Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Long Weekend in Tulum: Food Edition.

I need to preface this post by saying that since I've been back in LA, I have realized the following: holy guacamole (c'mon, it was wide open), was I spoiled with what I ate in Tulum, and there is no restaurant in LA that even remotely compares, which I gather is somewhat of an obvious fact. I'll continue searching and sampling of course, but as of right now, there's nada. NADA.

If you find yourself in Tulum, which you seriously should for the food alone, here are a couple of suggestions for what and where to eat, from a girl in LA who will be utterly jealous of you.


This one's obvious. Don't judge the guac by its cover photo here, depending on how hungry I was or how lame I wanted to look photographing my food, the photo quality varies. Christian and I had guacamole twice a day in Tulum, and we thought it appropriate to rate each restaurant as we tried them, because why not? (And by no means are numbers 4-6 bad or anything, they were honestly all great.) The consistency of the mix, the amount of citrus (or lack of), and the ripeness of the avocados really made a difference for how it tasted. (I'm kind of a guacamole connoisseur at this point.)  

Anywhere you see "salbutes," and I mean anywhere, pull over and order like, four per person. They may not look like much (you'd think they were tacos), but oh man are these puffy fried tortillas with shredded chicken good. Toppings typically include cabbage, pickled onions, avocado and salsa, differing just slightly from tacos which can include beans, cheese, and rice.

If you check out the Mayan Ruins of Coba, you have to stop at the very first place on your right when you exit the parking lot (or the last place on your left before you enter). I'm not sure that it has an actual name, but you'll see a sign for "Refrescos Bien Frios" and a bright little in-house dining area. It was here that I had my very first salbute, made fresh to order. And when I say fresh, I mean there's the sweetest woman cooking a whole chicken right behind the counter and making tortillas from scratch. At first we did the whole "oh I'm not hungry" thing and ordered one salbute to share, and then we promptly ordered seconds after we demolished the first one - in two bites.

(Tip) Ask for Humberto and tell him we sent you to eat the best salbutes in town. He will also ask you if you want to see the crocodile that apparently lives in the reservoir across the road...
I asked permission to take photos and she asked, "Facebook?" Can't get much better than that.


Casa Violeta!
For the Numero Uno guacamole and a beach with crystal clear waters, it is here you go. Grab yourself a fine lounge chair, order a drink, some guacamole, and extra totopos. Repeat.

(Tip) This place is dog-friendly, hotel accommodations and all! 

Papaya Playa!
I'm not suggesting you dine here simply because it's where I stayed. Anywhere that serves you food - really, really good food - while you're doing this (see first photo, below) is pretty fabulous in my book. 

(Tip) Order the tuna ceviche! It was our pick for the best ceviche in town. (The guac here was #2!)
Also: Papaya's bar decor was killin' it. (Get it?)

I wanted to go here for obvious reasons, but besides the fact that this restaurant shares a name with my dog, it got really great reviews. They just changed their menu and we were lucky enough to sample a new appetizer and dessert, courtesy of the chef. (Winning!) And I mean, look at this place.

(Tips) Ask for Pablo, who will hook you up with some seriously strong margaritas, and you have to order the Mahi Mahi! I'd never had it before, and it was ohmygod good. Also, I can't stress this enough, but APPLY BUG SPRAY GENEROUSLY (in particular after it rains). If not, you will be wearing your napkins as protective outerwear like I did.
Do you see the swings for barstools?! 
I'm telling you, swim in the bug spray.

Casa Banana! 
Play foosball or grab a cocktail from the bar while you wait for a table at this Argentine hot spot. Christian and I came here for dinner on a night we both "weren't that hungry," and then we saw the menu. Not much of an appetite turned into ordering guacamole and totopos plus two entrees: bacon-wrapped filet mignon skewers, and the most succulent chicken in some sort of white wine/butter sauce (so, so good). And I can't forget the best cauliflower dish I've ever had in my life. Oh, and then there was the chocolate gelato we split for dessert when we were so full we couldn't even sit up straight. Yeah. The food here is good.

(Tips) You can't make a reservation at this place, so maybe head out for an early dinner if you want to avoid a wait. And if you order the whole fish, you get the best ever truffled, cheesy cauliflower side dish. Like, out of this world good. It was accidentally placed in front of me instead of going to the neighboring table and I immediately tried to request it - except that I couldn't, because you can only get it if you order the fish. (I even asked if I could pay $100.00 for it and they wouldn't budge.)  I continued to playfully hassle the waiter about everything being fantastic except for the missing cauliflower, and he must have gotten sick of me complaining about it because he brought me a side of truffled, cheesy cauliflower. And then I hugged him.

As I mentioned before, everyone here is super friendly and accommodating. I also like that this place offers dishes on the healthier side, should you want to throw something green in your diet other than guacamole.

(Tips) Try the traditional Mayan pumpkin seed dip called Sikil P'ak, and if you're up for it, a Mezcal shot for dessert (chased with lime, blackberries,and raisins)!

You can't get much cuter than this little gem, and I certainly don't want to undervalue it by calling it "cute." We saw this place as soon as we got to Tulum and immediately began to snap photos of its rustic, romantic decor. As far as food goes, this place has anything you could want, from sliders (sometimes you just want bacon cheeseburgers and fries) to paella to pasta, and you can choose to cozy up inside or dine on the terrace out back, directly on the beach.

(Tip) Skip the burgers and fries and order more traditional Yucatan dishes here, which I should have done. I'll spare the photo. (There are nothing but rave reviews online about the food, so get the real-deal plates.)

A sandy walkway to the beachside terrace.

La Malquerida!
After searching for salbutes for what felt like an eternity in 100 degree weather, we settled on the nearest restaurant in downtown Tulum that had seating in the shade. I'm not sure I would have initially walked by this place and thought Let's eat here!, so I'm happy we stumbled upon it because it sure was good. (Which was actually better than good, because it was our last meal in Tulum.)

(Tips) Most places don't have air conditioning downtown, so get comfortable with being hot. Or, grab a seat at the bar - and by a seat I mean a swing - and catch a breeze to cool off. Also, don't be put off by what may seem like weird flavor combinations; chicken, pineapple, mushroom, green pepper, and onion fajitas? Oh. Em. Gee.

Most important tip of all: you must go to Tulum with an appetite.

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