The Food and Wine Hedonist

leave your inhibitions at the door

Worst Meal Ever?

Americans suck.  No, I’m not going all Third World on you. More like I’m going all French on you.

There’s a common misconception that the French hate all Americans and I’m sure that’s not completely true.   They just hate the “Ugly Americans” that go and visit France.   You know the ones – don’t bother trying to speak the language, treating locals like they’re servants, loud, drunk, pushy. You get the picture.   If anyone from a foreign land – even from a different town – did that in America, there’s a good chance they’d get shot.    Yet they never learn.

In defense of Ugly Americans, there are many vacation destinations in the world where their behavior is tolerated.   In fact, there are places where it’s even encouraged.   I was recently at one of those places – Playa del Carmen.

Frontera Street


That picture is of the famous 5th Avenue that’s near the water in this town about 45 minutes south of the Cancun airport.   We were on vacation with our extended family and were staying in a residential community a couple blocks away from this strip.   Cruise ships often stop here, so the street is packed with vendors selling cheesy souvenirs and stupid t-shirts.
Those same cheesy souvenirs and stupid t-shirts can be purchased a few blocks away for a third of the price. But the 5th Avenue guys get away with it because there are enough tourists (mostly American) who foolishly toss their money at them.

The same goes for food. The street is lined with “restaurants” like Carlos and Charlie’s, Senor Frogs, and Fat Tuesday.

Fat Playa


People go to these places to drink out of yardlong beer glasses, do Kamikaze shots like it’s 1988 again, and eat Mexican food that makes Taco Bell seem authentic and Hooters and Applebees look like Le Bernadin.   Again, all because there are enough tourists (mostly American) who foolishly toss their money at them.

The locally-owned restaurants are getting in the act as well. With all that idiot money flying around, there’s no incentive for them to put out good food.I know this because I had one of the worst meals of my life on 5th Avenue at … La Frontera.

Frontera menu


My brother picked out the restaurant and I didn’t want to overrule him because, honestly, this was the first time he’s EVER taken the initiative to choose a restaurant. But there were all kinds of warning signs not to go there.

Warning sign #1 – it was right smack in the middle of an uber-touristy area.

Warning sign #2 – They had a guy on the street trying to get people to go in

Warning sign #3 – That same guy offered everyone (14 of us) one free round of cocktails.

Warning sign #4 – I suppose a sign with a mustachioed cactus belongs on this list.

Frontera sign

Wait, is that a mustache?!?



Warning sign #5 – Despite that pitch, there was only one other table occupied at 7pm. And that family was not happy.


But we were so hungry that my nephew’s arm was looking mighty tasty. So we went with it. Here’s how bad it was:

– That round of drinks? It had to be all Margaritas or all Mojitos. The kids couldn’t even get a Coke.
– It took 45 minutes for that round to come out.
– About 30 minutes of that time was spent waiting for menus.
– He was really rude to my kids just for the fact that they were kids.
– We ordered the table-side preparation of guacamole and were told that they were out of avocados.   WHAT!?!? It’s like the national fruit of Mexico.
– When the food did come out over an hour later, every single dish had slices of avocado on it. Clearly the waiter did not want to be troubled with making the guacamole.
– My brother’s carne asada was roughly the consistency of a football.  (American football or soccer ball, take your pick)
– We never got any other drinks, despite us asking repeatedly for him to come over to take our order.
– Boom Boom and I ordered a seafood platter to share.   While we were waiting, we were informed that they were out of lobster. ( Again – WHAT?!?!? )   Instead, he said we’d get extra shrimp.
– When the shrimp came out, they looked nice but were absolutely raw.   They weren’t even a quarter-cooked.
– So when we point it out to him, he promptly brought it back to the kitchen. Where they microwaved the fuckers.
– I never did get a fork.

Conversations about going elsewhere came up every five minutes, but with fourteen of us we knew it would be tough finding something else.   In retrospect, getting some El Big Macs at the Casa de McDonald’s next door would’ve been an improvement.

When it came time to pay, I wanted to completely stiff them on the tip but was pressured to do otherwise.   So I left a tip of exactly 10 pesos on a $400 meal.   (The exchange rate was roughly 12 pesos = $1)

Not that the insulting tip would teach any kind of lesson to them. The lesson they’ve learned and taken completely to heart is that there’s always a fresh stream of American tourists who will gladly pay for that lousy meal. Worse yet, there are a bunch of them that would actually like that place.

frontera trip advisor

from Trip Advisor


But that’s a topic for another post…



About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

24 comments on “Worst Meal Ever?

  1. Go Jules Go
    March 5, 2015

    I think you should have just eaten your nephew’s arm. With a slice of avocado BECAUSE CLEARLY YOU HAVE THEM BACK THERE NEXT TO THE MICROWAVE!

    Ooh that felt good. Thanks!

    P.S. – You know it’s bad when you can’t tell if the cactus is wearing a mustache or one of those meth teeth sets.

  2. Go Jules Go
    March 5, 2015

    Aw – didn’t work. Have I been out of the game that long?!

    • Go Jules Go
      March 5, 2015

      Whoa – they made it easier since I’ve been gone – you can just post the image link without the HTML tag. You go on with your bad self, WordPress.


      Amazing, right?

      • thefoodandwinehedonist
        March 5, 2015

        I think they just changed the packaging from “Hillbilly” to “Meth”. You’re ahead of me on the posting pix in comments. I didn’t know then and still don’t know now. So I just leave long-winded text-based comments.

  3. ksbeth
    March 5, 2015


    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 5, 2015

      Exactly. I think of all the injustices, the raw shrimp part was the worst. When it came back microwaved, it was all slimy. Didn’t touch it.

  4. SAHMmelier
    March 5, 2015

    Yikes! At least you know you can trust ypur instincts!

  5. Michelle Williams
    March 5, 2015


  6. A2sicilian
    March 5, 2015

    That’s funny. The photos of the food plates are a giveaway. I read in guidebook once that when visiting a touristy city always avoid places that have photos of the food displayed or hawkers outside. It’s almost assured, the book said, that any food you are served will have been rewarmed in a microwave. Apparently that didn’t even happen with the shrimp… At least the first time out! At least you’ve had plenty of south of the border meals to make up for it, like the one in Tulum last year!

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 6, 2015

      Best meals on this trip were from the taco carts. Those were outstanding.

      • A2sicilian
        March 6, 2015

        Totally believe that. In Cali in addition to very small Mexican places, I remember in one neighborhood I lived in in San Jose a mom and daughter sold their homemade tamales door to door. Probably totally illegal but
        Incedible. Those little mom and pop places also often used a lot more of the animal in their burrito fillings than muscle but I didn’t think about that because they were so good. Have you been to the new Mexican place on Packard by your old house? Food is good, maybe not spectacular, and very authentic..Mexican family running it. Called Padre or something like that. Ceviche for example was pretty homespun but tasted great. Decent carne asada tacos authentically prepared (onion, cilantro, salsa, that’s it). Decent homemade salsas. Very nice people.

        • thefoodandwinehedonist
          March 6, 2015

          Mi Compadres. Had takeout. Very authentic but just soso. Had chicken with mole. Want to try other stuff there

  7. dwdirwin
    March 5, 2015

    I’ve been lead astray by TripAdvisor before…

  8. a2sicilian
    March 6, 2015

    I think you’ve had the chance to hit more the authentic taquerias around town than I have. There seem to be at least some now, where several years ago there were none. What would you say is best in terms of quality? I’m usually settling for a salad at lunch, but if one is worth the visit for lunch or dinner ….

  9. the drunken cyclist
    March 6, 2015

    Your brother–he sounds like a big rah rah Michigan fan.

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