How El Fogón Became the Most Recommended Taco Place in Playa Del Carmen

El Fogon Playa Del Carmen
El Fogon on Constituyentes Avenue and 30th Avenue.

El Fogón Restaurant in Playa Del Carmen

If you have been to Playa Del Carmen, you probably have heard of El Fogón Restaurant. It is the most recommended restaurant for tourists that want to go for tacos or a “real” Mexican restaurant. So how did this restaurant become so popular? Well, it is actually pretty easy. There is even a lesson for other businesses in Playa Del Carmen in this story. So, what is the secret to their success? 

Here is the recipe for success of El Fogón:

  • Good location that is easy to get to and easy to give directions to. 
  • Stay open in the same location. 
  • Build a reputation for tacos and Mexican food that is consistent and tasty. 
  • Be open all the time so people don’t need to think too much about if you are open or not (Many restaurants in Playa are closed one day a week, often Monday or Tuesdays). El Fogón is open 7 days a week from noon to 3:00am. It is crazy how busy El Fogón is late at night. 
  • Be aware of your customers. El Fogón often has a line or people waiting to get in. El Fogón has a host that organizes and keeps things flowing. They are also flexible for payments and are used to clients that do not speak Spanish. 
  • El Fogón has built a reputation on these things and enjoys all the referrals from concierges and front desks that refer people to them even without paying a commission. 

El Fogón does not advertise and barely has a social media presence. Rather, it relies on reputation and maintaining consistency. 

El Fogón Playa Del Carmen
Inside of El Fogón on Constituyentes Avenue.

 

Many try to copy the success of El Fogón

If you are familiar with where the El Fogón is on Constituyentes near 30th Avenue, you probably are familiar with the restaurants or frequently changing restaurants next to it. There have been countless taco/Mexican restaurants open there but they all fail. They have not been able to start their own reputation all the while El Fogón is receiving all the customers while they sit semi empty.

There is one restaurant just at the end of the same block though. It is Don Sirloin. Don Sirloin has almost come into its own. It is getting more and more recommended and some even prefer it over El Fogón. Now, when sometimes the line is long at El Fogón, people wander over to Don Sirloin. Don Sirloin is on the corner of 25th Avenue and Constituyentes Avenue. 

Don Sirloin Playa Del Carmen

Is El Fogón the best place for tacos in Playa Del Carmen?

In general, Playa Del Carmen is not a great place for tacos or super traditional Mexican food. This is because the area of the Riviera Maya is a newer settled area of Mexico. Yes, the Maya have been in Quintan Roo for a long time, but Quintana Roo did not become a state until the 70’s. Most of what you see in the Riviera Maya has been built in the past 30 years. Also, many of the people living in the Riviera Maya are from other parts of Mexico or world. This has created a fusion of different traditions and taste of Mexico and fused with international restaurateurs that have opened in the area. 

This however does not mean that people brought the best tasting traditions and tacos to Playa Del Carmen. If you have traveled in Mexico, you most likely have come across some really good food and tacos.  One of our fondest memories of tacos is from Guadalajara. In this simple corner taco restaurant, you order your type of taco and then you have about 6 salsas to choose from, then about 10 toppings. The place was super clean, very affordable, tasty, and always full of locals. The combination of good ingredients, freshness, affordability, lots of options, and good taste made it great! 

How does El Fogón stack up to other taco places in Playa Del Carmen? El Fogón certainly has consistency, lots of options, decent taste, affordable prices, traditional Mexican items, and everything is made fresh for you. These are all good aspects of El Fogón. What you might not find here is the deep traditional taste, creativity, a soul food taste, and rich and flavorful tortillas. El Fogón has a lot going for it, but if you are a taco enthusiast, you will likely have a different favorite place in Playa for tacos. El Fogón is a good place to send tourist for an introductory taste of some styles of Mexican tacos. However, as you see below in the photo, not as many locals eat here at El Fogón. 

El Fogón Playa Del Carmen
El Fogón is popular with tourists. Local might go here once in a while or late at night when there are not too many options open.

A close by taco restaurant

If you want to try something a little more authentic and custom made, a really good taco place is close by El Fogón on 30th Avenue. It is Birria de la 30. We first were there in 2015 and it only has changed name. These tacos are a style from Jalisco Mexico. They do provide a contrast to the tacos found at El Fogón. We personally think the birria tacos here are some of the better tacos in Playa Del Carmen. 

Tacos De birria Playa Del Carmen
Some of the best tacos in Playa del Carmen!

What makes good tacos?

So, what are the standards of a good taco? Good tacos are a delicious and satisfying culinary experience, and there are several key factors that contribute to their quality. Here are some elements that make good tacos:

1. Fresh Ingredients: The quality of the ingredients is crucial. Fresh vegetables, high-quality meat, and flavorful herbs and spices can make a significant difference in the taste of your tacos. Even adding fresh cilantro or condiments can really liven up a taco. 

2. Well-cooked Meat: Whether it’s beef, chicken, pork, or seafood, the meat should be cooked to perfection. It should be tender, juicy, and well-seasoned with a good balance of flavors.

tacos at el Fogon
Tacos al pastor at El Fogón. These are a seasoned pork taco with pineapple topped with onion and cilantro. 

3. Flavorful Seasonings: A combination of spices and herbs is essential for creating a tasty taco. Common seasonings include cumin, chili powder, achiote, garlic, onion, oregano, and cilantro. 

4. Properly Assembled Toppings: Toppings like salsa, guacamole, pico de gallo salsa or a habanero salsa adds freshness and flavor to tacos. Choose toppings that complement each other and the type of meat you’re using.

5. Fresh Tortillas: Whether you prefer corn or flour tortillas, they should be fresh, warm and soft. The right choice of tortilla can enhance the overall texture and taste of the taco. Real Mexican tacos are made with corn tortillas. There are three levels of corn tortillas though. You have your basic machine-made tortillas of corn, richer, yellow, corn tortillas, and handmade tortillas made from corn. Handmade are the best tortillas, but for popular restaurants like El Fogón, it is near impossible to do that kind of volume. 

6. Texture Contrast: A good taco offers a balance of textures. The crispy texture of a well-cooked protein, the crunch of fresh vegetables, and the softness of tortillas create a satisfying eating experience.

7. Balance of Flavors: A well-balanced taco has a harmony of flavors, including sweetness, saltiness, spiciness, and acidity. Adjust the ingredients and seasonings to achieve the desired balance. Some people like spice and others like how the fats from meats flavor the taco, but it all needs to be balanced to make it worth eating. 

8. Authenticity: Traditional recipes and cooking methods often contribute to the authenticity of a good taco. Regional variations and cultural influences can also play a role in creating a unique and memorable taco experience. There are many different flavors from Mexico to play with when it comes to taco taste. Locally we have Yucatecan cuisine to draw from. Using meat slow cooked in the ground or locally seasoned are some good authentic trademarks of a good taco. 

9. Creativity: While traditional tacos are delicious, don’t be afraid to get creative. Experiment with different ingredients, sauces, and combinations to discover new and exciting flavors. Many of the taco restaurants in Playa Del Carmen serve the same or very similar tacos. We always give points to chefs that get creative with the staple of Mexican diets, the taco. 

These are just some of the qualifications for what make a good taco. We hope that when you visit you are able to experiment and try lots of local tacos and taste the differences between them. Even in some higher end restaurants you can find gourmet tacos and on street corners you might find the best tacos as well. Tacos are one food type that can be enjoyed by all, and you can find good tacos at all parts of the spectrum of prices. 

Have you found the best tacos in Playa Del Carmen or the area? Let us know about it below in the comments. 

Menu El Fogón Playa Del Carmen.
This is just part of the menu at El Fogón. They have a large menu with about every combination of taco, quesadilla or torta.

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