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  • The Anonymous Hungry Hippopotamus

Tulum-inous Day Three

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

*Tulum (Taqueria Honorio, Antojitos La Chiapaneca, Art Exhibit, La Onda, Mateos)

I woke up to a Caribbean storm so I adjusted plans and decided to explore Tulum Centro, which is where locals reside, do business and live life. I found this to be the heart of Tulum.

I started the day with a very early breakfast at Taqueria Honorio, a place highly recommended by locals for delicious tacos from morning to night. Tacos for breakfast? Yes, please! These were some of the best tacos I have had in my life. That says a lot for someone who eats tacos voraciously and since childhood. The ingredients and offerings were pretty standard (except for the turkey taco) so, what was the secret?

One secret has to be the fresh (and I mean fresh) tortillas. Taqueria Honorio provides only one tortilla per taco, as opposed to many establishments that double the tortilla. These solitary tortillas have the perfect density and flexibility to hold their delectable fillings.

(Clockwise from the top right)

Poc-Chuc (charbroiled pork steak marinated in sour orange juice and spices), Lechon (stone baked suckling pig roasted in spices), Relleno Negro (pulled turkey meat marinated in a blend of grilled peppers and spices, topped with a boiled egg), Conchinita Pibil (pulled pork meat marinated in achiote sauce and spices with chicharrón).

These tacos are ridiculously good!

Agua de tamarindo y horchata

Tamarindo (beverage made with tamarind, sugar and water) and Horchata (sweet rice beverage)

After a very satisfying breakfast, I wandered through streets and stores, taking in the vibrancy of Tulum life in the city, which I tried to capture in the photos and videos below.

Outdoor cafe with marigold adorned fountain

Food carts line the sidewalks and fill the streets with delicious smells.

Most restaurants and shops have open storefronts, creating a welcoming atmosphere.

After familiarizing myself with the city, I headed to lunch at another local favorite where traditional Yucatán food is prepared by the owner and his family, and the al pastor is considered the best in town.

Antojitos La Chiapaneca serves up authentic, street-style food in a no frills, cozy environment.

Chicken Panucho, and (the star of the restaurant), the Al Pastor taco.

This spit-grilled pork, roasts gently for hours before it comes to your table on warm tortillas with homemade salsas.

Beef Salbute and Sope Al Pastor

Ice cold agua de jamaica

Iced hibiscus tea

After spending the entire morning and a good portion of the afternoon in Tulum Centro, I made my way back towards the beach to visit an outdoor art exhibit.

Ven a la Luz ("Come Into the Light") was created by South African artist Daniel Popper, who is known for his massive figurative sculptures. This imposing installation is composed of wood and rope formed into a female figure. Her torso creates an archway of lush plants, that viewers can walk through.

Below are some other beautiful pieces I encountered in the park.

Continuing on down the main road in Tulum's Zona Hotelera, I came upon this famous landmark outside of Matcha Mama and had to take a picture.

Due to the downpour, there was no line but, Instagram has made this site so popular that people usually line up down the street to get a photo on the swings.

As I was walking away, I passed a man pouring drinks at La Onda, the outdoor bar and restaurant next door to Matcha Mama. He struck up a brief conversation with me explaining first that La Onda means "wave" in Italian and then invited me to have a quick drink at the bar and wait for the rain to let up. Although a "quick" drink was the plan, I got far more than that.

This is Mateo, the owner of La Onda (and the painter of the pieces you see hanging in the background). Mateo immigrated to Mexico from Italy over 20 years ago. The son of a mother from Italy and a father from Bergamo, he describes Italy as "the refrigerator of God." It was thus inevitable that he would start an Italian restaurant. For the next several hours, I sat riveted in the pouring rain while Mateo told me stories of growing up in Italy, building (literally with his own hands and a team of two other people) a home in Tulum, opening an Italian restaurant in Mexico and travel, which he says is necessary to "cleanse the eyes." I learned about many things during those hours including...

...excellent tequila and mezcal...

(Though not a tequila or mezcal connoisseur, I have had my fair share of both. The tequila and mezcal I sipped while chatting with Mateo were the best I have ever had. I am kicking myself for not noting the specific names and producers.)

...and how to build a wood fire pizza oven, make authentic pizza dough and fresh, hand cut pasta.

After all of the food talk, he insisted that I try one of his freshly made pastas, even if it was just a few bites worth. Who was I to argue?

Tagliolini amatriciana

Fresh, hand-cut tagliolini with a sauce of tomato and guanciale

And what impromptu Italian meal is complete without gelato? Not this one.

Neapolitan gelato in a freshly made waffle cone

I learned that Mateo owns both La Onda and the gelateria next door.

So, I sat on a swing labeled "I love the ice cream" in 87 degree heat and ate my gelato cone while watching the rain pour down.

Several hours later, after some window shopping in Zona Hotelera and a few hours back at the hotel, I went next door for a late night snack.

Without planning it, I went from an Italian restaurant owned by a man named Mateo to an eponymous Mexican restaurant with an owner by the same name. Mateo's Mexican Grill claims to have the world's best fish tacos, so I had to find out if that was indeed true.

(By the way, there is something so inviting about these open kitchens at almost every restaurant I visited in Tulum.)

The fish tacos at Mateos were very good but, I can't say they are the best that I have tasted in the world.

More adventure awaited in the morning so, after a hard day of eating delicious food, I turned in a little earlier than usual and fell asleep to the sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore.

Up next, day four.

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