Dining out is one of Allan and my favorite past times. While living in Boston we frequented as many affordable and ethnically diverse dining establishments as possible, splurging for the more expensive ones on special occasions like birthdays. Having since moved to Playa del Carmen we have been pleasantly surprised at the quality of the local cuisine. Although it's hard to compare the dining options with a major metropolitan and ethnically diverse city like Boston, Playa del Carmen has certainly not disappointed us with its dining options.
One of our local favorites in Playa del Carmen is Da GiGi, located on 5th Avenue between 32nd and 34th Streets, with other locations in the Riviera Maya. Owner and operator Gigi and his master chefs have been serving up delicious Italian food and pizzas for over a decade. They make a point to personally check on diners and socialize with them, making the dining experience more personalized. It has become the place to see and be seen as many local politicians and celebrities dine here as well. The 5th Avenue location has both outdoor and indoor dining options. If you choose outdoors make sure to pay a visit inside to see the amazing restaurant decor and layout personally designed by GiGi.
A newbie on the Playa dining scene is El Mero Negrillo, located right around the corner from our house on 26th Street between 5th and 10th Avenues. Modeled after their sister restaurant in Veracruz, Mexico, El Mero serves fresh Veracruzano style seafood at reasonable prices. We like to order as an appetizer the oyster sampler (be aware it is very spicy) and then randomly choose one of their many seafood offerings as a main dish. When in doubt just ask their friendly and accommodating bilingual staff.
Our favorite restaurant, El Camello Jr. (Camel Jr.), is not even located in Playa del Carmen, but rather is 45 minutes south in Tulum. Situated at the most southern end of Tulum on the eastern side of the main highway, El Camello sits in a very nondescript building with plastic tables and chairs out front. It's always packed with locals, and has yet to disappoint us. The fried whole fish was incredible, as well as the fish fillet with garlic and the grilled squid. Quite frankly we have been ecstatic with every meal so far. El Camello Jr. offers twice the quality at half the price.
Who would have thought two foodies like Allan and I could move from a dining hub like Boston to a sunny beach town like Playa del Carmen and be satisfied with our dining options? I can comfortably say when dining out the food in Playa is fresher and costs a fraction of what it would in Boston. Although the cuisine is not as ethnically diverse as Boston, there are a variety of ethnic establishments in Playa. Even though we do miss some of the diversity in terms of food, we can always calm our cravings on trips back to Massachusetts.