I’m not going to say I based the location of a friend’s bachelorette on a beachside, no-frills seafood joint I once read about, but I will admit I had margaritas and fresh ceviche on the mind when I reserved a house on Soliman Bay in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Located 12 kilometers north of Tulum down an unpaved road that first leads through a mangrove swamp before turning to run parallel with the water, Soliman Bay is a tranquil slice of paradise in an otherwise overdeveloped section of Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Which is to say, you wouldn’t stumble upon it unless you went looking for it.
At the end of this unpaved road, after the houses tapper off and the mangrove swamp increasingly appears as if it is going to overrun the path you are on, you’ll find Chamico’s. We walked there from our house, skirting stinky seaweed that had washed up on shore and was now drying under the hot sun. At first glance, Chamico’s is little more than a wooden shack with plastic tables and plastic chairs set up under overhanging trees on prime beachside real estate. A waiter ran up to us and motioned that we could take any of the tables; it was 3pm, and we were the only customers. “Margaritas?” he asked. “Si, once margaritas, por favor,” we responded. Our drinks appeared a minute later.
With margaritas in hand, we listened as he described the menu of the day, which consisted of three dishes: ceviche, langosta (lobster), and pescado frito (fried fish). We ordered some of each, sat back, and collectively downed our first round as if we had been lost in the desert for days. In reality, we had been lounging on beach chairs all morning, reapplying sunscreen in vain, and intermittently drinking cervezas and coconut water straight from the coconut. But perhaps that reeks a similar type of havoc on the body as wandering the desert does. “Quieren mas margaritas?” Si, once margaritas, por favor.
Our food arrived with little trace of ostentation, befitting of the locale. The whole fish stared back at us with a snaggle toothed grin; the ceviche consisted of shrimp and white fish mixed with tomato, onion and avocado heaped onto a plate; and steaming lobsters accompanied by piping hot, homemade tortillas were set before us. So we feasted, and we drank. A second round of margaritas became a third in short order. The food was phenomenal—phenomenally fresh, as we were staring at the waters from whence it came; phenomenally simple, garnished with lemon, salt, pepper and little else; and phenomenally apropos for the situation, because who doesn’t want seafood and chips and salsa and margaritas when they are sitting in plastic chairs at a plastic table on Mexico’s Caribbean coast? But ultimately, it was Chamico’s staff who had the last laugh. After we scrounged up the cash for our feast (Chamico’s is cash only, again, befitting of the locale), we were only able to walk 50 yards down the beach before collapsing in a pile, laughing and posing for selfies in a uniform state of complete inebriation. Margaritas hechas por el diablo.