Azafran is one of those places you stumble upon and never forget. It dwells in a little house a couple of blocks off the main road in Tulum Pueblo. It’s about a 30 minute bike ride from the beach south of the ruins and well worth the trek.
Azafran is home to all the things that qualify an awesome breakfast joint: beautiful organic coffee from Vera Cruz, fresh squeezed orange juice that will put your Tropicana to shame, dishes served with 1) housemade rye toast with perfectly tempered butter so yellow you’ll think it is fake (it isn’t - that’s just what real butter looks like), 2) mashed potatoes whipped with cream and scented with nutmeg, and 3) pretty side salads comprised of goods from their garden. Not to mention they have the best fucking breakfast sausages ever and my personal favorite: the chaya and gouda omelette.
Chaya is a dark leafy green that I haven’t been able to find anywhere except Mexico, specifically the Yucatan Peninsula. (Allegedly it grows in southern Texas -- will report any future findings.) The Mayan’s used chaya like medicine: it is one of those super power foods, boosting high levels of protein, iron, potassium and calcium. It does a body good.
More importantly, it does a mouth good. Chaya has a distinct flavor - like if kale and spinach shacked up and had a leafy green baby. Chaya’s great chew and sweetness are released when cooked as it should not be consumed in raw form. When eaten in an expertly rolled omelet with melty gouda cheese, high levels of pure happiness are achieved. Many people head to Azafran for their famous Hangover Breakfast but the memory of the simple chaya omelette is what calls me back.
Oh - and also the garden! If the omelette gets you there, the garden will keep you there. The last time I ate at Azafran, it was raining so I skipped the backyard paradise. This time around, sunshine abounded and I found myself sitting in a garden so lush, vibrant, and serene that I questioned how real it was.
Dogs barking in the background remind you that you are in a town, but the tropical birds squawking remind you that you are also in the jungle. On the day I ate there, the sky above seemed to be filtered through rose-colored glass, casting a pinkish tint over the palm branches which swayed in wind and flung shadows over my face like blades of a fan. Maybe I’m romanticizing the garden -- but I won’t apologize for enthusiastically promoting its idyllic magic.
The restaurant is owned by a kind and affable German woman, who chats with her guests and refills my coffee from a home brew glass pot. A fresh cup makes it harder for me to leave once my plate is clear, which I delay doing because I never want to leave this place.
Inevitably I do, as the rest of the day calls, and whatever sadness I have for leaving is immediately alleviated by the prospect of returning. Maybe next year, but I hope sooner. Unlocking my bicycle from a post near the front door, a lyric from a The Head and The Heart song crosses my mind: “These are the places I will always go”. This is one of those places.
Until we meet again, Azafran.