Last updated on October 9th, 2016

I haven’t eaten since 5:30 am at the Starbucks in Toronto Pearson Airport. The same day I traveled to Cancun Airport. My stomach is knocking for one more meal tonight in this Latin American city. I’m a budget traveler and wanted cheap food in Playa del Carmen.

It’s 6:30 p.m. local time and Mark, my hostel mate, suggested a cheap taco place he saw in the neighbourhood.

Mark and I walked north on 10th street from Hostel Wonderous World (now closed) for about 60 seconds. The (Cocina Econimica) El Jardin restaurant was at the corner of 10th and CTM Avenue.

The outside menu had 13-peso tacos, so we took a seat inside. A patron asked us what we wanted to eat. I’m not sure if he worked there or not since he was eating, too. The man told us they don’t have tacos. That menu is for the place beside, which was closed. He called over Andrea Thelma to take our order. She didn’t stand more than 5’2” and wore a bandana. Andrea Thelma was old enough to be someone’s great-grandmother.

Mark and I both ordered Horchata drinks; it’s prepared with almond and rice milk, and cinnamon. For dinner, Mark requested the fish soup and I the chicken soup – or we thought.

Mexican Horchata

Mexican Horchata

Andrea Thelma first brought out the Horchata cream with bottles of water. We mixed the water into the cup containing the Horchata. I took a sip and it was a sugary bliss of cinnamon milk. She later served us both chicken-in-bone soup with mixed vegetables, fresh salsa, hot peppers with onions, slices of limes, and tortillas. We were expecting fish soup for Mark. I never thought Mexicans eat tortillas with soup. I had to use my hands to merk the chicken. I ate as much as I could. I kept putting salsa in the tortilla and dipping it in the broth.  Mark and I were full with all the tortillas and salsa we ate plus the meat soups.

While we were finishing off our meal, Andrea Thelma brought out a fish fillet with rice, lettuce, tomatoes, and black beans. I was given the same except it was a chicken breast. Our Spanish needs more tuning. “That’s what the tortillas and salsa are for,” I said to Mark.

cheap food playa del carmen - chicken breast, rice, and vegetables

We didn’t notice the mosquitos that were biting our legs while eating round two. Andrea Thelma sprayed our legs with bug spray. I smelled the spray while eating. “She’s the nicest lady,” Mark said.

Old Mexican Woman

Andrea Thelma

We ate more than expected. The Mexican food was delicious. Not too bad for 70 pesos per head including tip.