Playa del Carmen’s impressive gastronomy scene stretches across the city’s famous 5th Avenue, reaching sleepy side streets and carving out tropical foodie havens within the lush jungle. There are hundreds of delicious menus extending an open invitation for your taste buds to experience a mouth-watering medley of international flavors.
Confronted by this bounty of savory selections, you and your travel companions may be overwhelmed when it comes to deciding on where to dine. Since our ambassador team is frequently asked about our favourite restaurants, we’ve put together this list of our top choices for lunch. These eateries serve amazing ‘Menus del Dia,’ or special menus of the day, which include a starter and a main dish. Some even throw in a fresh-made juice and dessert -all for one very affordable price!
Next time you’re visiting Playa del Carmen, exploring the exquisite scenery of the Riviera Maya on a day trip is a must. But don’t neglect adding at least one or more of these delectable restaurants to your dining itinerary as well. Tasting the city’s incredible food and seeing the region’s unique natural beauty go hand-in-hand when it comes to discovering the spellbinding essence of this beautiful destination.
(Calle 30 between 25th & 30th Avenue)
This intimate café presents a friendly atmosphere mixed with excellent quality and value. The menu of the day offers a choice of soup or salad, main plate, agua del dia (fruit infused waters), and dessert. The plates are perfectly portioned and with the yummy dessert, you leave more than satisfied.
The daily specials change everyday and are $120 for lunch and $140 for dinner. The staff is warm and attentive and as the restaurant is tucked away on a less busy side street, it’s a very tranquil and enjoyable dining experience.
Papa Charly Pasta Factory
(Calle 30 between 25th & 30th Avenue)
Just across the street from Café L’Orange you’ll find the bustling Papa Charly’s. Their Menu del Dia is also served with agua del dia and you’re choice of coffee or dessert (always go with the carrot cake!)
To start you can choose from their 2 soup or 5 salad options. For the main plate, the selection is vast and presents meal options such as their Thai veggie, chicken dishes, fish or vegetarian plates. The servings are substantial and the special price varies $20 pesos or so, depending on the regular price of the main dish you choose.
(Calle 34 between 5th & 10th Avenue)
We’d travel across town in a tropical rainstorm just for a bowl of their tortilla soup. But you really can’t go wrong with any of the delicious traditional Mexican dishes served with a contemporary twist.
The menu of the day changes daily. You have a choice of just the starter and main plate for $110 or add a fruit water or beer/wine with the dessert for less than $10 USD.
Winner of Iron Chef 2014 in Canada, Chef Xavier Stone has curated a fantastic casual menu with divine flavors of Mexico, accompanied by artisanal beers and good wine. The servers are some of the best you’ll find in Playa del Carmen and Axiote is open from 1:30pm.
XG Sabor Extra
(10th Avenue & Calle 10 Bis)
This is a go-to spot for our staff members because the typical Mexican cuisine served at XG Sabor is always fresh and available at very reasonable prices.
Each day, the Menu del Dia is served with a starter, usually soup or a salad, and a choice between five platos fuertes (main plates). There is a nice variety from Chile Rellenos (Poblano peppers stuffed with cheese in a savory tomato sauce) to pork, chicken or tender beef dishes.
The fruit waters are a perfect accompaniment to the tasty Mexican menu, which is served from 1-5pm.
(25th Avenue between Calle 26 & 28)
This very creative menu is always a delightful surprise. The kitchen uses fresh and seasonal ingredients to incorporate into their consistently wonderful dishes.
You have a choice of one of 3 original starters, such as cauliflower ceviche and one of 3 sumptuous entrees, usually a chicken, red meat or vegetarian plate.
Since the menu is made with perfect attention, the main dishes can take a little extra time, but they are always worth the wait. This is not a fast food style eatery, but the quality is evident in every bite. Elemento is open from 12:30 and the Menu del Dia is $140 pesos, including the fruit water.
(Calle 22 between 10th & 15th Avenue)
We love the tropical oasis setting and delicious food at El Jardin. The owner, Paula is very attentive to her clients and is always nearby to greet patrons with her welcoming smile.
The Menu of the Day is as fresh as the locally sourced ingredients. You can taste typical Mexican dishes like enchiladas and chilaquiles or lighter lunch options like a fish fillet in authentic regional sauces.
El Jardin, meaning ‘The Garden,’ is open for breakfast and lunch from 9am-5pm Monday to Friday.
La Fondita de la CTM
(CTM on the corner of 25th Avenue)
If you are looking for an authentic casual dining experience in Playa del Carmen, this quaint little eatery is the place! The Menu del Dia presents 9 choices (3 sections of 3) that escalate in price. For example, you can have the basic mole dish served with rice, beans and warm corn tortillas for only $45 pesos. A tender roasted chicken in a salsa verde with rice, beans and tortillas is $65. If you would like to add a litre of their juice of the day, it’s only $10 pesos more!
This is worth repeating - for two people, including fruit waters and meal, the menu of the day ranges from $110 - $150 pesos or $6-$10 USD for 2 meals! Not only is this gem easy on the wallet, but also the service is fast and selection of popular Mexican favorites is definitely worth the walk over to the north end of town.
(Paseo Coba on Airport Road, bordering Playacar Phase 2)
This artsy French bistro focuses on sustainability and locally sourced, organic ingredients. The quiche is always a stellar choice and the main plates are served with a light salad as well as a glass of infused water.
Along with their store, which is stocked with everything from organic produce, cheeses and wines to yoga gear and cosmetics, Art Humus has a modest library and an art gallery in the exterior of the property. You can spend an entire afternoon here with so much going on under one roof!
La Perla Pixan Cuisine & Mezcal Store
(Calle 34 between 5th & 10th Avenue)
This lively eatery has a genuine Mexican flare courtesy of the warm staff, massive tequila plantation mural and grand thatched palapa roof.
From 1-4pm, the executive menu or Menu del Dia offers a choice between a starter and main dish or a main dish and a dessert. The meal wouldn’t be complete without the fresh blended fruit water of course! For $95 pesos or roughly 5 bucks US, their amazing meals are a steal.
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About the Author
Juanita grew up in a small town in the middle of Canada. Having experienced twenty years of ruggedly cold climate, she had seen enough snow to last her a lifetime. After moving to and working in Vancouver for thirteen years (where she was ecstatic to see the odd palm tree) she jumped at the opportunity to move with her husband and three children to Playa del Carmen. She calls it a ‘dreamy existence’ and cherishes year-round, backyard barbecues with friends, road trips and watching the sunrise over the Caribbean. She writes for Bric Vacation Rentals.