A Gourmet Meal in the Middle of Nowhere

by Gigi Griffis

Drive to the middle of nowhere, Mexico, then make a left at the palm tree, a right at the dusty hacienda, and a sketchy left into a pot-holed parking lot beside an abandoned building.

When you exit the car, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought, “dear god, we must be in the wrong place.”

After all, that’s what we thought.

How is it possible that here—2.5 hours from the nearest proper grocery store, an hour from the nearest busy town, tucked away in the true middle of nowhere—we’d find a truly gourmet experience?

We never would have thought it possible.

Until we found The Leaky Palapa.


Step off the dusty street, past the street dogs eyeing you from the neighbor’s yard, hoping for scraps, and through an archway to a whole other world. Jungle garden meets modern Mexican chic. With dried gourds hand-carved into lamps hanging from the ceiling.

Sit at the window looking out on the garden and order whatever strikes your fancy. It’s all good. It’s all gourmet. It’s all presented in a style befitting any major foodie city and with flavors that will bowl you over.

Don’t miss the shrimp on bean cakes or the chocolate flan. Even if you don’t like flan, you’ll like this. Promise.

chocolate flan

Adventure-seeking foodies, here’s one for the bucket list. To get to The Leaky Palapa, you’ll need a rental car (or bicycle if you’re up for it). From Cancun, head south on Carretera 307 until you see signs for Mahahual (a good 3+ hours from Cancun). Take the road toward Mahahual until you see a turnoff on the right for Xcalak. Then drive about an hour through nothing but jungle until you get to a T. Turn left toward the town.

It looks like nothing much, but I promise you’re in the right place. Xcalak town is where you’ll find The Leaky Palapa, its rooftop garden, its charming Canadian owners, and the middle-of-nowhere flavors that will shock and delight.

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Kathe January 25, 2018 - 10:25 pm

You found my absolute, all time favorite restaurant! K

gigigriffis January 28, 2018 - 10:03 am

Such a cool find.

Whitney January 28, 2018 - 6:38 am

My favorite meals in the entire Yucatán.

gigigriffis January 28, 2018 - 10:03 am

Amazing, right?!


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