Street Food Finds: Don Taco, Where Traditional Family Cooking Meets Street Food
By: Jonty Rees | November 2020
Contrary to the name, Don Taco serves only Tamales, soft drinks, and a variety of freshly made Aguas de Frutas.
Photos by Bernardo Flores
Tucked away behind Tulum Centro’s Parque Dos Aguas, you can find a little slice of traditional Yucatecan cooking, served with a healthy portion of family pride. Don Taco served their first tamales at this location in April of 1995, from recipes handed down to Doña Hermelinda Peniche, wife of the original Don Taco himself, Señor Izmael Núñez. Now run by the next generation of the Núñez clan, Don Taco has expanded to three Tulum locations, but the tamales are still made to the original recipes using traditional cooking techniques. All their tamales are cooked at the original location, in the seasoned ovens that have served both locals and intrepid tourists so well for over 24 years. Around 600 tamales are prepared each morning, and the 6 hours of cooking time require an early start.
There’s a reason Don Taco has thrived - the food is fresh, authentic, and delicious. Contrary to the name, Don Taco serves only tamales, soft drinks, and a variety of freshly made Aguas de Frutas. These are Yucatan style tamales, larger than the familiar corn husk wrapped variety you can find in the US, and wrapped in banana leaves. They’re closer in size to such one-hand-meals as the Cornish Pasty from England or the Aussie Meat Pie. Imagine a stack of three iPhone 10s, but much tastier.
We sampled three of the eight varieties on the menu on our recent visit. The #1 seller is the Tamale Colado de Pollo - an amazingly light, pillowy maize envelope stuffed with shredded chicken. A generous spoonful of fresh tomato habanero salsa provided a perfectly spicy counterpoint to the creamy corn and savory chicken.
For a quick meal on the go, the baked Tamale Horneado de Pollo might be the best bet. The shell is still maize, but it’s a little sturdier, with a crunchy texture from the oven. You’re a lot less likely to be wearing this one if you’re eating on the run. Vegetarians can enjoy a wonderful Chaya (the Mayan Spinach) and Philly Cheese option, but vegans may be disappointed.
Don Taco is a unique and high-quality operation serving both local workers and tourists alike with remarkably affordable, traditional Yucatecan food. While we hung out at the handful of stools next to the counter, two local girls pulled up on their motos, and each picked up a tamale to go. Both paid with two coins, a 10 peso and a 5 peso piece. Yes, you can eat lunch for 15 pesos, and it’s good! As their motto states "La calidad del primer tamal te hará pedir el segundo" - “The quality of the first tamale will make you ask for the second"
The original Don Taco is located on Neptune Oriente between Osiris and Beta Sur; hours are 9 am to 10:30 pm
The second location is a little more spacious and is across from the CFE office on Centauro and Polar Norte, hours are 4 pm to 10:30 pm
The third location is in front of Bodega Aurrera on the Coba Road; hours are 3 pm to 8 pm
All locations open every day except Christmas Day Dec 25th, and New Years Day Jan 1st
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Tulum Eats Magazine is published 12 times a year, unless we decide to go on prolonged vacations. You can find the print magazine at select locations throughout the Riviera Maya, and in some East Coast establishments, where we will randomly place, during selective times. The website will be updated monthly, with selected materials that may or may not be the same as the print version. Look for us soon, in other states of Mexico.