While Playa del Carmen is very much a resort/tourist city, there is also lots of local culture to be explored here, and the best way to explore that culture (in our opinion) is through the food! We had the pleasure of taking a 3 hour walking food tour with Eating with Carmen Food Tours and we can’t recommend this experience enough! And while yes, you can visit all of these spots on your own, the food and establishments are only part of the experience. The knowledge of food, history, and culture that our guide, Enrique brought to the table (pun intended) is what really took the experience over the top… Which is why we recommend taking the tour with Eating with Carmen opposed to going the self-guided route. Plus, you would need to be fluent in Spanish if you wanted to attempt a self-guided food tour, and we most definitely are not. But now, let’s go over the stops that we made (stops may change from tour to tour) and what you can expect from each one!
*Be sure to watch our “Ultimate MEXICAN FOOD TOUR” vlog for a closer look at our experience!
Also, bear with me on the addresses to these places. Many of them don’t have addresses listed or they weren’t correct when I searched for them. I’ll do my best to provide the most accurate location that I can, but be sure to look up the specific name + “Playa del Carmen” when searching for the specific locations.
Upon arriving at the meetup point on the lively Quinta Avenida (5th Ave.), we were each greeted with a bottle of fresh, homemade Hibiscus Tea before making our way to our first stop…
1. Quesadillas de Champiñones at Las Quecas de Playa (Calle 6 entre 10 y 15 av, Centro)
Here you’ll be served a Quesadilla de Champiñones (Mushroom Quesadilla) and Tamales de Elote (Sweet Corn Tamales). Along with the food, your guide will talk about the origin and history of the quesadilla, and the importance that mushrooms have played in Mexican cuisine over the years. To be honest, the quesadilla was a bit underwhelming, mostly because the mushrooms were a bit slimy (and I like mushrooms), but they weren’t bad. The tamales were good and a nice sweetness after the spice of some of the house made hot sauces we tried with our quesadillas. This stop is also where our guide, Enrique, pulled a small plastic container out of his backpack, removed the lid, and proceeded to offer us chapulines (dried and roasted grasshoppers/crickets)! We hesitantly obliged the offer, and to our surprise, these crunchy little insects were actually pretty tasty… Salty with a bit of smokiness! I’m not sure that we’ll be adding them to our grocery list anytime soon, but nonetheless, a fun novelty snack to say that you tried.
2. Enchiladas de Pollo con Mole at Unnamed Restaurant (30 Avenida Nte.)
While all of the stops were true local gems, this one was by far the most hole-in-the-wall experience that we had. So much so, that even after visiting it in person and an hour of searching on Google and Google Maps, I can’t even find a name for it! It’s located between a paint store (Pinturas Berel Playa Centro - 30 avenida norte colonia centro) and a medical office (Salud Digna - 30 Avenida Nte. s/n, Centro). It’s a little red, brick building with a metal roof and blue awning. The inside is small, dark, and the seating is shared picnic tables. Needless to say, we were the only gringos in the place, so we knew it was going to be good! And boy was it! Enrique placed our order for Enchiladas de Pollo con Mole (Chicken Mole Enchiladas). No one in our group had ever had authentic mole sauce before (MOH-lay), and we were all very pleasantly surprised with how much we enjoyed it. Mole is a rich, savory-sweet sauce typically consisting of over 30 different ingredients. Moles in general mix ingredients from five different categories: chilies (at least two different types); sour (tomatoes or tomatillos); sweet (dried fruits or sugar); spices; and thickeners (bread, nuts or seeds). Once the paste is formed, it’s mixed with water or broth, and then simmered until it’s thick. Mole was a kind of flavor that no one in our group had ever experienced before. Chocolate and cinnamon flavor without the strong sweetness that we’re used to those flavors being accompanied by in the US. A touch of spice from the chilies with a hint of smokiness from the toasted seeds and nuts. This sauce is one of the most complex flavors we’d ever had and we loved hearing about the origin and evolution of the dish from Enrique as we ate. At first bite, we weren’t too sure about it, but by the end, we were scraping every last bit off your plate and wanting more!
3. Agua Fresca at Fruteria Disfrutando Mix (Calle 25 Avenida Nte 110, Centro)
By this time, our Hibiscus Tea welcome drink was long gone, so it was time for some refreshing Aqua Fresca (fruit water) and Disfrutando Mix. When we visited there were 10 different flavors to choose from ranging from Piña (Pineapple) to Sandía (Watermelon) to Horchata (a sweet rice (or coconut) based drink flavored with cinnamon and vanilla) to Mango and more! I (Matt) decided to try the Piña y Chaya which is Pineapple with Chaya which is essentially a local grown green much like spinach and said to have incredible health benefits, so much so that it’s known as the Maya miracle plant. I honestly really enjoyed it. The Chaya was very subtle, allowing the pineapple to still be the star of the show. Natalie decided to play it safe with the Piña, and how can you go wrong with that?? Other popular flavors in our group were the Sandía (Watermelon) and Mango.
4. Tacos at Taquería el Jarocho (Food Cart - Calle 2 Nte, Centro)
Get ready for some of the best tacos you’ve ever put in your mouth, because that’s exactly what Taquería el Jarocho is serving! We each got two tacos, al pastor (pork) and suadero (beef), served on delicious corn tortillas and topped with our choice of hot sauces, pickled onions, cabbage slaw (all self-serve). And seriously, these tacos were a dream! The green tomatillo salsa was a favorite and the cabbage slaw added a nice freshness and crunch. The food cart also offered tortas, quesadillas, gringas, and burritos, but we still had a couple of stops to go, so we decided to stick with the two tacos each.
5. Carnitas y Chicharrónes at Carnitas Teresita (Calle 1 Sur 20, Centro)
Hopefully you saved room after the tacos, because the Carnitas that you’re about to indulge in are other worldly! If you’re unfamiliar, carnitas are made by braising or simmering pork in oil (preferably lard) until tender (essentially a pork roast), that is then pulled apart to be eaten most commonly in tamales, tacos, tortas, and burritos. We ate ours in the form of build-your-own tacos with fresh cilantro, lime, onion, and 3 types of salsa (red, green, and avocado base). The cilantro and lime added a nice light freshness and acidity to the fatty, melt-in-your-mouth pork! Needless to say, this stop was a highlight of the food tour.
6. Popsicles at La Purhepecha (Av Benito Juárez 1, Centro)
To finish out this incredible food tour we made our final stop at La Purhepcha for some sweet desserts… More specifically, house-made popsicles and ice cream! Whether you want a dairy-free, fruit based popsicle or a dairy based ice cream popsicle, this place has a little something for everyone! The fruit popsicles were light and refreshing and the dairy based cookies and cream popsicle that I had was sweet and creamy but still light enough to enjoy on a hot day.
We hope that this has helped you plan your visit and make the most of your time in Playa del Carmen! If you did find it helpful, please consider heading over to our YouTube Channel and subscribing for more travel content, and following us on Instagram. It would mean the world to us!