Hartwood restaurant in Tulum, Mexico makes every effort to reduce wasteful practices. Food waste is broken down and turned into compost. Solar energy powers the music and lights, Kerosene lamps burn and small candles emit barely enough light to see the food. A small generator runs lighting for the cooks. There is no fryer, stove or electric dishwasher. There are over a dozen coolers for food and anything that needs to be cooked goes over a wood fire.
If you want to eat at Hartwood, you have to stand in line in the afternoon, hoping to get your name on the list for that same evening. You can email the restaurant for larger groups but will only hear from them when and if necessary. There is no online reservation system or listed phone number.
Hartwood is an open-air restaurant. If it rains, the restaurant is closed for the night.
It’s easy for anyone to point out how Hartwood should run things: set up a reservations system, build a roof or run electrical wiring. Many might wonder why they spend hours picking out seafood and meat and drive an hour away to get their produce when food trucks make stops along the road every day?
Owners Eric Werner and Mya Henry, husband and wife team, are quite familiar with how to do things faster. But they left all that back in Brooklyn so they could build Hartwood, a place that would match the heartbeat of the Tulum they fell in love with, steady, peaceful and calm.
To fully understand and appreciate what Hartwood does and why, it then becomes easy to ask, what do we really gain by doing things faster and at what price?
Hartwood is not the place to go if you want things to be run like your favorite restaurants back home. If you want a relaxed dinner with honest cooking, in which all their efforts pay homage to the farmers, the fishermen and the land, and you might even feel awkward glancing at your phone, then Hartwood is the place for you.
Hartwood open air dining “room”
Hartwood’s open kitchen
Dinner at Hartwood
We were a group of 18, from several states and a handful of countries, brought together by the power of the internet, passion for good food and love for Noma.
Noma is a Copenhagen restaurant which is currently closed because they are relocating and building their new restaurant. Noma created a temporary restaurant (a pop up) in Tulum, Mexico and that is how so many food gourmands and chefs from all over the world ended up in this tiny beach town around the same time.
The food at Hartwood is regionally-focused using products from the Yucatán region. The menu changes daily and is written on a single large chalkboard that servers carry around to the different tables. We listened to a few descriptions of the items and afterwards, one of our friends exclaimed, “We would like to order three of everything on the menu!”
Ahhh, the beauty of having 18 people, easily divisible by three groups of six to enjoy all 16 items.
The corn used in the dough to make their empanadas is first dried and then ground. The corn comes from a farm located one hour away.
Empanadas de Cordero ($14)
Gambas Mayas ($15)
Filete de Coronado ($22)