2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

It’s Always Worth Stopping for One Last Taco

It’s Always Worth Stopping for One Last Taco

Tacos in Tulum

We spent our last night in Tulum drinking at Batey’s Bar on a side street. We met a friend there and stayed until midnight while a jazz duo sang Beatles covers on a small stage. It was so hot. Even at night the humidity was unreal: it enveloped you in a cocoon, slightly suffocating.

That night we slept restlessly. Maybe it was the thought of returning to real life after two weeks of being disconnected at the beach, lounging under palm trees for shade and sleeping late. Maybe it was the cockroach I found near our bed. Maybe it was too much mezcal. At any rate, we were up at 6 am and rode our bikes to the beach for one last swim. It was empty, save for a few runners and yogis doing morning exercises.

I had heard from someone in town that there was a taco stand open from around 6 am to about 11 am that served the best cochinita pibil tacos around. The pork is marinated in an oddly bitter juice made from a local orange variety mixed with annato paste, which gives the dish a slightly orange-ish/brown color. Wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a fire pit overnight in the jungle, the stand owners bring the meat to town in the morning and serve it to a steady stream of customers until it’s gone. It is a breakfast that will sustain you, a classic meal for hungry workers and post-party revelers. I wanted one last taco before we left, so we biked to town to find it.

Taqueria Honorio is located near a bank and across from a fruit stand. It has the requisite plastic tables, chairs, and plates, plus plenty of pineapple and watermelon juice to drink. It was busy. We sat down and I ordered three pibil tacos and a Coke. In about five minutes they arrived, piping hot on handmade tortillas.

One bite and I knew they were, by far, the best tacos I’ve ever eaten, anywhere. The pork, the unique flavor of the citrus, the oil, the amazingly hot salsa, the atmosphere, the fat, handmade tortillas: the flavor combination was outrageous. It was an obscene way to end our trip. Those tacos changed my life. At 12 pesos each, you will be hard pressed to find anything as satisfying for your money.

I finished breakfast with a piña paleta, which I ate as we walked back to the apartment to get our bags before heading to the airport. My shirt was soaked through in the heat of the late morning. Surprisingly, the tacos weren’t as heavy on my stomach as I had thought they might be. Everything I thought about breakfast, about tacos, about Mexican food, seemed to have flown out the window.

Later that day, sitting on the plane back to London, I had a flashback to a few hours earlier as the flight attendant handed out our sad evening meal. I said thanks and accepted it, but left it on the tray table, and sank back into my seat, thinking of tacos, tortillas, Tulum.

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