As the unwritten but assumed tradition goes, when visiting Mexico you are to seek out and eat your weight in tacos. Well, not ones to disrespect any traditions, we did just that. In fact, at around 50 cents each, you could say that we made sure this ritual was well-honoured.
Tacos? Check. Empanadas? Check. Tostadas? Check. Other versions of food on tortilla? Triple check.
But by our seventh day of Taco Tasting in Tulum, we were pretty much over it and sought out other avenues for alternative meals.
So what does one do when the novelty of tacos wear off and you’re still hungry?
If you find yourself in this predicament or just don’t like tacos (what?) then here are our top four favourite places to eat in Tulum that don’t involve tortillas.
We found this little burger shop out of desperation. In the final hours of our last night in Tulum, following a 5 am adventure chasing the sunrise, we were starving but so tired. We didn’t want tacos. We didn’t want to sit down at a real restaurant. We were nearly back to our Airbnb and ready to give up on food when we happened to pass Roraima Burgers.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much. I wouldn’t presume that one of the best burgers of my life would be found in a tiny burger shop in a small town in Mexico. I ordered the Francesca. I was so unenthused that I didn’t bother taking a picture.
Well, you know what they say about keeping your expectations low in order to avoid disappointment? Sure enough — this burger was incredible! That first bite was unbelievable! The combination of brie and alioli mixed with caramelized onions and mushrooms had me savouring every single bite.
I ended up snapping that photo in a state of bliss. I gotta say, there are few experiences in life closer to Heaven than being so desperately hungry but still slowly savouring every bite. Even Linda was obsessing over it and she has never cared much for burgers.
International Bar & Grill
One day we were strolling the main street in Tulum, perusing sugar skulls and other assorted handicrafts when we casually crossed paths with International Bar and Grill. Based on the name alone, my first expectation of this place was that it would be a boring pub with boring food. Scribbled on their wall was a list of house specialties. As I had expected, it included your usual boring restaurant dishes but then! Written casually amongst these was one dish that stood out — bone marrow with focaccia!
Such a dish is unusual to come by in general but we certainly never expected to find it in Tulum, nestled humbly among cheap taco joints and souvenir shops. It didn’t open for a few hours so we made the plan to come back for dinner.
Here’s the catch. For obvious reasons, it’s a highly sought after meal here. When we arrived after 10:00 pm that evening they were long since sold out. That made sense — it was late in the evening. We would come back the next day.
This time we arrived at 7:00 pm. Sold out! Now we were really intrigued. But at this point we only had two more days left to get our hands on what must be a delicious treat. They let us know they were closed the next day (Thursday) too.
Make that one last chance.
We wouldn’t — we couldn’t! — miss it this time! We were told they open at 5:00 pm on Friday. You can bet we were waiting out front at 4:55, mouths salivating, ready to go. And wait we did. It was as if they knew the game we were playing and took pleasure in teasing us.
5:50 pm the garage-style door opens and we’re the first ones in. We take our long awaited seats in the open air area at the back. They don’t even have to ask — they know what we’re here for — we’ve been asking for it for four days straight.
As it arrived, we greeted it with a joyous happy dance. I would bet that no bone marrow has ever been so well-received and it had yet to even hit the table.
We scooped it out and took a bite with a side of focaccia bread. The consistency was just right! The seasoning was delicate, emphasizing the rich and buttery marrow taste. While we do prefer a more robust flavour, we appreciated the care that was put into this one.
It was all over so quickly. But the anticipation somehow elevated this entire experience for us.
Oh hey, you should also try the portobello mushroom appetizer while you’re there. It was delicious!
Uno: Japanese Noodles
Okay, so we walked past this literal hole in the wall at least 10 times during our stay in Tulum. And every single time Linda and I joked about how we should go eat some ramen. We’d laugh and say “as if we’d come all the way to Mexico to eat the same thing we eat back home”.
Well by the end of the trip, the joke was on tacos. We caved and stepped inside the hole. The menu wasn’t in English but there was an employee there who walked us through everything with patience. She recommended her favourite items and we went with her suggestions.
We got the Ramen Reman. And oh. mah. gosh! The flavours! This beautiful soupy bowl came with octopus in a fantastic lemony broth. But you would hardly know that tasty broth was hiding under there because the bowl was stacked with a cornucopia of extras: seaweed, mushroom, tofu, shrimp, kelp, fish, corn and topped with chives and a soft boiled egg.
In general, I find it’s unusual to come across a poor-tasting ramen. This cuisine tends to be comforting and fulfilling in most cases. But what’s not so easy to find is a ramen that absolutely floors you.
I found that here and don’t tell the others, but I might have called it the best ramen I’ve ever had.
Yeah, yeah… it’s named after a burrito, but hear me out! This resto-cafe-bar is just a little off the beaten path. Like literally one street further than where the paved sidewalk ends. So combine the gravel side-of-the-road parking lot with their completely open air concept, you get this calm, tropical, hippy vibe that’s hard to beat.
Now I will say this: the burritos are really good! But that’s not the best part about this place. It’s the other stuff. Their menu is admittedly a bit strange and sporadic for a place mainly devoted to burritos but it’s perfect for people who aren’t particularly craving anything yet feeling peckish.
Aside from their namesake burritos, they offer super healthy breakfast options like pastries, granola and pudding. There is also a solid variety of creative contemporary Mexican salads.
And don’t even get me started on their smoothies!
We really enjoyed the black bean and baby pumpkin salad. We had ordered a burrito as well but this salad completely stole the show. The dressing was just the right amount of tart, which complimented the flavours of the pumpkin and beetroot perfectly.
If you’re looking for a charming atmosphere with an inexpensive dinner, this is the place to be. Bonus points if you make it in time for the sunset. You’ll have a great view from the bar.
Now for some tacos…
Don’t get me wrong here. The tacos in Tulum are to die for! But we learned a valuable lesson about how much we’re missing out on when we simply trust our assumptions. In fact, it was quite ignorant of us to assume that certain foods wouldn’t be as good or even better than they are back home.
“When in Mexico, eat all the tacos,” they say. Well, they’re not wrong.
But that doesn’t mean ignore all of the other stuff — who knows, you might just discover the best ramen you’ll ever have.