No, I'm not talking about reconnecting with all my old classmates on Facebook, although, that has been remarkable as well. These old friends are Maria and her parents, the proprietors of the old "Tacos Israel", formerly located on the corner of Avenida 15 and calle 10. Back in 2005, "Tacos Israel" was our "go to" taco place. Several times a week, I would turn up for a kilo of pork, cooked arabe style, freshly made tortillas and all the fixings. This style of taco is very much like the ubiquitous tacos el pastor, but rather than being marinated in achiote, the pork is seasoned only with salt and pepper and stacked on the spit with cilantro and lots of white onion. The meat can be served up on tortillas de maiz, but we prefer the large handmade flour tortillas reminiscent of pita.This being a typical Mexican restaurant, often the spit wouldn't start to turn until early evening so that the meat would be fresh and hot for the regular late night crowd. I was always happy to wait, suck back a few beers, watch the tiny television blaring in the corner and chat with Maria. She would practice her English on me and I would torture her with my attempts at Spanish. When the restaurant lost its lease and its home to yet another condo complex, the family sort of disappeared. Occassionally, I would run into them at Mega, doing their shopping with Maria's son, Josue, in tow. She tried to explain to me where they had relocated, somewhere in one of the sprawling housing projects across the highway, in the ejido. The thought of trying to navigate the maze of identical homes looking for their new place seemed completely intimidating, and so, "Tacos Israel" slipped away from us.

Yesterday, while touring Azul Fives with some Buyers, a friendly face met us at the reception desk of the beach club restaurant. Maria, with much improved English, greeted us, and after a bit of catching up, gave us a pretty good idea where we might find their new location. Now, with our old favorite, tacos arabe, on the brain, we decided to give it a go and try to find our old friends. Taking new fast, four lane road that runs basically parallel with 307, through the ejido, from Xcalacoco to the Centro Maya Plaza, we were able to reach the community called "Galaxia" within a few minutes. I easily found the specific Oxxo that she mentioned, where we decided to stop in and ask for further directions. Mind you, there are about 23000 Oxxos scattered across Playa del Carmen, so finding the right one is no small feat. After a few more minutes of driving around and half a dozen u-turns, we arrived at our destination, our pilgrimage complete. While the old restaurant on 15th was not glamorous by any means, pulling up to their new location was definitely a classic W.W.M.D. moment. In the dark, in the rain, in the middle of the ejido, this is what we found.

Tacos Arabe in Playa del Carmen

It may not look like much, but to us it was like mecca.......with meat.....under a Corona tent.  Well, placed (I thought) next to the neighborhood police station, the restaurant, now called "Tacos Mari", was bright and clean and we were greeted with big smiles. Some crazy Mexican telenovela was blaring from the same tiny television. The same simple menu was handpainted on the wall. We had found our old friends.

Tacos Arabe in Playa del Carmen

Tacos Mari in Playa del Carmen

We arrived early in the evening, about 7:30, so this night's meat was just starting to cook. Fortunately, they had some leftovers from the previous day, so we were able to come away with a kilo of delicious seasoned pork and the accompanying sides and sauces. Maria and her little one arrived as we were leaving and seemed genuinely pleased that we had made the effort to seek them out.

Tacos Mari in Playa del Carmen

Tacos Mari in Playa del Carmen

Yummo. Tacos arabe with sweet pineapple, salsa aguacate and a radish and cilantro salad. Served up with a generous side of nopales and a cold beer, what could be better? Hey Mike! Guess where we're going for dinner this weekend?

 

"Tacos Mari" is located on the west side of 307, in the ejido, on Paseo del Pedegral off of Avenida Colosio. Going west on Colosio, take a left one street before Ave. 115. at the large Oxxo.