Like the southern coast: Muelle 37’s Mexican seafood

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Pictured is fish filets, shrimp and fries at Muelle 37 in Harlingen. (Travis M. Whitehead | Valley Morning Star)

HARLINGEN — Fish swim along the walls and the music fills my ears as the waiter shows me to a table.

The table where I sit at Muelle 37 at 801 N. 13th St. is a wooden table and the walls are blue and a friendly waitress all smiles and generosity brings me a menu. But she doesn’t just lay the menu on my table and then walk quickly away. She converses with me, introduces me to her name and asks for mine. It’s a fresh and warm exchange and I’m glad I’m here.

The menu items remind me of some of the little cafes on along the beaches of Playa Azul and Caleta de Campos in the Mexican state of Michoacan. The menu’s mojo de ajo definitely has a strong memory for me. That was probably the first meal I ever had in Playa Azul 20 years ago.

While the listing invokes a fine memory for me, I’m looking for something different, so I keep flipping through the pages. There’s the tacos de chicharron de pescado, tacos de camaron, the chipotle, the Veracruzana … it’s almost like taking a culinary journey through Mexico.

I choose a tantalizing plate with fish filets and shrimp and fries. I motion to the waitress and she quickly arrives at my table and takes my order.

I have a moment to absorb my surroundings. The fish are everywhere: trout, red snapper, blue marlin, sailfish, tiger shark — Tiger shark? Are they serving tiger shark here? I hope not. Or maybe — why not? I’ve never eaten tiger shark that I can recall. Perhaps they do serve it here and if they do I want some.

The music volleying into the spacious dining room with the high ceiling is joyous and sweet.

“Ooh-eeh! Ooo-ah-ah?” sings a child’s voice, and then the music melts into smooth love ballad from a woman whose vocal eloquence endears me and sooths my tired soul. I wish I could listen to her all day. I wish I could sit at Muelle #37 all day because it’s such a calm and upbeat place with bajo sextos violins leading the listening ear into a folk dance.

A group of four now takes a table a few feet away. A woman with frizzy hair and a gray jacket checks her phone and a gentleman in a blue shirt and animated moves speaks rapids to her. Another woman with a clip in her hair sips a tall glass of something I don’t recognize and the glass has a lime wedge and chili powder around the rim.

My plate arrives and my waitress converses with me again — it’s all in Spanish and I’m delighted to realize I understand about 75% of the conversation. She leaves me to my meal and my thoughts and I put the tartar sauce over the fish and the shrimp and eat to my heart’s content.

I’m taking my time with my meal and enjoying the taste and the significance of that taste in a restaurant serving Mexican seafood and invoking memories of the coast down south.

She comes to my table and hands me my bill and smiles broadly and sweetly and says, “No hay prisa.”

No hay prisa. There’s no hurry.

That’s what it’s all about.

Muelle 37 is located at 801 N. 13th St. in Harlingen.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For information, call (956) 801-2269.