By Suzan Crane.
For Tulum lovers; Boho Chic. Zen Retreat. Ibiza East. All euphemistic descriptions of a little beach town that was — not so long ago — truly a little hippie beach town. South of the border and a world away from the concrete tourist enclave of Cancun, part of Tulum’s charm was its lack of glitz, rudimentary accommodations, and basic Mexican food options. Oh yeah… and its idyllic beaches, glistening cenotes, unblemished natural surroundings and mythical history.
But as is the case with most “hidden gems,” Tulum has been discovered and excavated, so to speak. Rebranded – not by the Mayan locals – but by trend-setting sophisticates, new-age millennials, Burning Man freaks, well-heeled gypsies, celebrities, famous DJs, designers and artists… all seeking the next cool refuge.
Not only a place to chill and party, create and recreate – but increasingly, a place to plant roots. Roots that have sprouted — among other things — an eminent culinary scene to rival some of the most revered foodie destinations in the world.
Over the past several years, award-winning chefs from across the globe have flocked here in droves — indelibly imprinting the Tulum restaurant landscape with inspired menus, visionary culinary formats, and distinctive takes on both Mexican and international cuisine.
With Michelen-star chefs such as Mauricio Giovanini (Ocumare) setting up shop here and La Zebra’s heralded interactive “Chef’s Table” (designed by innovative Mexican chef Eleazar Bonilla) paving the way for other experiential newcomers such as the Dining Experience at Hotel Manglex, Tulum is no longer only a Caribbean haven for those seeking sun, sand, and spice, but a bullet point on every gourmand’s bucket list.
Tulum’s “Culinary Corridor” — as it is becoming known — has been colonized with epicurean brilliance. From the simplest classic dishes to the cross-cultural marriage of ingredients heretofore untried, from the clean flavors of the renowned Charly’s Vegan Taco stand to the rustic opulence of Azulik’s unique Kin Ha restaurant, from the fresh fare proffered by Tulum Guide favorites Kitchen Table and Ojo De Agua to the Indian spice of Shiva and the flavorful nuances of Wild’s Mediterranean fusion menu, there is no dearth of options for hungry and gastronomically adventurous visitors.
Conceived by famed New York restaurateur Eric Werner, Hartwood was arguably one of the first restaurants to earn Tulum a coveted spot on the foodie map, its international acclaim commanding interminable lines just to make a reservation.
A true pioneer and perpetual Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence recipient, Mezzanine’s Thai restaurant is a leader in exotica — introducing the distinct flavors of the authentic Southeast Asian cuisine to Tulum’s nascent food scene. Augmented by a hip musical vibe and unrivalled sea view, Mezzanine (the first Colibri Boutique Hotel) has remained an SRO perennial favorite since opening in 2004.
Just a few meters away, on a sandy tree-laden perch overlooking the Caribbean, Loyal Order is one of the newest kids on the foodie block. In addition to proffering genuine Turkish cuisine (curated by a transplanted award-winning chef) this breezy hospitable outdoor restaurant replicates Turkey’s familial and interactive dining rituals — where a meal can last for hours with a potpourri of traditional mezes, mains and customary apertifs sampled, shared, and savored.
Stay tuned for the 2nd part of this delicious story…