As we walk down the main beachfront street in Taganga, a man yells out to us encouraging us to come check out his restaurant. This restaurant has no name, doesn’t even really resemble a place to eat. On a circular slab of concrete shaded by a thatched roof, a small bar and a few molded plastic tables and chairs hold court. Aside from one supporting a local having a drink, the chairs remain unoccupied.
I look at Jeff and he asks if I want to check it out. I give a noncommital nod. After a morning of diving, we’re famished, but I’ve already rejected a handful of restaurants. There was nothing wrong with them, per say, but they weren’t what I wanted. They were places that catered to tourists, that automatically handed you an English menu, that would at your request cook up the same thing your mom was serving for dinner at home that very night. Some days that’s great, especially when you’ve been traveling a long time and feel the slight ache of homesickness or are simply travel fatigued, but on a short trip like this one, those places aren’t for me. I want to get the local taste.
So we enter the man’s restaurant. “What’s on the menu?” Jeff asks. The man, a guy bordering on senior citizen status with grey hair, worn hands, and a few missing teeth, doesn’t hand over a menu. Instead he opens a cooler. First, out comes a pink fish. In rapid fire Spanish, he begins to explain the fish to us, what it tastes like, how he’d cook it. He then opens the fish up at the gut and tells us to take a look inside, to note just how fresh it is. He then pulls out two more fish of different types and does the same thing. Our choice.
We pick the first fish. The man then places the fish on a platter and takes off down the street, disappearing into a doorway. He comes out emptyhanded. I have no idea who now has our fish, but I picture a little woman, his wife or mother, fixing up our lunch.
He returns to us, pulls up a chair, and begins to chat. Soon a local couple comes in and picks one of the remaining fish. They join in the conversation. As we wait for our meals, we are showered with advice on where to go and what to see, we get opinions on the upcoming election, we learn that the people here are believers in climate change as they’ve endured less and less rain and changing seas, we hear stories of how much Colombia has changed for the better in the past few years, we’re questioned about why more Americans don’t come to Colombia, Jeff is applauded for his Spanish.
When our food comes, it’s delicious. Accompanying the well-seasoned fish are fried plaintains, coconut rice, and salad. We clear our plates. For $5, it’s an incredible value. For a moment we consider paying up and heading back to our hotel for a nap in a hammock. But instead we order another drink and settle back into our chairs. The hammock will wait. Meals with this much local flavor are meant to be savored.
(P.S. We apologize for all the comment spam lately. Our server is not recognizing our spam blocker, and we’re having trouble working things out. Of course, this had to happen while we were gone and not online 24/7. Bear with us. I promise we’re working on it.)