It’s no secret that downtown Playa del Carmen is home to many amazing places to eat, from mouthwatering native fare to world-class international cuisine… But if you’re wondering where locals and travelers “in the know” choose to dine, here’s a quick rundown of the top 10 restaurants in Playa del Carmen for locals. Every establishment profiled here offers a unique glimpse into the local culture and incredible gastronomy of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, so we hope you enjoy eating your way through this list!
Where do Locals Eat in Playa del Carmen?
1. Amate 38
You’ll find this unique restaurant and bar on Calle 38 not far from the clear blue Caribbean Sea, serving up delicious Yucatecan regional food in a low-key natural environment that features many architectural details gathered from the surrounding Riviera Maya region to highlight its natural beauty. At Amate 38, guests enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks made with fresh local ingredients using ancestral cooking methods. We love the fresh juice, craft beers and Mexican wines, as well as the Chaya cream soup, local pumpkin squash and cochinita pibil, but everything on the menu is amazing!
Set amongst abundant vegetation and tropical trees, La Cueva del Chango serves natural Mexican food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with handcrafted cocktails and a variety of delicious juices made using fresh fruit. With impressive jungle vibes and plenty of vegetarian options, the outside seating area has tables set up in a luscious patio garden that boasts a rustic feel with colorful artwork and romantic lighting. We love the chilaquiles for breakfast, but the enchiladas, salads, soups and starters are also delicious, while the homemade mole poblano-style sauce that’s served atop the chicken and fish dinner entrees is also out of this world!
3. El Gran Taco
Open daily from 8 to 4:30 p.m., El Gran Taco de Playa is a must-try for all taco enthusiasts! Don’t let the low-key vibe and unassuming presentation fool you, this is some of the best authentic Mexican food Playa del Carmen has to offer! Situated just across the main highway from Playacar, the flautas are especially delicious here, along with the carnitas (tender pulled pork).
The laid-back eatery serves a magnificent array of hearty gourmet burgers, delicious seasoned fries and a great beer selection, with a leafy outdoor dining area. The service is also fantastic at MU Burgerhouse, which features some of the best burgers we’ve ever had on its extensive menu! We love the Lolita with blue cheese, arugula, caramelized onion and tomato, as well as the Sweet Fantasy, which features bacon jam, truffle mayo, crunchy onion and gouda cheese, but with so much variety our favorites rotate often!
5. La Famiglia
If you’re in the mood for amazing Italian fare, look no farther than La Famiglia, which serves delicious handmade pasta and wood-fired pizza in a cozy atmosphere on 10th Avenue just a block from Quinta Avenida, which is one of the world’s longest pedestrian-only streets. With a cosmopolitan vibe and upstairs seating that offers a nice view of the street, it’s easy to see why this is one of the top restaurants in Playa del Carmen for locals! We love the ravioli and gnocchi, but the pizzas are also to die for, while all bread and dough are also made daily in house.
If fresh ingredients, fast service, great prices and delicious flavors sound good to you, don’t miss Los Tarrascos Taqueria in downtown Playa del Carmen! Serving up mouthwatering local food with a traditional vibe, the portions are generous and the tacos al pastor is a must-try. We also like the chorizo sausage and the special Mexican skirt steak (arrachera), which boasts a classic Tarascan flavor.
When you are craving comfort food in Playa del Carmen, head to Cheester! A guilty favorite among locals for years, Cheester Pasta House is a bit off the beaten path (about seven blocks from 5th Avenue), offering some covered outdoor seating and a small number of tables inside. The pasta comes in a skillet and is easily enough to serve two people, and the salads are also large. We love the Rollitos, a type of spring roll appetizer that is filled with four types of cheese then bathed in Thai sauce and pesto, as well as the Pasta Chichen-Itza, which features cochinita pibil, red onion, habanero and cream – delicioso!
8. El Fogon
As a mainstay among top restaurants in Playa del Carmen for locals, El Fogon is a typical open-air taqueria that serves up authentic Mexican food and drinks. We love the arrachera (Mexican skirt steak), tacos al pastor and chicken tacos, but the nopales (pickled cactus), frijoles charros (beans) and guacamole are also perfection, while Micheladas (beer, lime juice, assorted sauces, spices, tomato juice, and chile peppers) are a must!
Another popular Italian restaurant among locals in Playa del Carmen, Trattoria del Centro lies just off Quinta Avenida, offering a relaxed dinner experience with fresh, traditional Italian fare. Featuring very good service, excellent food and some of the best tiramisu and espresso in town, the staff is welcoming and sometimes live music helps set the mood. We also love the eggplant parmesan, wood-fired pizza and hand-made pasta, which is hands down some of the best real-deal Italian food in Mexico!
10. Coco’s Cabanas Hotel & Restaurant
Last but not least, if you want a real “off the beaten track” experience, be sure to check out Coco’s Cabanas Hotel & Restaurant, which always uses the freshest ingredients and serves up fabulous wood-fired pizza and a wide variety of other incredible menu items influenced by both Mexican and European culinary traditions. Whether you are looking for a quiet dinner or a meal at the bar with drinks, this local gem can accommodate! We love the homemade guac, fresh whole fried fish and grilled lobster, but we always save room for one of their decadent desserts!
Deciding where to eat in the Riviera Maya can be overwhelming with so many delicious options to choose from, but you can never go wrong by dining in the top restaurants for locals in Playa del Carmen, Mexico!
Have you ever been to Playa del Carmen? Tell us in the comments section below!