We stepped out of our golf cart and up the red, gold, green and black steps of The Joint, hopeful that we weren’t too early for lunch. We needed to wait out the rain. The sound of reggae music permeated the atmosphere as large drops fell from the thatched roofs of the bar/kitchen and seating area. It seemed we were alone on the property.
“That’s a good sign,” Jackie said, pointing to the Canadian flag. The white stood out dramatically amongst the Rasta colors. “Food here’s probably really good. And the people’ll be super friendly.”
I laughed, understanding her playful narcisissm.
Lush green plants gave the Joint a jungle-feel; it made me wish I could have seen the island before any human imprint.
We walked to the bar/kitchen — still no one.
“Hola?” I called out.
A young man stepped into view from behind the kitchen wall.
“Hola,” he said with a smile and sleepy eyes.
“¿Abierto?” I asked.
“Yes, yes. Sit wherever you like,” he replied.
I smiled, self-conscious of my gringo accent in the face of his fluency.
The table was substantial and sturdy, the wood was a dark chocolate, the couches behind had wicker accents. These fittings, in combination with the plants and exposed beams and cleanly thatched roofs, created what I would describe as jungle-chic; aside from the flimsy, plastic chairs it was darn-right classy.
Our waiter had a wide smile and flashed it easily, but in a shy kind of way. He brought us chips and a selection of salsas. I’ve had many a salsa in my life, and I can’t even describe to you how fresh, delicious, and vibrant those were.
“I love these salsa!” Jackie said, as if she was reading my thoughts.
“Seriously. They’re so good.”
We parused the menu.
“It’s expensive!” I said.
“Can you get Mexican food cheaper in Cali?”
“No. It’s about the same price. Maybe a bit more.”
“So it’s cheaper here?”
“Well, yeah, but only by a bit.”
She gave me a look.
“I’m just saying. I expected it to be a lot cheaper in Mexico.”
“But if the salsa is any indication of the food here — it’s gonna be delicious.”
“Actually, I don’t really know what to get,” Jackie said. “I don’t have much experience with Mexican food.”
“Well, since this is a fishing island I think I’m gonna get fish.” I paused, glancing over our options. “Fish taco. Yep. That’s my choice. I love ’em back home.”
“Ok. Me too. What about Margaritas? It is our first day in Mexico, afterall.”
“They have a bunch of flavors. And they’re cheap as.”
I laughed. “‘Cheap as.’ It’s nice to hear Aussie slang again.” It took me all of two seconds to know exactly what I wanted. “Mango. Done.” I have an unhealthy obsession with mango. I put down my menu with gusto.
Our waiter must have seen because very soon thereafter, he took our order.
As we waited, we took in the scenery, lazily eating the chips and salsa. Noticing the Christmas decorations in amongst the regular decor.
I was absolutely over-the-moon. Fish tacos and a mango margarita for lunch! Plus, it was amazing to realize that I was sitting in an open air restaurant in Mexico with a friend I had made in Australia.
“I am so glad we’re doing this,” I said.
“What would you be doing back home right now?”
“Ugh. Being cold! Staying inside.”
“Yeah, I’d be cold, too.”
“Whatever. Spoiled Californian.”
I smiled a big, cheesy smile.
Soon a family of four came to the restaurant. The wife at the table near us started a conversation. “Where are you two from?” she asked.
Canada and California, we explained, and told her how we met.
“What about you guys? Where are you from?”
“Oh we’re from Missouri.”
“Probably quite cold there.”
“Yes! But that’s why we’re here. It’s our little escape. We’ve been coming to Isla for years every winter. I think this is our eigth time coming here, right honey?”
Her husband nodded.
“Wow. You must love it.”
“Yes, we do. It’s a perfect little island. So relaxing. Everyone is on island-time. Coming here melts the stress away faster than anything. We really get to slow down; it’s such a nice break. And the kids love it, of course.”
The margaritas came out. Oh my goodness, they were enormous! Aside from the beautiful color and tasting divine, they had quite the heavy pour! After just a few sips, both of us were feeling it and Jackie was saying “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to drive after this!”
“We’ll eat, it’ll be fine.”
When the tacos arrived, I was amazed by how much fish there was in the tacos and how many were on the plate. “You certainly get what you pay for here!”
“Holy crap!” Jackie had taken her first bite.
“Wow. Amazing,” I said in between bites. These were up there with the best I had tasted, if not the best. The ingredients were obviously fresh and the seasonings were just right. The few veggies and the fry batter added a crunch to the soft, flakey fish meat and the corn tortillas had a depth of flavor I wasn’t familiar with. Plus, they came with accoutrements: guacamole and salsa topped them perfectly!
“This place is amazing,” Jackie told me.
“Yeah, but also just this island. Where we are. I love it. I could come back here and stay longer for sure. It’s so quiet and small and…it has character…it’s…”
“It’s charmed you.”
“It’s just so sweet.”
“Excuse me,” I said to the woman at the other table. “I think you have a recruit here. Jackie’s already talking about coming here again.”
“It’s a special place,” she said. “You can’t beat this kind of mentality here. Everything is easy and people are happy and relaxed. Life is more simple. A lot of people visit here and come back year after year — some of them never leave.”
The family ate and left before Jackie and I had even begun to think of finishing up.
“Looks like you girls are already on island time,” the woman told us as she was leaving.
“Seems like it’s infectious,” we laughed.
“Enjoy your stay, girls.”
Jackie and I must have stayed for another half an hour just relaxing and taking our time finishing up the tacos and the very last drops of margarita. The waiter mostly stayed away, allowing us to just chill.
Finally, we realized it was time to head out and see the rest of Isla.
“I’m excited to see this ruin!”
“Me too! It has a great deal to do with how the island got it’s name.”
We paid our bill at the bar and continued south to Punta Sur.