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Enjoy Delicious Mexican Cuisine in Playa del Carmen

08/12/2015 02:17 EDT | Updated 08/12/2016 05:59 EDT
davidgordillo/Flickr
Playa del Carmen 2012

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Little sister to Mexican resort Mecca Cancun, Playa del Carmen is so much more than balmy waters, sandy beaches and ancient Mayan ruins. In fact, this Quintana Roo town of 150,000 is deftly coming into its own as a foodie destination -- here's our recipe for the perfect stay:

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Breakfast: Though lodging right in Playa will likely mean trading the typical all-inclusive experience for accommodations that give you far more independence, we promise you won't miss the 24-7 buffet. Hotel La Tortuga, with its proximity to the beach, its pretty, meandering swimming pool, its rooftop terraces and, above all, its delicious complimentary breakfast service (the best, we think, in town), makes a perfect home base. Take a seat at the hotel's breezy Como Como café from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily and choose from the free-for-guests menu of heaping, Mexican-inspired egg dishes, homemade croissants and fresh-squeezed jugo de naranja (OJ). Hotel La Tortuga, Avenida 10, esq Calle 14, Playa del Carmen, +52 984 873 1484, www.hotellatortuga.com

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Brunch: After several hours strolling bustling, vehicle-free Fifth Avenue under a blazing sun in search of souvenirs, a food refuel will well be in order. Madrez! Café, just off the strip, houses several shaded wooden patio tables with a killer view of the sparkling Mexican Caribbean, not to mention cold drinks (try a tasty fresh-fruit-infused lemonade or a refreshing iced chocolate) and such light fare as savoury waffles with egg, bacon and Oaxaca cheese, tasty bagel sandwiches with a side of spicy salsa or house-made preserves, and chorizo-and-jalapeño-stuffed tortillas that will have you saying "Seconds, por favor." Madrez! Café, Mz 4 Lt 10 Loc 5, Calle 8 Norte, Playa del Carmen, +52 984 187 3605, www.facebook.com/madrez-cafe

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Lunch: When it comes to finding the best food, follow the locals straight to El Fogón, trusting that all those hungry construction workers and bank tellers haven't led you astray as you take a seat in one of this down-home taco joint's white plastic lawn chairs. Order from a variety of tasty tacos, fajitas and quesadillas, all of which arrive fresh-but-fast to your table along with housemade chips and a trio of salsas in clay pots. Also worth a try: a side of frijoles charros (traditional "cowboy beans," made of pintos stewed with onion, garlic and bacon) and, to drink, a Mexican flag cocktail that's as nice to look at as it is to down on a hot day. Taqueria El Fogón, Av Constituyentes, Playa del Carmen

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Dinner: With a dizzying array of dining options available throughout Playa del Carmen, it can be difficult to choose just the right resto for supper. We suggest hitting up Kaxapa Factory, where a mainly female crew serves up mainly corn-based Venezualan cuisine -- the best you'll likely have outside that country's borders. Our must-have menu picks from this unpretentious spot: a savoury arepa sandwich, a black-bean empanada or a sweet, cheese-filled cachapa, any of which should be washed down with a fresh soursop juice. It may take more than one visit, but it's worth it. Kaxapa Factory, Avenida 20 Sur 2, Playa del Carmen, +52 984 803 5023, www.kaxapafactory.com

Diy: For those who'd rather earn their fill in order to eat it, Co.Cos Culinary School offers one-off cooking classes that'll see you make (and, yes, wolf down) a multi-course Mexican meal before the night's out. Our hands-on experience opened with traditional tortilla soup (with all the fixins), followed by three types of salsa (with a built-in lesson on chile pepper varieties), grilled flank steak with a silky smooth pablano-pepper cream sauce and, for dessert, a south-of-the-U.S.-border play on Bananas Foster. After dinner, enjoy an informative tequila and mezcal tasting courtesy of your instructor (fyi: that worm-in-the-bottle thing? So not Mexican). Cocina Cosmopolita Culinary School, Condominio Aldea Thai Local 23, Calle Cozumel Mza 18 Lote 1, Col. Xaman-ha, Playa del Carmen, +52 984 803 0743, www.cookinplaya.com

¡Comiendo feliz! (Happy eating!) By Noa Nichol

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