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One of the reasons to visit Tulum is for a plentiful selection of authentic Mexican food. The epicenter for cheap local eats in Tulum is off the main road, between Satelite Sur and Avenida Kukulkan. The ADO bus station is conveniently located in the middle.
Amazing Al Pastor Tacos and Cochinita Pibil
Taqueria el Carboncito
The glowing spit of al pastor will draw you in immediately. A closer look reveals charcoal behind the rotating deliciousness, a departure from the usual gas-fired vertical broiler. The tacos arrive topped with fresh sliced pineapple and are accompanied by liquidy guac and a fiery hot sauce. The smokiness from the charcoal added lots of depth and the meat itself had no fat or gristle. Just a heads up that these excellent tacos are only available from approximately 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Morning through early afternoon (approximately 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.) is prime time for the Yucatan specialty of cochinita pibil (pictured above). This tender baby pig is marinated in citrus juice and seasoned with achiote that has been slow-cooked for hours. At Carboncito, you have the option of tacos or a torta. The latter comes with a citrusy, spicy, bright green sauce and finely chopped onions to put on as you please. It holds up well if you decide to bring some with you on a day trip to Chichen Itza and you will save money avoiding the tourist-geared food.
Fresh Local Seafood
El Camello Jr.
You don’t need to be right off the water to have a great seafood meal in Tulum. El Camello Jr. is a well-known restaurant on the southern edges of the town’s main road. El Camello Jr.’s ceviches are plentiful, mixed with chopped tomatoes, onions and cilantro. The octopus is served tender and tastes very fresh. An order of guacamole is recommended as well for a light appetizer combo.
El Camello Jr. is also known for their fried whole fish, namely red snapper, which has a nice crispness to it without being too heavy. The dish comes with steamed veggies, rice and bean puree–which had a slight taste of coffee to it. Prices are reasonable and the portions are perfect for two to share.
Two Standout Breakfast Taco Spots
At the other edge of the town, just south of the main road on Satellite Sur off the beaten path lie two superb taquerias: Taqueria Honorio and Taqueria el Paisa. Both specialize in Yucatan signatures: cochinita pibil, pavo en relleno negro and escabeche de pollo. These are only available between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., so make sure you get there early. You’re about to learn to love tacos for breakfast very quickly.
A red awning and some outdoor seating invite you into Taqueria Honorio. The cochinita pibil is a must-order, topped with pickled purple onions which help cut through the rich meat. Highly recommended is pavo en relleno negro; stewed turkey in black chili paste. This is far from Thanksgiving turkey; it is supremely tender and the sauce removes the gaminess of the bird. Pavo en relleno negro comes with a slice of hard boiled egg, perfect for breakfast. Perhaps best of all, tacos are served on freshly made tortillas.
Taqueria el Paisa
Diagonally across the street from Honorio is a hole in the wall with only a few tables inside: Taqueria el Paisa. Be on the lookout for the distinctive painting on the wall showing pictures of a happy pig, a turkey and a chicken, which represent the only three meats available. These are the cochinita pibil, the pavo en relleno negro and the escabeche de pollo — a tender stewed chicken with a light delicate flavor topped with thin slices of white onion. The meats here are all excellently flavored, but the hand made corn tortillas are what make these tacos stand out. The tortillas have a bit of sweetness to them, reminiscent of an arepa.
Refreshing Fruit Ice Pops
Flor de Michoacan
Paletas are the perfect answer to hot weather and the end to a great meal. Flor de Michoacan has a large selection of ice pops made with fresh fruit, and many of them contain pieces of the actual fruit and its seeds. The guanabana is excllent, as it has a natural creaminess without being too sweet and takes advantage of being a local fruit. They also sell ice cream, coffee and fresh juice — there are plenty of options at Flor de Michoacan. No matter what the selection, enjoy it in their lovely backyard and you may even see an iguana lounging on the neighboring rooftop.
Panuchos, Salbutes and More
Antojitos La Chiapaneca
Across the main road from Carboncito is a specialist in antojitos including tacos, sopes, empanadas and tostadas and two Yucatan specialties — salbutes and panuchos. Salbutes are deep fried corn tortillas topped with meat, avocado and shredded white cabbage. Panuchos are fried tortillas stuffed with beans. Pastor is recommended on anything that you choose, as it comes straight off the spit. Carne asada, pollo and vegetariano are the other options and make sure you stop by the centrally located self-serve area for salsas, lime wedges and other fixings.
We are looking forward to coming back to Tulum and checking out these places again and trying more, as it elevated our love for Mexican food to another level.
We would love to hear about your search for local eats in Tulum please feel free to comment if you have been and if you have any of your own favorites in Tulum that you would like to share 🙂
Traveling duo who met via Instagram during New York’s Hurricane Sandy.
Professionals by day, citizens of the world by choice and nomads at heart. Currently living in the best city of the world, Queens New York. Read more...