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A Journey Into Paradise

The Best Food in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

19 May, 2016

With tens of thousands of tourists flocking to the Caribbean resort town of Playa del Carmen each year, it’s safe to say the word is out when it comes to Playa’s gorgeous white-sand beaches,its world-class shopping, amazing water sports and lively entertainment scene. 

But what about the food? That’s exactly what food writer Steve Dolinsky tells Public Radio International (PRI) is missing from most Playa del Carmen vacations.

“It’s easy to walk outside your condo or your hotel here and stumble into a place that has an OK ceviche or tacos,” he said. “But if you walk just ten minutes off this main strip, you’ll find interesting taco carts, interesting stores.”

One place Dolinsky recommends is El Pirata, which he says has excellent shrimp and octopus cocktails. Other popular dishes include the whole fried fish, fish fillets and the ceviches. It’s become a favorite among locals – always a good sign – so expect it to be busy no matter when you go. And although it’s definitely not a locally-owned spot, Dolinsky also recommends C-Grill, which offers breathtaking seaside dining at the Beach House of Thompson Playa del Carmen, a luxury boutique hotel located in the heart of downtown Playa on its world-famous 5th Avenue (Quinta Avenida). Still, the restaurant has partnered with the most responsible and sustainable local farmers, fishermen and suppliers to create an ultra-fresh, Mediterranean menu. Insider Tip: Try the fresh-squeezed juice – it’s divine! 

“Dolinsky says he found La Carniza Cecina Estilo Yecapixtla, a food truck wedged between a Nissan dealership and the highway,” wrote PRI. “And Las Karnitas, where you can find authentic pulled pork carnitas tacos, as well as an actual tower of salsas and guacamole that you eat with fried pork skin.”

Dolinsky also recommends pushing your limits a bit and sampling the local Yucatan-style habanero salsa, but be warned – it’s HOT! And for those of you who can’t make it down to Playa soon enough but don’t want to wait,he’s even included a recipe:

-20 fresh habanero chiles
-2 heads of fresh garlic
-1 1/4 cups fresh lime juice
-2 teaspoons kosher salt (more to taste)

1. Separate garlic cloves. Char chiles under a broiler or over a gas flame until blackened. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic and let steam for 15 minutes.

2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Toast garlic until it’s tender and the skins are charred (usually takes about 6-8 minutes) and let cool.

3. Wearing gloves (do not handle with bare hands), peel chiles, discard stems. Peel garlic cloves.

4. Pulse chiles, garlic, lime juice, and 2 tsp. salt in a blender until a coarse purée forms. Season with additional salt to taste and serve with tortilla chips or fried pork skins.

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