The roadside restaurants in Tulum’s beach hotel zone are a testament to what can be accomplished with a few strategically placed lights, good music, and a lush, natural setting.
El Tábano, one of the first restaurants to set up under a palapa along the beach, is no exception. The restaurant opened in 2008, shortly after chef Laura Brea, then on vacation from Barcelona, met Gerado Paf, who was travelling from Mexico City. The two fell in love – with Tulum and with each other – and decided to put down roots.
El Tábano’s chalkboard menu features a range of vegetarian dishes, meat, and fresh fish, creatively matched with local flavors like nopal (or prickly pear) cactus, pumpkin, mole sauce, and tamarind. El Tábano’s food is influenced by the region, but not tied to it, and the plating is decidedly modern.
The restaurant also offers a surprisingly impressive selection of Mexican wines. As an added plus, the owners have managed to source spring water from Mexico in glass bottles – a relief in a region where the plastic water bottle is ubiquitous and recycling still seems the exception.
Christina Newberry is a freelance writer and editor in Vancouver.