When we’re travelling we love finding that rare place you can tell not many tourists know about. That low-key ambience, the lack of menus, that lived-in feel… and the best food you could wish for! That’s what we found on our recent trip to Tulum, Mexico.
We were just finishing up with breakfast when Shedar came over to chat. Shedar’s one of the hosts of our beautiful little piece of paradise – the Casa de las Olas – a 5-suite beachfront eco-hotel.
“So if you want lunch somewhere that’s really perfect and just where locals go, you’ve got to go to Chamico’s down the road,” she told us. “You like ceviche? You’ve got to try the ceviche there.”
Our eyes must have lit up because soon we had explicit directions of how to get there. And thank goodness they were so detailed. Finding this place is harder than you’d think (how to get to Chamico’s is at the end of this post).
We hesitated when we first got out of the car. Then we recalled Shedar’s words to us:
“When you get there, you won’t find any signs or menus,” she warned us. “It’s nothing special to look at – just white plastic chairs and plastic tables, but the food there’s amazing and the people are really friendly.”
In fact as we approached, a waiter even found us an extra spot, grabbed a table and unstacked two of those white chairs for us. We were impressed.
He explained the menu to us in dodgy English and we tried to order in even dodgier Spanish. I went for the grilled shrimp and Mrs Romance, of course, ordered the ceviche.
What came out was way beyond what we were expecting. My grilled shrimp were in fact a pile of peeled king prawns served with refried beans, some tasty fish-stock baked rice, an avocado salad and a stack of flour tortillas.
The red habanero sauce went perfectly with this self-assembly prawn taco set!
Mrs Romance’s ceviche turned out to be a mixed ceviche platter for two of octopus, lobster and fish. There was also a small pile of grilled prawns on top and a bowl of baked tortilla chips on the side!
The best places are the ones where the locals treat you with a friendly curiosity rather than frowns and eye rolls – that’s what we’re always on the lookout for.
After we’d feasted, we sat back with our cold beers and watched the families and groups of friends enjoy their afternoon here. The soft murmur of voices you only get at a locals’ spot by the beach was so calming.
There was even a couple who’d taken temporary residence in one of the hammocks strung up between two palm trees.
Elsewhere, kids played in the shallows, old folk chatted and laughed with each other, couples romanced amidst the palms. It was a very memorable lunch.
Paying proved to be the hardest part of the meal. We asked for the bill a couple of times but in the end we approached the main shack where most of the wait staff seemed to gravitate towards.
That seemed to do the trick, but we were so chilled out and full, waiting didn’t seem to matter.
We were happy to take in the scenes of the beach and its radiant, sparkling aqua water. What a magnificent place to eat your meal!
How to get to Chamico’s, Soliman Bay, Mexico
From Tulum you head north back towards Cancun on the main road (there’s only one!). When you get to a sign for ‘Oscar & Lalo’s Restaurant’, turn off. If you miss the turn, which we did, don’t worry. There’s a U-turn bay ahead so you get a second go at it.
Drive down the unsealed road right to the end. And I mean right to the end. Go past all the hotels you’ll find there, nod and smile at the security guard halfway down, who’ll (slowly) unhitch the chain gate for you to continue.
When you come to what looks like a disused car park and an old wrecked ship pulled up on the shoreline, you’re there. You won’t see any signs but you should see the white of the chairs through the palm trees!
Remember it’s cash only, like most of Tulum.
Have you ever discovered a secret local spot while you’ve been away? What’s your top tip for someone visiting your neighbourhood to get that real-life feel of where you live? What do you look for in a local spot to really get to know a place? Tell us in the comments!