Zihuatanejo Bay, on Mexico’s west coast, is scalloped with beaches. Ours, Playa La Madera, is so small I can walk its distance, from one rocky outcropping to another, in less than 5 minutes. But it’s big enough to have clusters of busy hotels and 3 restaurants, and luckily for us, one is outstanding.
Starting at the north end, we have our old hangout, MJ & Richie’s, now called La Bocana (still has the MJ & R sign though). Rafael, who ran the place for years, has left, which we lament because that sweet, friendly man always had something from his great jazz collection playing. The food is still good, though not as good as when Rafael was here (or maybe it was the music and his charm that made it so). The tortilla soup is bland unless you pour hot chili sauce into it, but chicken fajitas and grilled mahimahi are just right with a frosty beer. We sit at an umbrella table on the sand and lazily watch the beach action while we enjoy a Mexican lunch at a reasonable price. Plus the service is ultra-quick.
At the south end of Playa La Madera is La Rena Rene, serving tortillas, tacos, grilled shrimp, quesadillas–a full menu of decent, unexceptional Mexican food, in my opinion. You’re right on the beach, though, so the setting and view are perfect.
Between the two is Bistro del Mar, connected to Hotel Brisas del Mar. This is where we go when we want something special and are prepared to pay accordingly. The tortilla soup, served in a large, tilted bowl, is a rich red broth with crisp tortilla strips, avocado slices, cheese, onions, and sour cream. Mahimahi with shrimp sauce, Caesar salad, sweet-and-sour jumbo shrimp in tequila–they’re all wonderful. This is as close as La Madera gets to elegance. We dine on linen-covered, candlelit tables under a swooping, tent-like roof, drink sauvignon blanc wine from Chile, and are served by expert waiters. And because this is a beach, after, all, we have first stepped out of our flip-flops and washed our feet in the little pool set into the entrance steps.