La Cueva del Chango . Playa del Carmen
The translation? La Cueva del Chango means “The Monkey Cave.”
Having been to Playa del Carmen twice in the past few years I recommend the north side of town. It’s quiet, borders residential areas, and while just a short walk away it’s well removed from the noisy street vendors and heavily traversed parts near the middle and south side of Calle Quinta – the pedestrian street.
On the second day of a recent trip I asked the owner of the Hotel Banana where to find breakfast. He instructed us to walk a few blocks north and then towards the beach at Calle 38. I was convinced that I had passed or missed it before finally spotting the menu posted at the small path leading into La Cueva.
Entering “the cave” we found a large two part open air restaurant; half indoors covered by a large clay type roof, and the other in a bright open garden. A small creek flows through the grounds and tree trunks support the roof and scattered canopies. While worth visiting for the atmosphere alone the food can’t be beat. Consisting of Yucatecan and traditional Mexican there’s also an influence on fresh fruits and vegetables. The rotating dishes and drinks are created with or include hints of papayas, guavas, kiwis, and other flavors you don’t normally taste every day.
La Cueva is owned by Andres Friedrech and Pedro Gomez, both transplants from Mexico City. I chatted with Andres a few times while noticing his attention to service and the customers. He was always nearby – observant and displaying his dry sense if humor.
When we told him our affection for the two local cats that wandered the grounds he eyed his unwanted visitors wryly and muttered something about needing a higher fence while still maintaining his eyes on us and the other diners.
We strolled over for breakfast on two occasions, and ended up spending over an hour each time outdoors in the warm air enjoying coffee, crepes, and pancakes. During our dinner visit I had chicken with poblano chili, sharing with my mom who had the grilled tuna. During our dinner we met some folks from Canada with accents so thick I was sure they were putting us on. But I quickly discarded that thought after the gentleman wowed me with his savant hockey factoids. Not knowing anything about hockey I directed the conversation to our meals, and my desire to someday visit Vancouver.
If visiting Playa del Carmen or surrounds I’d wholeheartedly recommend a visit, even if just at the bar for drinks. The beach just two blocks away is quiet with mostly private residences.
38th Street at 5th – on the far south end of the 5th Ave pedestrian walk.
by James Van Dellen