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Tulum food report

Here is my food report from my visit in May 2006. I know it was awhile ago, but I just discovered chowhound.

My husband and I are big foodies and coming from San Francisco (which has some of the best restaurants) we are picky when it comes to food. We’ve been all over Mexico and have experienced nothing but great cuisine. Knowing that the restaurants in Tulum were expensive, we expected that the food would have been better. Most of the food at best was okay. A big price to pay for just okay food. Also, keep in mind that most places include your tip in the bill. We didn’t realize until a couple days before we left that we had been tipping an extra 15-20 percent. It was also hard to find decent Mexican food. It seemed like most of the restaurants catered to the Europeans and served lots of pasta dishes and seafood. Luckily my husband speaks Spanish since he’s South American. When we got sick of non-Mexican food we had to ask the cab drivers for their recommendations. Even the cab drivers said that you couldn’t really find authentic Mexican food in Tulum and that Playa del Carmen was the place to go for real Mexican food.

Posada Margherita – Hands down the best restaurant for dinner. I had the saltfish topped with tomatoes and a side of rice. The absolute best fish that I have ever had. My husband had the homemade pasta (might have been linguini) with shrimp, so good! The tiramisu for dessert was to die for. Great wines to go with your meals. Dinner is expensive, but totally worth it. They also have breakfast and lunch here. For breakfast I would suggest the egg dishes, pancakes or the French toast. Lunch is the same menu as dinner, but with smaller portions.

Ana y Jose – Overrated and expensive. $7 for guacamole and chips? I had the shrimp ceviche which I did not like. There was some kind of spice which overpowered the dish, I can’t put my finger on it. For the two of us we spent almost $50 for lunch.

Zahra – Good. It was the only place in Zona Hotelera that had an extensive Mexican food menu. It had more than just guacamole and chips and tacos.

Piedra Escondida – Okay. Mostly seafood and pasta dishes.

El Tacoqueto – Great. It’s in town. One of very few places in Tulum serving authentic local food. Mostly soups and stews. We had a stewed beef dish with a side of rice and beans. The agua frescas looked good too. This was where the locals were (mostly hotel workers), so we knew it had to be decent. For the two of us with drinks we paid $7. By far the cheapest meal in Tulum.

Parilla de Leo Arrachera – It’s in town. A little overpriced, but good barbecue. I had the seabass and was not disappointed.

Don Cafeto – Okay. Also has an extensive Mexican menu. My husband had the grilled chicken, I had the milanesa. We weren’t disappointed.

Mezzanine – Okay, but overpriced. We were using our local Thai restaurants as a basis for comparison. Thai restaurants in San Francisco are a dime a dozen. The chicken satay and pad thai were good. Sesame chicken wasn’t something that I hadn’t had before. They had a really good drink menu. Ambiance was really nice.

Zamas – Pretty good. We ate here for lunch the day before we left and wished we had eaten there sooner. Their dinner menu looked really good. Somehow we spent $50 for lunch on guacamole, tacos, and drinks. I don’t know how that happened. I guess we drank a lot because it was hot out that day.

El Mariachi - It was okay. I liked it better than Don Cafeto.

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  1. That report was great. We printed it out for our recent trip to Tulum (December 2007). I can give you another detailed report of what we ate. We are also constantly searching for good, quality authentic food everywhere we go. We sometimes try for "off the beaten path" and usually do a mix of the tourist places and the side street places. Here is a list of where we ate and some critiques:

    Day 1: Zhara - we were staying at Copal, so this was just down the road. It was our first night there, and we arrived luckily at happy hour (2 for 1). They actually have decent mexican good. I had the tickinchix style fish, and although we still haven't figured out if it was authentic, it was perfect for our first night. Not too pricy, either, for the zona hotelera and much better than the others on that strip.

    Day 2: Lunch -Pollo Assadaro (on the main street in Tulum). Really cheap and good. For $120 pesos we had a whole grilled chicken with salad and even a plate of spaghetti. Sounds weird, but hit the spot.

    Day 2: Dinner - Ana y Jose (zona hotelera, a couple places down from Zhara). Overrated an expensive. We had the paella, which I guess was OK, but $60 later it just didn't cut it.

    Day 3 Lunch- El Tacoqueto. Excellent local food. There were about 6 huge pots in the kitchen that you got to look in and pick from. I imagine their menu is different every day, and it was very well done. Came with tortillas and some great salsas.

    Day 3 dinner - Paris en la noche - on the main street in Tulum. Our first trip into town for dinner. This was written up in Lonely planet so we were excited and apparently is run by a former renknowned French chef. Way overrated and over priced. Again, after about $60 we were not impressed by its Americanized version of mole chicken and tickinchix style fish. We really wanted to try the meat pies, but he was "too busy" so we settled for guac instead. Wouldn't waste your time here.

    Day 5 lunch - Oscar y Lalos - about 11km north on the main hwy toward Akumal. I think this is pretty touristy, but it was recommended in Lonely Planet. It was pretty decent. Not cheap, but a great atmosphere, big clean place, and we each had 3 different tacos with about 8 different kinds of salsas. Plus, the ceviche was great. I recommend this one if you're in the mood for a drive. We ended up doing this one after a morning at the gran cenote. Perfect lunch spot.

    Day 5 dinner - El Diaz (on the main ave in Tulum). We think this might be a chain, but we were totally impressed. In fact, out of all of the places, this is the one we wanted to go back to. We each had tacos (wonderfully seasoned pork) and guac and quesadilla and frijoles negros and it was less that $20. We loved this place and highly recommend it.

    Day 6 dinner - El Chicanquita (on the main ave of Tulum right next to El Diaz). Also liked this one a lot. Authentic tacos. We had a huge plate of 3 types of meat with grilled onions, peppers and chorizo and got a stack of tortillas to make our own. Oh, and queso too. Very delicious and also less than $20 for a lot of food.

    Day 7 lunch - Don Karonte (on the main ave in Tulum right next to Don Cafeto). While we think this one caters to tourists, it wasn't that bad and was pretty cheap. Good tasty tortillas and guac.

    Day 7 - dinner. This was the best night. We went to a little Tamale stand on a side street of the main ave near the dive shop. for $3.50 we had 4 tamales and a soda. The tamales were the best I've ever had, but that's what we expect from a stand on the side of the road! Then we wandered over to the side street next to HSBC and found another little tacqueria and just finished off the evening with an aqua pina and a couple tacos (less than $10 for 4 tacos and 2 drinks). Honestly, I can't remember the name of the place - I think it was El puebloita or something. They had delicious pastor meat for tacos.

    One last thing - the day we went to Chichen itza, we stopped off at a little city called Valladolid and had lunch. We found this hotel (recommended in Lonely Planet) called Hotel de les Marques. It was right next to the main town square and the food court. It was hands down the best meal we had. We spend about $27 and we had the most authentic Yucatan food. My husband had conchita pibil (mayan dish) and I had the chicken Kol pak, also a traditional mayan dish. Mine was this wonderful corn-based soup with chicken and had the best flavor. My husband's pork was so perfectly cooked and seasoned. We were thrilled.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ldemma

      FYI... I think you are refering to Tikin-xic; it should be a whole butterflied fish, marinated with an Achiote & Sour Orange based paste... then it is placed over banana leaves & garnished with Xcatics (yellow chiles), Onions, Tomatoes, Red Onion & Yucatan Oregano... drizzled with an Olive Oil & Beer mixture then either Grilled or Baked.

      This is the traditional post Colonial recipe, as consumed by Mayans all over the peninsula... the Pre-Hispanic version was similar but without the the Old World ingredients.

    2. We have been giong to Tulum for a number of years. Stop at the San Francisco on the main road turnoff to Coba for great Mayan food. The hot deli has three or four items each day and they are all good and authentic. The Pibil and Kol Pok are the best we have had and very cheap. Way enough for 2 people under $10. Also they have a tortillaria making fresh tortillas that you can get by the Kilo.

      5 Replies
      1. re: ichabodsdad

        I second that, a local turned me on to that spot. The pibil was the best and almost a as good as the dish I had in Merida where it was roasted while wrapped in banana leaf, nice use of biiter oranges and spices.

        I like the food in the town Valladolid, I feel the food gets better the furthest down once you past Tulum.

        1. re: ichabodsdad

          It's amazing how many restaurants there are in Tulum now, it used to be a wastland. On stop offs there we always eat at Charlie's on the strip - it has the best flan around.

          1. re: bronwen

            The number that have popped up, just since 2003 is astounding. I HAVE to stop recommending Tulum as the convenient hideaway.... I guess some spot around Bacalaar is probably the new Tulum?

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              Good point about all the restaurants that have sprung up in Tulum - and most of them in the last year. I doubt they can all survive the moribund summer season. Air conditioning is not the norm there and it gets HOT.
              Bacalar was actually fairly well developed with waterfront weekend homes by the affluent in Chetumal in the early 90's. It screeched to a halt with the peso crash in December 1994. For 10 years, it was a lot of peeling paint and overgrown lawns, but it is gradually returning to it's earlier splendor. Restaurants are scarce. The town population is at best a couple thousand very working class folks. Magnas (liters) of Corona and street food are the norm. The Laguna Hotel, with it's charming art deco styling and bouganvillas overlooking the lagoon with its myriad hues of blue and green, has a simple restaurant and bar, pool, and even a tiny chapel. When occupancy is low, the bar is not staffed and you have to make you own drinks and straighten out later. There is a cenote Azul (aren't half of cenotes called Azul?) nearby, but not attached to the lagoon, which is several hundred meters across and appears bottomless and is beautifully clear and blue. A restaurant on it's edge serves good coconut shrimp and 'ritas. I recall a wonderful afternoon there playing Scrabble and getting buzzed.
              Fifteen years ago, the drive fron Cancun to Bacalar on a potholed, 2 lane road took 6 hours.The drive now on a nicely paved, 4 lane Highway 307 is now about 3 hours. It still deters the masses, but only for a while longer.

              1. re: Veggo

                Just back from 2 weeks in Tulum where we found some great food, though we had to search hard for it, even with some help from locals. Along the beach, we found a lot of mediocre, relatively expensive chow, so well worth the trip to town if eating is important to you. 3 places you really shouldn't miss!

                1. Oasis--Unfortunately, we did not find this place till the end of our stay, because it was sadly the only great seafood we encountered. But was it ever phenomenal! We started with octopus quesadillas and conch quesedillas. Then moved on to a couple of platters of shrimp in a delicious garlic sauce. Then a fisherman walked in with a couple of fish he had just caught, so we had one deep fried in oil, also with a garlic sauce. Just smelling it cooking we knew we were in for something special and were we ever. We all agreed it was the best fried fish we had ever had, and this coming from experienced travelers and a couple of food professionals. Oasis is hard to find, but worth the effort. Turn right at the second street after the 1st traffic circle and go back 5 blocks. Address--- Calle Tunkul. Tel 9841141818.

                2. Tacos al Pastor--The frenetic ambiance of this taco stand was as good as the food. The tacos that gave the restaurant its name are special. Pork spins on a vertically rotating spit (like a Gyro) with a pineapple above dripping into it as it cooks. The pork is sliced off and put on a tortilla which you take to the fixings bar. A deal at 8 pesos per taco. Try their empanadas and other great stuff. If you can, sit at the counter and watch the women in action. Pastor is on the main road, on the west side of the street near the Weary Traveler inn.

                Tacoqueto--The family that runs this comes from Chiapas and serves the cuisine of that region. It is definitely nothing fancy, but authentic, tasty, reasonably priced food. No menu--you just go look at the 5-6 pots they have on the stove and choose what you want. We had a great chicken mole, but our favorite was meatballs in a tomato-chipotle sauce. Comes with rice, beans, tortillas for about 35 pesos a plate. Located on the east side of the main road at the far (south end) under a palapa.

                Enjoy!

        2. I'm just back from Tulum too and we appreciated these recs, even having been there last year and finding our own stuff. Our hotel, Tierras del Sol, has a simple restaurant too and it's worth a look. Your options were exactly two -- shrimp or fish. But it was cheap and fresh and perfect for a couple of nights.

          One strong recommendation I would make was the awesome fish/shrimp taco stand called Urge Taquito which is right on highway 307 before you hit the Tulum/Coba traffic light driving toward town. The place has a blue awning and a simple kitchen and maybe 15 tables and chairs. The tacos are cooked to order and you help yourself to the salsa/condiment bar. I can't recommend it highly enough -- a cold cerveza, a few tacos, and supremely friendly people. The only bummer is it was unclear what the opening hours were. We had our hearts set on visiting one day but they were closed. So, they might just be weekends. Well worth keeping your eye out.

          The other place we liked was Cafe Expresso for very good coffee and juices (good coffee was hard to find). Walking south past the HBSC on the main drag, turn left (East) at the fruteria and it's on your right. Worth stopping in -- again, really nice people and cheap.

          Our splurge meal was at Posada Margherita but I would skip it next time. They had nice fresh pasta and very good fish but it was expensive and a little too full of itself. I'd hit Piedra Escondita instead if you want to spend a little cash and still want simply grilled seafood. My pulpo dish was outstanding and the ceviche is great too. Decent wine and excellent postres.

          Note most of the tacquerias listed in this thread are open at night only. Don't know if that's a common thing, but we never hit the timing quite right, except for at the carnitas spot where I had an awesome double-tortilla taco for 90 cents.

          2 Replies
          1. re: yumyum

            Those types of Tacos in Mexico are almost always a night time street food, or something you get at the Tianguis (farmer's market).

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              Thanks. I was hoping you'd chime in and clear that up.