After spending two days in Valladolid (in the Yucatan state), I didn’t fill like I got a good grasp of Yucatecan food. I was determined to continue sampling regional dishes in the Riviera Maya area (in the Quintana Roo state). To my dismay (and this statement is based on my experience), it was hard to find Yucatecan food in the Riviera Maya (maybe I stayed too long in the touristy areas). I looked and looked at several menus but it seems like people in Quintana Roo eat what we identify as Mexican food (tacos, enchiladas, molcajete not papadzules, salbutes and codzitos).
This is by no means a complaint. I wanted to try Yucatecan food but the food in the Riviera was good. Maybe too good to be true. Mexicans are experts in preparing exquisite dishes in every corner of the national territory.
This is why I want to share where and what I ate at some of the Riviera Maya’s most famous cities. Hey, it is not my fault if you end hungry after this.
La Panza es Primero (The Belly Goes First)
This restaurant is located in the hotel zone. I know I wrote about how boring this part of Cancun is. Still, I am happy to report that food saved the day.
This restaurant stands out because of its wrestling decoration. The walls (I think even the ceiling) are decorated with all sorts Mexican wrestling photos, posters and masks. Wrestling matches are playing at the TV. The menu is mounted in a little car. Everything in this place screams coolness.
My husband ordered the grilled arrachera topped with nopales (cactus).
Note: If you see arrachera on the menu, try it. It is a lean, tender, melts in your mouth cut of meat. The sad part: it is difficult to find this exact cut outside Mexico. So follow my advice, try it!!!
I had the seafood enchiladas covered in a melted cheese sauce.
This is a buffet located in Downtown Cancun (across the Parque de las Palapas). However, it is not the Vegas or Chinese style buffet you are thinking about. There were three main entries (squid, octopus and shrimp ceviche, fish ceviche and aguachile) and two seafood based soups. The waiters brought you pasta, grilled shrimp and fish on request. I am not going to lie. My westernized brain had thoughts of running from the place. My husband insisted we stay because he was hungry. Thank God I listened to him. Everything was so fresh and delectable. This was probably the best ceviche and aguachile I have tasted in my life. Believe me when I say so. I am grossed out by the texture of certain seafood dishes. This was not the case. I lost count of how many times I refilled my plate. Lesson: never underestimate small and simple places.
Note: Aguachile is essentially a very spicy version of ceviche typically made with shrimp.
Parque de la Palapas
This park is ideal to find a wide variety of snacks and light food at good prices. It is also an interesting place to spot locals and see how food is prepared.
Playa del Carmen
This restaurant in the Quinta Avenida offers good food but the prices are a little bit steep. Actually, we entered because my husband wanted a cocktail made with an unusual type of clam and the host told us he had it on the menu. Big, big lie. Well, I wasn’t really mad because the food was good. However, I think you can get better food (and way cheaper) if you go to a restaurant off the Quinta Avenida.
I had the chicken, chorizo, meat and nopales molcajete (with green sauce and melted cheese).
My husband had a Mexican combo.
Some people swear this restaurant has the best tacos (or best food) in town. My husband says the tacos were phenomenal. I tried alambres for the first time (with the meat al pastor) in here. I was so happy to try this because it is not something you usually see in the U.S.
Note: Alambres are diced chicken or beef sautéed with bacon (or ham), optionally cheese and vegetables like green peppers and onions. Served with tortillas and salsas.
You can find good street tacos and hotdogs close to the ADO terminal in the Quinta Avenida. Don’t expect any fanciness. You will have to eat while standing on the street. However, this is a little sacrifice in comparison to the many taco fillings you can taste in here. Yum!!!
This is one of the oldest and most well known restaurants in Downton Tulum. I know you may be tempted to visit one of the more upscale places in the area. Nevertheless, this place offers big portions with a consistent awesome flavor at (probably) the best prices in the town. I read a lot of reviews about this place because I didn’t remember the name. A lot of visitors and locals praise the high quality and variety of the dishes.
In here, you start your meal with the usual chips and salsa (very good). For a twist, they add a super spicy escabeche as a starter (made with habanero chilies). You feel the heat at the first taste but, I don’t know how, you get addicted to it and keep eating. We finished the big plate served to us.
We ordered the special seafood platter consisting of grilled squid, shrimp and fish and breaded fish and shrimp. Ahhh, it was delicious. Like I said, I love food in general but in Mexico I tend to go for the local owned places.
Panna e Cioccolato
This is the place to have ice cream or gelato. They also have stores in Akumal and Isla Mujeres.
You know what? Two things. This is the end of my Riviera Maya eating report (buuuu!). Second, I don’t know about you, but I am kind of hungry right now. Seriously. Those alambres messed up my brain.
Hope you have enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.
What are you eating recommendations for the Riviera Maya? Let me know in the comments section below.