I would never say I travel only for the food, but food is definitely a big part of why I love traveling — a very big part. I believe tasting a country's cuisine is just one of the ways you can learn about a different culture, and I always look forward to the various foods I eat throughout my travels.
As a devoted fan of Mexican food, particularly tacos, I was beyond excited to finally go to a country I had never visited but have long declared as one of my favorite cuisines. Would the food be vastly different from the Mexican food I've eaten elsewhere? More importantly, how many tacos can I eat while I'm there? As part of my trip, I only had 30 hours to spare in Tulum so I knew I had to use my time wisely. My goal during this short stay: explore the pueblo, relax at the playa, celebrate my birthday and eat. I think I did okay given my time constraints and succeeded in having some great meals along the way.
My first meal in Tulum came with great relief. You see, I had gone straight from the bus station to the Mayan Ruins, where I spent the morning exploring and taking pictures of the scenery. I then walked along the beach until I couldn't go any further and then switched to the beach road and kept walking. And walking... At this point, the sun was blazing and cars and bicyclists were zooming past me as I shuffled along the road, staring at the long empty stretch ahead of me. After 20 minutes of strolling and sweating, I realized that, if I wanted to find a restaurant for lunch, I needed to hop in a taxi, so off I went until a few minutes later I happened upon Mateo's, tucked away among several shops and restaurants on the beach road. I had read about this place on TripAdvisor and vaguely remembered an online debate as to whether the fish tacos at Mateo's were still good. Some said yes while others said they had gone downhill. Well, I don't know what the tacos tasted like before, but I really liked the fish tacos they have now. Four mini corn tortillas topped with pan fried fish, cabbage and a slice of avocado served with an array of salsas and sauces, including Mateo's "secret sauce." It was delicious and just what I needed after all the walking in the sun. I also happily inhaled their tortilla chips along with a nice, cold margarita. All in all, my Tulum eating was off to a good start.
Fast forward a few hours later to the pueblo. After spending some time wandering along the beach road (and breaking my shoe in the process), I made my way over to the central part of Tulum's town, aka the pueblo. I loved the beach road, but I found myself more intrigued by the town, particularly the little shops that dotted Avenida Tulum and held beautiful courtyards behind them. Case in point: Flor de Michoacan, where I enjoyed a refreshing watermelon agua de fruta and discovered a hidden gem behind the shop.
The walking continued as I hopped from store to store, picking up jewelry and trinkets for my family along the way. By the evening I had worked up my appetite and was ready for my next taco: Antojitos La Chiapaneca. Known for their tacos al pastor, Antojitos La Chiapaneca is a build-your-own taco kind of place. For 14 pesos (the equivalent of approximately $.90), I got two mini tacos topped with pork and pineapple. The pineapple was a taco first for me, but I loved it. I then took my mini tacos over to their buffet of toppings and filled up on limes, radishes, lettuce, onions and two types of salsas, one of which was a little too caliente for me. The combination of the sweet pineapple with the spice of the pork and other toppings made this one of the more unique tacos I've ever tried. I just need to make sure I go easy on the super spicy salsa next time.
With my stomach full of tacos, I headed to my hotel for the night, ready to settle in and wake up to a new decade. On the day of my 30th birthday, I enjoyed a quick breakfast at my hotel (an egg white omelet with bacon, nothing to write home about) before heading off to take advantage of the great weather. Hours later, before leaving Tulum, I returned to the pueblo, this time to try the famous seafood at El Camello Jr. I had read from multiple sources that this place was "a must." Alas, it wasn't meant to be because El Camello Jr. was closed, dangit! Turns out the restaurant is not open on Wednesdays, and I didn't find this out until after I left Tulum. With my seafood-loving heart broken in pieces, I quickly tried to think of which other place I could visit to have my last taco before leaving Tulum. Luckily, my taxi driver was a brilliant man full of taco wisdom because he brought me to La Barracuda, also on Avenida Tulum. I was initially wary of this backup spot because I had not seen any mention of La Barracuda during my Tulum food research, but I couldn't deny the place was packed with mostly locals. I took that as a good sign and settled in, ready to chow down. My meal: warm, crunch, amazing tortilla chips and some of the most divine garlic shrimp tacos I've ever had (my waiter recommended them over both the grilled shrimp and fried shrimp tacos). They also came with sautéed onions, which, I don't know if there's a better combination than sautéed onions and garlic. I was in taco heaven.
Full and insanely happy from my last meal in Tulum, I walked over to the bus station and soon headed back to the Cancun airport. I had successfully accomplished my mission to have great tacos in Tulum, and I look forward to the day when I will return and pick up where I left off. You've been warned, Tulum.