I read about this place here and there, but it was a dear friend who recently returned from Tulum who took me firmly by the shoulders and told me I MUST TRY El Tabano. She was right and now I must implore that YOU MUST TRY El Tabano.
Located on the beach road, directly across from Hemingway Cabanas, ET is a relative newcomer to the somewhat mediocre food scene on the beach road (in Tulum pueblo is another story).
The place is beautiful -- a handful of tables under the palapa roof, another handful outside. Candles, twinkly lights, and a comfy couch to sit on while you wait for your table. Our server, Israel, is really an actor who is waiting tables for now, and was utterly delightful. Laughing, joking, and making us instantly comfortable. The menu is written (in Spanish) on the chalkboard, but Israel will go over it with you before you order. The food is simply outstanding. It ranges from traditional mexican dishes (chicken in pipian sauce, chiles rellenos) to more unusual combinations (salmon with sugar and cinamon, pork loin stuffed with picadillo).
Prices are incredibly reasonable, although of course pricey by Mexican standards (eg: chicken 160 pesos, postres 70 pesos). They request that you reserve, but we were able to walk in once when our other place fell through. I was so happy to be back, and I rarely eat at the same place twice while on vacation. I could have happily eaten at El Tabano every day.
Such a treat to have a wonderful place to recommend to fellow hounds. Enjoy!