeah, I don't think I can turn down any Mex dish either, beans, cheese, chicken, sauce, guac, what's not to love? :)

  13. Its safe to go to el fogon at night- its not on the beaten track at all. Its the most centro place you could get - advice from an aussie expat living here 3 years. Also fajitas are tex mex. If you want to try real local Yucatan food (southern mexico)- try salbutes, panuchos, cochinita pibil. Dont miss out a trip to a real local/expat staple-Dona Marys. 30th avenue and 28th street.

  14. I agree with Aussie Expat. El Fogon at dinner is no problem. Tons of locals and families out in that area...we rented an apartment 2 blocks from there and never felt unsafe walking in the evening. Venture out and you will have fun!!! Also...it really gets busier as the night goes on. Full even at 10pm. :)


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