Our little neck of the woods is often referred to as “Flyover, Tennessee”—because we are nearly smack in the middle of two major cities, at least by southern standards. Not only can we call ourselves the rhinestone on the buckle of the Bible Belt (actually, that’s just my affectionate nickname for our bold dot on the map), but we also can claim a part of the title in “Chain Restaurant” land. Give or take a 3-5 year delay. Cheddar’s and Applebee’s are our two major additions, national brand-wise, of the last few years. But, hey, we have two Chick-Fil-A stores—and we do "eat mor chikin". Don’t mess.
But, it’s the one of a kind places that usually top one’s favorite restaurant list. Independently-owned, using fresh (even local) ingredients, the kind of place where it just makes you happy to say the name. For us, it’s Tulum (TA-Loom). It’s our Sunday lunch go-to place. Home-made salsa, fresh guacamole, and never-ending chips. And, their fish tacos are the bomb. Oh, and the Baja Shrimp Tacos. Honestly, I haven’t had anything there that I wouldn’t recommend. And, no, I’m not getting free food for a year or something like that by writing this blog.
The owner, who knows us by face, is a native of sorts—by way of a decade or so “detour” in San Diego. Hence, the reason that dining at Tulum makes us feel like we’re well-fed extras in a Jimmy Buffett video.
Last Sunday, as we stepped up to the counter to order, Robert (one of the fabulous young managers) looked at me and said, “Baja Shrimp Tacos. The meal.” The Philosopher and I share a plate--isn't that cunnin'? Looking (up) at He Who Is Now WAY Taller Than I, he said, “Traditional chicken chimi, all the way.” And to Mini-Hooper, it was “Traditional Gringos tacos. Chicken, no guac.” And four waters! Yeah, if we order their “nectar of the gods” mango tea, it’s an extra $10 for the entire fam. So, we drink agua. He knew our whole order. I loved that! It’s one of those moments when “the usual” is extraordinary.
I have to admit, living in a place where they know your order, what your husband does for a living, and notice if you happen to stop by twice in a week (lunch “meetings”), is cool. Our little rhinestone town is pretty nifty like that.