We spent four nights in Tulum and did not have a disappointing meal in this time. We did research some, thanks to this board and others and think that informed most if not all of our dining decisions. Here we go, in order:
From Cancun airport we stopped in Playa del Carmen for tacos at La Floresta. This taqueria is open air and very clean – it’s right along highway 307 on the west side of the street between Constituyentes and Juarez. The options here are tacos or tostadas (they may do ceviche too) and when we were there the fillings were: shrimp (lightly breaded and fried), fish (same, breaded and fried) and crab (shredded and in a lime and chili sauce). We tried all three with the shrimp being the standout. Each taco was $1US and made for a great way to ease into the trip. I’d give anything for a Floresta taco as I type.
Once settled in Tulum we walked from our hotel to Zamas which is a restaurant attached to a hotel with the same name on the beach. The menu was fairly eclectic and ranged from Mexican food to seafood to pasta and pizzas. (We found it odd that so many people were ordering pizza, who knew) We worried that such a range meant that they didn’t have anything worth while on the menu. Nonetheless we ordered some guacamole and quesadillas to start which served their purpose and a michelada and margarita. The tequila for the margarita was pretty bad so I might recommend calling your own tequila if you order one. For our entrees we each ordered grouper though different preparations. She had the whole fish with achiote sauce which was really good and nicely prepared – and I had the grouper steak (which they call mero) with chorizo which was nice but not as good as the whole fish which we think is their specialty. That night there was also live music playing which was a nice bonus. I recommend getting there early as the sizeable dining area was packed by the time we left at around 8:30pm. We paid around $70US for this but left satisfied.
For breakfast we usually ate at Casa Banana. They served strong and tasty coffee and made pretty good chilaquiles which we’re suckers for. Under $20 for breakfast.
Apparently the owners of Casa Banana and the adjoining hotel, Nueva Vida de Ramiro are from Argentina so every Friday they and some of their paisanos who also own a hotel in Tulum have an Argentine cookout and offer grilled ribeyes. Being the carnivores that we are we gave it a try and were not disappointed. We each got a sizable ribeye accompanied by a baked potato and some grilled onions and peppers. It was a nice convivial atmosphere. We each had a glass of wine and shared a beer and the total was around $75.
Another thing that I read about this restaurant that I really liked was that all of the proceeds from it go back to the staff – which if that really happens makes them a true model for other places in this area. The hotel, as many others along this stretch do, promote themselves as being sustainable and eco-friendly – as part of that mission they hire within the community of Tulum and seem to give back which I thought was cool.
In Tulum Pueblo we tried Don Cafeto for lunch. The menu here again, was far ranging but we had a good experience. To start we shared a ceviche mixto which was really superb and quite substantial. After we each had the arrachera (beef) tacos -- the meat and tortillas both very good. Service curt bordering on rude. . .whatever. Ran us $25 US.
For dinner we tried the much lauded El Tabano two of the nights. First off the space, which is entirely outdoors, was very charming and welcoming. The tables were spaced out nicely in a garden of local plants and some quirky sculptures strewn throughout. The owner is from Mexico City and his “mujer” as he called her from Catalonia, Spain. While everyone working here might not be related they did seem like a family as you could see them working together in the open kitchen like a normal family might for a big dinner. The menu was displayed on two large chalk boards and each of the dishes were prepared very simply but deliciously. The wine list had about 20 wines, approximately 10 red and 10 white paying homage mostly to Spain – and all bottles reasonably priced as compared to the U.S. Our first night we each again tried grouper two ways – hers ala veracruzana and mine al horno (in oven) – veracruzana was better but each were good. To start the meal we shared the jalapeno rellenos which were stuffed with chicken which I’d have again. That night we had their Priorat which we paid around $30US for – a relative bargain. And for dessert we had a bread pudding with a tangy yogurt sauce which was outstanding. The bill was $70 and would have been much less had we not splurged on the wine.
On our second night there she had the onion soup to start which was almost like a consommé and a nice surprise. I think this goes to show how wide ranging yet successful this menu is – everything simply prepared yet not pigeonholed into one type of cuisine. Anyway. . .I had the ceviche mixto which was just ok, there’s better to be had in Tulum. For wine we had an organic Rioja which was their second least expensive bottle at around $17 – drinkable but that’s it. Our entrees were for me the meatballs served in a tamarind like sauce, very good but oddly topped with potato chips which didn’t bother me but funny considering how much attention went into the rest of the meal. For her the tortilla lasagna which she loved. For dessert we had a fruit pie which was spot-on delicious. We will definitely be back next trip.