I’ve been writing this blog for many years now and it dawned on me recently, that in all those years, I’ve never done a blog on my own Mahahual restaurant. The blog’s intention is to promote the Costa Maya destination, not my business, so I’ve just always written about other topics. But in doing that, I’ve often promoted many local businesses, because they are part of the very local tourism, the blog tries to promote. Stupid me I suppose, because my business is one of those businesses too, and a darn good one I might add! So I decided it was time to show you my restaurant, in case you have not been there yet.
The Tropicante Ameri-Mex Grill is a downtown Mahahual beach club, located right in the center of the city’s beautiful white sandy beach. We are a cruise ship business, opening when the first ship arrives, and closing when the last one leaves. There are over 50 restaurants in Mahahual, with only about 400 hotel rooms, and less than 1000 residents, so the only profitable time to open, is when the ships bring in thousands of tourists on a single day. Only opening for ships allows us to run a single shift, on only high profit days, which then allows us to pay our staff living wages, and not local wages. Paying good wages is how we hire and keep the best people in town too, with many working with us for many years.
Most of our seating is on the beach, under the coconut palm trees that protect our guests from the afternoon sun. We have tables, loungers and adirondacks, and people come from the ships and hotels, to spend the day enjoying the ocean, our great food and drinks, and the many fun activities that are available for our guests. From snorkel and fishing boats, to banana boats and beach massages, the fun never stops and neither does the food and drinks. Our staff is there all day to bring whatever you want, right to your spot on the beach. Go to our site here for more info and to reserve chairs for your next visit.
Our manager is Carolina, who runs the day to day operation of the Tropicante. You can usually find her behind the bar, helping the bartender, and somehow overseeing the fast paced, crazy business we do. And she does a great job too! She had worked in the restaurant business many years before she came to us, and brought a wealth of local experience with her when she did. Without a doubt, the hardest working person in Mahahual, she also runs a neighborhood bar, a tour boat and still has time to be a Mom as well. On top of all that though, she is local, and keeps our place grounded with a local feel.
Our concierge is Jorge. He has been with us longer than anyone, and is family, not just to me, but to our many loyal returning guests, who always threaten to take him back to the US with them when they leave. Jorge is our guest’s go to guy, and really, the face of the business. His only job is to make sure all leave with a smile on their face, and he is very good at that. If you want to set up an activity, Jorge does that. If you need to know where to buy real silver or vanilla, he will take you. Jorge is a rock star in the Costa Maya world and he deserves all the praise and love he gets!
If Jorge is the Elvis in our show, the waiters are the Beatles! Everyone loves my waiters and everyone has a favorite, just like the Beatles. These guys are the ones who make your day fun. What Ivan, Mike and Charley want is for our guests to always remember them, and if you do, you’ll always remember the day you had a the Tropicante. Their goal is to make sure that day is the best day of your cruise. They’re a hoot too in the process, and my guests love them almost as much as I do.
And I have always encouraged our waiters to spend time chatting with guests who want to know more about Mexico. Here, that sort of “proactive” service is not normal, so getting our staff to feel comfortable chatting with foreigners took some time. The tradition in Mexico is when a waiter is needed, they are called, and otherwise, are to stay away. (That is why you always must ask for your check here. Asking a table if they are ready for the check is considered forward and never done) However, as a US American, I know most enjoy talking to a local, and we encourage all the waiters to spend time with their guests. And they do!
Our cooks, Paola and Hef, are the real unsung heroes of the operation though. They are the ones who prepare our wonderful meals, and do so, often in a very fast paced environment. But they still get it done and the results you can see below. They love it when I show off their plates too, because they take enormous pride in each one. They speak no English, so get none of the customer interaction the waiters do, but do deserve way more credit than they get.
They make our Ameri-Mex dishes, one at a time, so sometimes it can be slow, but it is always great when you get it. Our menu is all the usual items one finds in a Mexico beach restaurant; tacos, fish and shrimp dishes, ceviche, nachos, burritos and so forth. But we also have Mexican dishes not usually found here, like our chipotle/mole arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), or our sour cream chicken enchiladas. And we’ve made some of own fusion dishes, like our version of a philly steak sandwich, which we call a fajita steak sandwich. Our menu is different than most in town, and that was by design.
We are not a mass production kitchen, and our cook’s goal is the make each dish as close to perfect as they can. It also allows our kitchen the flexibility to change a plate to meet special dietary needs. We don’t have a vegetarian menu for example, but we can easily change many of our meat dishes into veggie dishes with some simple substitutions that only a one plate at a time kitchen can do. Chicken and rice in chipotle/mole sauce can easily be veggies and rice in chipotle/mole sauce. A fajita steak sandwich can easily be a fajita veggie sandwich as well. Jorge and the Boys make your day a happy one, but Paola, Hef and their crew, are who will make your belly happy.
For cruisers, we are just a 5 minute taxi ride from the port. We are easy to find, but the local jaledors, the street hustlers paid to push people into local places, can make it a bit confusing. Our beach area is not directly in front of our place either, it is off to the side because of how the government issues use permits, so some confuse the place next door, for ours. Bad mistake! Read this. It happens every day. Most figure it out pretty quick, but some don’t and unfortunately those too often have a very bad experience. Take our map!
But once you do find the right beach, my guys will make sure you have the best day of your cruise, because they are the hardest working people in Mahahual! We are cash only for food and US dollars are fine. No need to exchange. The reason is that our internet is not fully dependable, so processing cards is not always possible. If all have to go back to the ship at the same time, and most days they do, and the internet was down, which it often does, we would have a problem. So we just tell all to bring cash for food and drinks, and we post our menu on line so they can plan accordingly.
However, we do sell t-shirts and bottles of tequila, as well as your beach massage, and all can be paid for with a card the day you arrive from our site’s store. You just do it from your own phone after you arrive. Any credit or debit card can be used and you do not need to be a paypal member to use it. The internet is never off all day, so getting it long enough to pay for merchandise or a massage is easy. Many will pay for their massage before they get off the ship, so they can leave their phone in their cabin, and just take cash for food and drinks. Several US cell companies work in Mahahual, AT&T and T-Mobil for example, and many use our free wifi on their own phones, and yes, that works on our beach.
Getting back at the end of the day is easy too. The taxi portal is located right next door, so they get you back fast and easy. The ride back to the port’s entrance is 4-5 minutes. The walk to the boat from the entrance though is 10-15 minutes more. Check this link with more detail on how to taxi to us.
We’ve worked many years to build the Tropicante business and are very proud of the work we have done. Our business operates the right way, and in doing that, is good for Mexico tourism, which is what this blog is supposed to promote. So if you are coming to Costa Maya, stop in the Tropicante and say hi to Carolina, Jorge and the crew. They would like very much to make a special memory for you and your family. If I’m there that day, I’ll probably be on the beach ordering cold drinks with the guests. It’s more fun and the staff says I just get in the way anyway. And I probably do too. Not a problem for me though, because hanging out on my beach sure beats working on it, and on top of that, I get to enjoy our cold drinks and Ameri-Mex food too, like everyone else.
Hope to see you out here soon, and hurry, we’re keepin’ your drinks cold! Cheers!!