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After three months in South America, where we had delicious but for the most part non-spicy food, we arrived in Mexico — land of Picante! We decided to scribble out our totally biased, no-holds-barred commets of the joints where we gorged on tacos and tostadas.
There’s a lot more than just Mexican food in Playa del Carmen, particularly on the famous Fifth Avenue, where you’ll find meals of every ethnic variety, but if you get off the tourist trail you’ll find delicious (and cheap) eats. Here’s the taco tour roundup, along with a specific Sean/Jen comment:
Corner of Calle 34 and Avenida 25 (there’s another location just off 5th Ave)
A huge variety of seafood dishes. Ceviche tostadas, fish and shrimp tacos, all fresh with amazing flavors.
This place is little bit more “gourmet” than the typical taco joint, with nice touches like fried leeks on the tacos for additional flavor.
Their pickled onions topped on the tostadas are some of the best! The crowd of sauce options on the table (at least 8 different ones, from habanero to garlic to cilantro) can make every bite a little different.
Jen: The tempura fish taco was my fav here. Although, I have to admit that anything fried does tend to come out ahead for me but what can I say? The fried leeks on top were an unexpected treat.
They also had skinny versions some of their tacos – steamed fish in a bib lettuce “taco.” Maybe my pants would have fit better by the time I left if I had eaten more of those …
Sean: Ceviche tostadas ruled here — piled high with fresh fish marinated in lime juice.
Calle 34 and Avenida 20 N
This happening corner place often has live music, and although we’ve never seen anyone in it, a swimming pool in the rear dining area. They serve traditional fish tacos, with a great beer batter and cabbage slaw, and have a menu that ranges beyond tacos and tostadas.
Jen: Amazing shrimp “burger.”
Sean: Good tacos, I liked it more for the atmosphere than the food.
Jen: Most tender carne asada taco I have had. Good enough to have me stand in a long line in 90 degree heat – more than once!
Sean: My absolute favorite carne asada! And don’t skip the hot sauce — the burn lasted far longer than the taco.
Calle 6th & 30th Ave (and a bunch of other locations)
The star of the show at El Fogon is meat. As you approach, you’ll smell the grill and see the smoke from the hearth, where they grill up marinated steak in all sorts of varieties.
But the star is the huge skewer of El Pastor (marinated pork) visible from street level.
Originally brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the early 1900’s, pastor (think Mexico’s version of Schwarma) is layers of marinated pork piled on a vertical spit, which is topped with a pineapple.
The spit master slices the juicy, crunch bits of pastor off the spit into individual tortillas, flicks a slice of pineapple on it, and piles on onion and cilantro.
Jen: The El Pastor Taco was my absolute favorite here although the fact that it was plenty greasy may have been part of the reason. It was definitely the reason I lived in regret after eating one.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t come back for more.
Sean: I liked the little touches — like the serving of cactus with the meal. Pastor rules here.
Calle 38 and 5th Ave
Definitely a local’s place, chicken rules the roost here (sorry, couldn’t help myself). Run by a multi-generational family of women, Dona Mary’s serves up chicken on tostadas and tortas, in soups (caldos), in empanadas, tucked into enchiladas, and in steamed-in-banana-leaf tamales.
What’s available can vary from what’s on the menu from day to day, but your server will let you know. Our first time here was a little disappointing, since they only had the chicken soup available.
The second time, though, everything was available. Great tostadas, piled high with beans, chicken, and cheese. The tamales steamed in banana leaves (unlike the tamales we’re used to in corn husks) are moist and filled with tender chicken.
Sean: Chicken tostadas — messy and delicious!
Jen: I only had the soup, so I’m abstaining from a taco comment.
This place has a little more the feel of fast food serving up tacos, maybe because of the funny cartoon cow on the logo, but it was still good.
The have the street-side pastor on a spit like a lot of these restaurants, but Don Sirloin was the only one we’ve seen that also has a skewer piled with beef as well.
Sean: Interesting take on the sirloin “pastor”, but not my favorite.
Jen: A little less inspired than some of the other places.
30th Avenue between Constituyentes and Calle 20
This restaurant is attached to the DAC Gourmet Market in the Canter of Playa. Ok, so it’s not a taco place. The popular restaurant serves up healthy vegan options including an array of smoothies and salads.
They also feature other local favorites for the less than health conscious. For example, the chilaquiles, which are like breakfast nachos made with chicken, egg, and green or red sauce.
Chilaquiles are one of many dishes in Mexico that are recommended for curing a hangover.
Jen: I went for the chilaquiles mixto. I cannot comment on their ability to cure your throbbing head after a night out, but I can recommend them for their flavor.
Sean: I failed to order the chilaquiles, and that was my mistake. Thankfully, Jen was willing to share her overflowing plate.
What do you think? Which must-try taco place did we miss? Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments.
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