Playa del Carmen, affectionately refered to as "Playa" by locals, was once just the small fishing town where you could catch the ferry to Cozumel. However Playa has rapidly grown into a bustling, yet still charming beach town that tourists from all over the world visit. No matter how big Playa gets, it never loses it's bohemian small town feel.
Like it's residents, many of whom are expats from other countries, Playa del Carmen's cuisine is international, and you'll find upscale fine dining and small "hole in the wall" eateries that serve tempting creations from all over the globe. Pedestrian walkway 5th Avenue is an obvious choice for a meal in Playa del Carmen, but many of Playa's best restaurants are off the beaten path (the path being 5th Avenue).
For a true international experience in one place, Playa del Carmen's best restaurant, Oh Lala!, offers just nine tables, so it's best to make a reservation. A taste of Israel can be found at an economical price at Falafel Nessya.
At Imprevist, Asian fusion cusine is prepared by a Guatamalan Chef, and at Don Chendo, diners will find the only Chicago-style pizza in Playa del Carmen.
Babe's Noodles serves delicious Thai dishes (and yummy mojitos), while Sushi Lalo Wey offers fresh sushi in a bustling food market. La Tarraya has served seafood on the beach since 1968, and Blue Lobster is known for steak and well, lobster.
Try a different type of cuisine each evening in Playa del Carmen's international restaurants.
La Tarraya Restaurant and Bar
La Tarraya has been open since 1968, which is a real achievement for any restaurant anywhere. When a restaurant is located in a simple wooden shack on the beach, you know that the seafood is as fresh as it gets. The owners of Tarraya are fishermen themselves and used to supply local restaurants with fresh fish until they opened their own spot. One house special worth trying is the tik-n-xic – fish marinated in achiote and orange sauce and steamed wrapped in a banana leaf. This is a local specialty. Park yourself on a lounge chair and stay for the day. (984 873 2040)
This romantic fine dining establishment offers indoor white linen dining, as well as terrace tables for those warm evenings. Popular menu items include steaks grilled to order, such as the juicy t-bone. Assess your appetite and choose a lobster from the tank – you'll be charged according to its weight. Ceviche and the shrimp with lime butter are other favorites from the sea. The bar often features live music. Visitors love the festive atmosphere, the menu, which is on a giant board, and the 5th Avenue location. You can make a reservation on their website if you don't feel like testing your Spanish over the phone. (52-984-873-1360)
Babe's Noodles and Bar
This fun restaurant is decorated with a retro 40s and 50s hipster motif. Thai fusion food is the main fare, but that doesn't stop the chef from experimenting with other international favorites on occasion. Vegetarians love this spot for its creative salads and meatless stir frys seasoned with lime, ginger and curry. Homemade bread and the spring rolls in peanut sauce are other house specialties. Regular portions are large, so consider ordering a half-portion if you have a small appetite. Smoking is not permitted at Babe's, not even in the outdoor seating section. (52-984-804-1998)
La Cueva del Chango
La Cueva del Chango is one of "Playa's" most popular restaurants and has been open for over 15 years. This "cave" actually makes you feel like you're picnicking at a secluded jungle spot. Waterfalls, a fishpond, exotic birds and natural wood and stone evoke a tranquil, natural setting. For breakfast, try freshly ground coffee, fresh-squeezed juices and huevos (eggs) rancheros or divorciados. The restaurant makes all of their own breads, salsas and tortillas. Dinner faves include shrimp spiced with cinnamon and tuna fish tostadas. Be sure to sample one of the Mexican wines on the menu. (52-984-873-2137)
Sushi Lalo Wey
It's hard to find good sushi in Playa del Carmen, but you'll find it at Sushi Lalo Wey. This is a sushi bar located in a food market (food court might apply here but we don't want you to get the wrong idea) called Nuestra Senora De Carmen Mercado De Playa. Sushi Lalo Wey serves large fresh rolls and natural drinks at an economical price. Some of the rolls are made up of very unique combinations. Owner Lalo is usually behind the counter taking good care of his customers so if you would like something special that isn't on the menu, go ahead and ask and he will do his best to accommodate you. Sushi Lalo Wey offers delivery as well. (984 147 9418)
La Perla Pixan Cuisine & Mezcal Store
For an authentic Mexican experience, stop by La Perla Pixan Cuisine & Mexcal Store. Adored by locals, La Perla Pixan incorporates flavors from all over Mexico and serves them with their own special twist. Just say no to Jose Cuervo and try one of their mezcal cocktails (Mezcal is all the rage, don't you know?). They also sell bottle of many different types of mezcal and pulque. The palapa roof, open kitchen, funky interior and live music make this one of the coolest restaurants in Playa. Seating is mostly outdoors. What's that you smell? Copal, the Mayans preferred ceremonial incense. (044 984 120 2616)
Don Chendo serves Playa del Carmen's only Chicago-style deep dish pizza, and it is delicious. The owner Russell is from New York, but worked at Uno's Pizzeria in Chicago. If that isn't reason enough to go, they also serve spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmesan and a killer Antipasto salad. Adult beverages include, beer, wine and spirits, and are all served in chilled glasses. The decor is simple and clean. Don Chendo is open Monday through Saturday from 3 pm to 11 pm and like many area restaurants, is normally closed the month of September. (984 803-5950)
Imprevist is another spectacular restaurant in Playa del Carmen that is not located on 5th Avenue. Open for Sunday-style breakfast and brunch from 7 am to 2 pm and dinner from 6 pm to 11 pm (12 am on Fridays and Saturdays, closed Sundays) this popular restaurant serves international and Asian fusion dishes. Guatemalan Chef Juan Diego Solombrino has trained and worked all over the world and co-owns the restaurant with two childhood friends. The tasting menu with wine pairing is a highlight. Both air-conditioned and outdoor seating are available. Like a song you're hearing? Ask for their playlist. (984 168 7025)
Falafel and hummus in Mexico? Si se�or! This hip little "hole in the wall" eatery which is tucked away off 5th Avenue is owned by an Israeli woman. The three menu selections are fresh and economical and pickled salad options have a Mexican flare. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options are available, as well as free WiFi. Falafel Nessya does not serve alcohol and there is no air-conditioning but there are plenty of fans and seating for about ten people. They close at 6 pm on Friday and are closed Saturdays. Service is friendly and efficient.
Oh Lala! opened in 2011 and quickly became a favorite of both tourists and locals. With only nine tables, it's best to make a reservation, maybe even before you arrive in Playa del Carmen. Both indoor and outdoor seating is available. Oh Lala! is a fine dining restaurant, but there is not dress code and prices are not off the charts (prices on the website are in Mexican pesos). The decor is very simple, service is excellent and the owners and staff warm and welcoming. Open only for dinner, Oh Lala! serves international dishes and is closed on Sundays. (044 984 127 4844)
About Kristin Busse
After vacationing in Mexico many times, Kristin decided to move to Cancun "for a year". That was in 2001.
Kristin grew-up in Michigan and studied Communications at Michigan State University. Chicago was her home for the next 9 years.
Mexico has been good to Kristin, she became a mother and achieved her lifelong dream to become a professional singer. She loves to explore the area on the weekends with her 5 year old son, and she enjoys sharing her experiences and discoveries with others through writing and social media.
Read more about Kristin Busse here.
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