Oh, Tulum… I was living in the Lehigh community for nearly a year before I found out about this hidden gem. A small building, Tulum is housed a few doors down from Saxby’s on the Lehigh campus. The inside has 3 small tables and a handful of seats at a bar along the wall-so if you’re hoping for seats, you’d better get there pretty early, or at least avoid the lunch rush. And there will be a rush, because the food here is phenomenal, and people around these parts know it. Keep in mind, this is what they call “Beth-mex” aka “Bethlehem Mexican.” This isn’t Tex-Mex or Cali-Mex. So approach with an open mind, and you won’t be disappointed.
Over the course of a few visits (for research purposes, of course), I have had the fish soft shell tacos, veggie soft shell tacos, the chorizo quesadilla with greens added, and their giant dish of guacamole that is served as a shareable side.
The tacos are basically a super-stuffed street-style taco on soft corn tortillas. Each taco has a combo of 1blue and 1 white corn tortilla, to help keep all the goodness in (and there is a fair amount of goodness, they don’t skimp).The fish tacos are made with mahi-mahi. There is a $2 upcharge for the mahi, the standard tacos have fish, pork, beef, or veggies. But it should be noted that the mahi is totally worth it. The fish tacos also come with their special grilled pineapple salsa. They have a number of salsas at the bar that vary based on your personal spice preferences. I personally like the slightly spicy tomatillo salsa, but if you’re feeling adventurous, there is a potent mango habanero salsa that will set your mouth ablaze. The veggie soft shell tacos are also surprisingly hearty and satisfying. They have a mixture of sweet potatoes, kale, and black beans. Some tacos come with lettuce, pickled red onions, and a lime wedge.The tacos also come with rice and beans. When it comes to rice and beans, I can usually take them or leave them. The standard r&b dish is lackluster, with under-seasoned rice and bland, fatty, refried beans. But Tulum’s r&b are something special- simple fluffy white rice, nicely seasoned black beans, and a crumble of soft, tender, salty queso fresco. There is nothing heavy about this version of rice and beans. They are yummy and satisfying and light- it’s often hard for me to stop eating these, even when I’m full.
This would probably be a good place to mention the guac- while not at all bad, it’s the one thing that I wouldn’t say is overwhelming.Not overwhelming, not underwhelming…basically just a solid “whelming.” But they do give you a giant portion for your ~$5. Three of us attempted to eat a bowl one day and could not make it through. Oh, and the guac is served with chips- but not your standard corn chips…This guac comes with crispy, fluffy, sometimes hollow triangles of fried flour tortillas. So not good for you, but when you’re eating them, you just don’t care.
Moving on to the quesadilla… I love a good gooey cheesy crispy quesadilla and Tulum did not disappoint. I also love when chorizo doesn’t cause whatever you’re eating to end up in a puddle of reddish grease. Again- no disappointment here. The chorizo was cooked perfectly, with a bit of a crispiness to it. The cheese was gooey, and the greens added a perfect bite and a great counter to the rich meat and cheese. This was the time I made the mistake of piling on a dollop of mango habanero hot sauce. Whoops.
T has eaten their signature taco with the large crispy shell. When they refer to The Taco on their menu, that is what they are talking about. Think puffy crispy taco shell- like the ones places serve with their taco salads. It is one of their signatures, and is very popular with the crowds.
With fresh, high quality ingredients and novel combinations, Tulum is a delightful place to go for a light lunch, a breakfast burrito (Yep, there is a giant one of those on the menu), or a tasty Mexican dinner. The prices are reasonable, and the service is usually cool and friendly. Because of the size, it can get a bit crowded, lines can get long at peak times, and you may not get the warmest side of the staff when they’re slammed (which does not translate to “mean,” just more “not as chatty”), but that can be forgiven given what they are working with. Also, as I have alluded to a bit when mentioning some of the veggie options, there are actually some fairly healthy options. The soft shell tacos, for example, can be ordered without cheese, the veggies and fish are super light, and the rice and beans are one of the healthiest versions you will find. So don’t be afraid that your trip to Tulum will necessarily lead to naptime… unless you want it to, of course.