I’m a lucky gal in that my  fam has a condo on
Mexico’s Mayan Coast, in the rapidly expanding
vacation town of Playa del Carmen. Needless to
say, we make use of this condo as often as possible, which has made
me somewhat of an unofficial guide for the town. 

A passion, of course, is dining. You can’t tell
me you’re off to Playa without me pushing my extensively annotated
list of dining recommendations, which often overwhelms people.

So I get this a lot: “If you had to pick ONE restaurant, what
would it be?”

Stab me in the gullet why don’t you? But fine, I understand.
Many of those traveling to Playa stay in all-inclusive hotels just
outside the main town and will only be dining off the compound once
or twice at most — that’s the beauty of all-inclusive right? 

Well here is my ONE pick for dining in the town
of Playa del Carmen: La Cueva del
— translation,  “The Monkey Cave.”
It’s local, scrumptious, healthy-fresh, secluded and firmly
entrenched in the fabric of the town — owners Pedro Gomez and
Andres Friederich — both hail from Mexico City and worked in hotel
management — bought the place as a fledgling coffee shop/nursery,
from builder and longtime Playa denizen, Wolfgang Deutsch. 
Deutsch built the unique structure himself out of recycled wood,
concrete and recycled wine bottles (see gallery below!)

Though I’m not the first to sing this traditional
(from central Mexico/Mexico City) restaurant’s
praises, many still don’t know of its existence. I myself found it
only once I got sick of the main drag  — “5th Ave” — and
went exploring to the north end (toward Cancun) of town where
density was still low, and only construction crews working on new
condos were to be seen. 

Open for over 10 years now, the resto offers a refuge of
tranquility from the ever-expanding crowds of Playa’s centre. It is
cave-like indeed, nestled in what remains of Playa’s jungle-covered
seashore. Since taking over some years ago, Pedro and Andres have
grown the four-table coffee shop into a meandering garden
restaurant, enhancing but preserving the restaurant’s open-concept,
very unique garden-and-concrete-palapa structure. The nursery is
still in operation, but is now second to the business of serving

Once you get over the structure, a glimpse of the open kitchen
fills your mouth with expectation.  Everything is local, fresh
and made on site, including the traditional corn chips, salsas and
chilis, and all natural drinks and juices.  While the menu in
any Playa restaurant is subject to change without notice — a
function of being at the mercy of sporadic ingredient availability
— you can always count on Cueva’s gorgeous breakfast of freshly
squeezed juices, traditional eggs, such as Divorciados, and
breakfast Chilaquiles; healthy lunch of soups, grilled local fish
salads, enchiladas and chalupitas; and dinner of some of the
lightest tacos and tostadas, daily seafood, and Mexican grilled
meats. The guacamole is to die for, the service is very informal
and homey, don’t fear the mosquitoes — they’ve plenty of natural
bug repellent on hand.

Cueva del Chango
Calle 38 (between Av. 5 and the beach, near the Shangri-la
Playa del Carmen, Quinata Roo
Phone: (984) 116 – 3179
Though this may sound like the line-up at many a beach-front table,
I urge to look to my extensive gallery for why this is my favourite
of them all…


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