Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pork in Paradise - Sayulita

Last week two close friends of mine got married in Sayulita, Mexico. The beautiful little surfing village is located on the Pacific coast, south of the Baja Peninsula, in the state of Nayarit. 


My wife and I spent a week there along with a few other friends and absolutely fell in love with the place. It is a peaceful little village far removed from the cartel violence people often associate with Mexico. We stayed in a rented house and freely walked the streets, even at night by flashlight, without ever feeling any sense of danger.



As someone who loves traditional foods in general, and pork-based traditional foods in particular, finding something to eat in Sayulita was like an ongoing treasure hunt.


This taco pastor stand was only open at night and we stopped there on multiple evenings. That giant mound of pork is rotating around a cannister of smoking charcoal the same way shawarma is prepared in Middle Eastern restaurants. That is a pineapple on top that the vendor is shaving off a piece of.


Everything in Sayulita was incredibly affordable. A plate of three tacos pastor was around $30 pesos -- about $2.50 in the U.S.

One of the restaurants we tried was a place called Don Chow located near the plaza in the center of the village.


Inside Don Chow I was greeted with the familiar sight of a barrel cooker for slow smoking pork.

I ordered the Kalua pork, which was pork smoked while wrapped in banana leaves. It was served with rice, Asian slaw and pico de gallo. It was as good as it looks.

My wife had the pork ribs with Asian slaw, edamame and a spring roll. We debated which of us had a better meal with each of us wanting to declare ourselves the winner. That is a sure sign of a great restaurant experience.

As much as I love pork, the best part of eating in Sayulita was exploring all the places offering deliciously fresh fish tacos. I'm pretty sure we had fish tacos at least once every day we were there.

There were plenty of the traditional Mexican dishes you'd expect to find like this excellent  chicken with mole sauce...

...And some unexpected gems like the Italian restaurant Mangiafuoco.

Inside Mangiafuoco. A woman making handmade pasta while a man works the wood-fired pizza oven.

My wife had the shrimp pasta. Our table of four shared a pizza as an appetizer that we all declared the best pizza we'd ever had. Unfortunately it was devoured before anyone thought to get a picture of it. 

I had the mahi mahi with an incredible tomato sauce.


We were visiting Sayulita during the week-long festival for Our Lady of Guadalupe and ended up with a parade going past Mangiafuoco while we were dining.


You can get anywhere in the little village on foot in a short period of time. This blog spends a lot of time bashing suburban sprawl. But you need a little time experiencing the complete opposite of it to truly appreciate how soul-crushingly awful communities built around long commutes, strip malls, big chain businesses and cul-de-sacs really are. 

Sayulita is a perfect mix of public spaces, retail businesses, restaurants and residential buildings. Plenty of the businesses have owners living in residences on their upper floors. At night the plaza fills with locals of all ages hanging out together. Human beings are social animals and this is how we evolved to exist together. Not alienated, unhealthy and eating fistfuls of antidepressants the way far too many people end up in U.S. suburbs.  

The tranquil setting in Sayulita makes the brutal cartel violence to the north along Mexico's border with the U.S. seem even more tragic and infuriating. We will never be able to fully put a price on the misery caused by the devastating failure of the drug war.


While we haven't done ANYTHING to reduce the price or availability of illegal drugs, we have devastated communities from Mexico...


...To back home in Memphis.

Your barbecue blogger out on the Pacific on a surfboard. I wish I could teleport back there right now. After a week spent mostly in swim trunks adjusting to the weather in the 20s earlier this week in Memphis was rough.

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