Who knows how it happened, but unassuming Puerto Morelos has an amazingly rich collection of restaurants and eateries, from cheerful holes-in-the-wall to international cuisine rivaling anything in Cancún or Playa del Carmen.
Mexican and Seafood
Located on the central plaza, El Pirata (tel. 998/871-0489, 8 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, US$8–15) offers a large selection of hamburgers, fish burgers, tortas, tacos, and entrées such as roast chicken or grilled beef, all served in a simple open-air dining area just off the street. Like many businesses here, El Pirata cuts back its hours in the low season, closing Monday and the entire month of May.
Doña Triny’s (central plaza, no phone, 8 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, US$4–9) started out as a tiny shack at the entrance of town and now occupies prime property on the main plaza, rubbing elbows with the likes of Hola Asia and the Alma Libre bookstore. Neither the low-key ambience nor the familiar menu have changed much; look for Mexican and Yucatecan standards like enchiladas, huaraches, and chiles rellenos, plus some adopted dishes like stuffed portobello mushrooms; most dishes can be adjusted for vegetarians on request, too.
Los Pelícanos (central plaza, tel. 998/871-0014, 8 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, US$7–20) has a wraparound patio overlooking the plaza and the ocean—perfect for an afternoon beer or margarita. Food here can be a bit uneven, but with so many anglers in town, it’s hard to go wrong with shrimp, octopus, or fish, all served fresh in a half dozen different ways.
Hola Asia (central plaza, tel. 998/871-0679, 3–10 p.m. Wed.–Mon., 1–10 p.m. Sun., closed Sept., US$8–15) is a small, popular restaurant serving a terrific pan-Asian menu of mostly Thai and Chinese inspiration. Diners come from Cancún, Playa del Carmen, and beyond to eat here, and the restaurant has added a rooftop patio to accommodate the crowds. For sweet and sour, try General Tso’s Chicken; for spicy, go with Indian Yellow Curry.
David Lau’s Place (central plaza, tel. 998/251-2531, www.davidlaus.com, 3–10:30 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 1–9:30 p.m. Sun., US$8–15) was opened by the former chef at Hola Asia and also serves terrific Asian-inspired dishes, plus a handful of select Italian dishes. Meals are made to order and are served in a colorful dining room; portions tend toward enormous.
John Gray’s Kitchen (Av. Niños Héroes s/n, tel. 998/871-0665, www.johngrayrestaurantgroup.com, 6–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., US$15–30) is the mother restaurant of John Gray’s Place in Playa del Carmen, and without question it is the finest restaurant in Puerto Morelos. The menu changes every day, though a few perennial favorites are almost always available, like mac n’ cheese with jumbo shrimp and white truffle oil, soy-marinated tuna with Asian coleslaw, and pan roasted duck breast with chipotle, honey, and tequila. Fine cuts of meat, inventive sauces, and fresh pastas and vegetables are a given. Occupying a boxy building two blocks from the plaza, the dining room is elegant and understated.
There’s great homemade pizza and pasta at Los Gauchos (Calle Tulum, cell. tel. 998/166-5879, 8 a.m.–11 p.m. Wed.–Sun., US$5–8), but don’t leave without trying the empanadas: a classic Argentinean snack made of puffy, crispy fried dough filled with cheese or other goodies. At just US$1.50 apiece, a plate of five or six and a couple of sodas makes a great cheap meal for two. Take them to go or eat in the colorful dining room.
The Quebecois owners of L’Oazis (central plaza, Av. Tulum near Av. Javier Rojo Gómez, 5–10 p.m. Tues.–Sun., US$7–15) serve mostly grilled dishes in their small, cheerful eatery. The menu includes tacos, burgers, and New York steak, plus specialties like zucchini and eggplant with tzatziki sauce.
Right on the central plaza, Le Café D’Amancía (Calle Tulum at Av. Javier Rojo Gómez s/n, cell. tel. 998/137-0757, 7 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5–10 p.m. Wed.–Mon., US$2–6) is a tiny bohemian café serving up homemade baked goods, bagel and croissant sandwiches, freshly squeezed juices, and strong caffeine drinks. With mellow tunes, outdoor tables, and early—plus late—hours, it makes a great place for a light breakfast, after-dinner dessert, and people watching.
A Puerto Morelos institution, Mama’s Bakery (Av. Javier Rojo Gómez, cell. tel. 998/845-6810, 7:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Tues.–Sat., sometimes Sun., US$4–7) is run by a friendly expat and baker extraordinaire. The sticky buns and carrot cake are irresistible, and there’s a waiting list for fresh loaves of bread—order at least a day in advance. Mama’s also serves fresh tasty meals, like pancakes or breakfast burritos in the morning and smoothies and sandwiches for lunch. The restaurant is typically closed on weekends after Labor Day until November 1.
Casa Martín (central plaza, 6:30 a.m.–10 p.m. daily) has a fairly large selection of canned foods, pastas, snacks, and drinks; there’s also a small produce section near the back.
Every Wednesday, fruit, vegetable, and meat stands (Calle Tulum near Av. Javier Rojo Gómez, 7 a.m.–2 p.m.) set up a half block from the central plaza. Prices are by the kilo, and products are fresh.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition