On a two-lane road that undulated with the Pacific coastline somewhere between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo, we came upon a small, years-faded sign, begging us to turn through a vaulted entrance in a hacienda wall to a restaurant within. Intrigued, we did. There were three solid walls and a colonnaded fourth side framing the Pacific and a wide beach. But there were no cars inside, not even a hint that any had been there in a long while. Weeds grew prominently through the cracked cement of a parking lot that had likely seen its glory days years before. There was no hint of life now, but the feeling of looming dread that a forbidding, abandoned place gives off…the strange awareness that nothing good has happened there for years. Deciding that the weathered sign that lured us in was an omen, we made the first quick turn of a three-point turn to make a quick exit, when in the rearview mirror, the young proprietor (as it turned out he was) with an open white shirt, desperately waved his arms, as if we were a passing ship and he was the lone survivor of a shipwreck years before. We stopped. He caught up with us and asked in passable English, if we wanted something to eat. Conquering our fears of getting out of the car and being immediately set upon by hidden confreres, waiting in the shadows, we parked. His blandishments of making the best grilled shrimp in Mexico overwhelmed our good sense.
He introduced himself…Oscar was his name…and he regaled us with the glories of not inly the shrimp which had just been plucked from the water, but his guacamole, also the best in Mexico that he would serve us as we basked under a palapa on the sand, along with…you guessed it…the best pina coladas in Mexico. Take a swim, he said, hand signing that he’d have the guacamole and the pina coladas ready as soon as we toweled off. If he had spoken more English, or if I had spoken any, but tourist Spanish, I’d have loved hearing the story of this place where the secrecy of assignations could, no doubt, be guaranteed and the spoils of shady deals divied up.
True to his word, the guacamole chips and two pina coladas, and two more, when we finished those, were set before us as we emerged from the ocean. And after came the shrimp, more than we could eat, and rice and salsa and tortillas. And finally there was a surprise flan, la piece de resistence to top it off. We ate languidly as if stranded for the afternoon and enjoyed having the wide beach, the ocean and the attentions of Oscar all to ourselves. From the hesitant entrance to our ecstatic finish it was an afternoon to talk about. We would have liked for Oscar’s sake, to have sent him a thousand guests to put him on the gastronomic map, But the best part of the day was to have come upon a faded sign and taken a chance on the hospitality of a stranger.
Our departure was a reprise of our entrance…Oscar in the rearview mirror, open shirt, blowing in the wind, waving his arms amid cries of adios amigos.