Tulum is becoming an increasingly popular destination. Pretty much everyone you know has been there, is going there, or just got back from there last week.
It may no longer be the secret spot it once was, but it still has the powdery white sand, laid back vibe, and each time we return, better and better food. Here is a round-up of our favorites — and note, we took our son (9 months old on our last visit) to each and every one on this list:
Cetli is the real deal. Owner and chef Claudia Perez Rivas integrates her training and talent to turn out authentic, complex flavors in what are some of the best high-end Mexican dishes in town. Start with an off-the-menu tamarind margarita to accompany your (surprise!) complimentary tasting plate filled with little treasures including empanadas stuffed with cheese, bread and queso fresco with beet jam and corncakes topped with frijoles. Service is personal and warm, the candle-lit patio dining area is intimate, and the food is outstanding. The shining star is her chile en nogada. Hidden a couple blocks back from the main street and disguised as a private home, this place is worth finding.
El Tabano serves up creative Mexican food with a Mediterranean twist. The jungle-side beach road restaurant sets itself apart from the crowd with menu favorites that include inspired plates of albondigas el tamarindo and fresh fish cooked in a red pumpkin seed sauce. Order a tasty cucumber margarita and trust the waitstaff’s recommendations. Charmingly disjointed grounds add to the laid back, enchanting atmosphere.
This good-looking open-air dining room also on the jungle side of Tulum’s beach road opened in 2010 to a flurry of buzz; its proud owners, Brooklyn couple Eric Werner (who cooked at Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn and Peasant in Manhattan) and Mya Henry. Picnic style seating is arranged to showcase the wood burning oven and open grill where all of the cooking happens – offering the feeling that the entire restaurant has just scored a seat at the Chef’s table. The daily-changing menu is written in white chalk on a blackboard, items scribbled out when the day’s ingredients are done. Everything on it is flavorful and fresh. Crispy charred octopus, spicy red snapper, juicy ribeye, mayan shrimp – it’s obvious after your first bite that Werner and Henry only source the very best fresh fish, meats and vegetables. A white thatched bar is stocked with fresh squeezed fruit juices in vibrant colors and habanero infused tequila that when combined, create some delicious concoctions.
A sudden downpour sent us running for cover under the giant veranda that hangs over Las Ranitas restaurant, at the hotel with the same name. The menu is unique; Mayan black ceviche is an unexpected and impressive hit. Some of the best food we ate all week — and its location right on the beach makes everything taste even better.
El Camello Jr.
The always packed El Camello draws a crowd of mostly locals — and a few confused looking tourists– with its huge plates of ceviche and fish tacos at relatively dirt cheap prices. Owned by fisherman, many of the local restaurants come here to buy their still-wiggling seafood in the morning. Red plastic tables and an ice cold michelada round out the experience.
Polar Norte St | one block north of Avenida Tulum, Tulum
on the jungle side of Tulum’s beach road, Boca Paila Km.7
Phone: 984 134 2706
on the Jungle side of Tulum Beach Road at 7.6 KM Mark.
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
Carretera Tulum Boca-paila km 9 Zona Hotelera
Phone: +52 984 871 10 90
El Camello Jr.
Avenida Tulum & Luna Sur, Tulum