During the four winters that my wife and I and our regular traveling companions have been coming to the Oaxacan coast around Zipolite, we have come to love and look forward to this charming restaurant, which we know simply as "Javi's and Paco's place." The open-air setting and balmy breezes that suffice for ambiance in most of the area's eateries is enhanced at La Providencia by a whimsical and eclectic collection of paintings (many by Javi himself), old mirrors, wall murals and other decorative touches that let you know immediately that this place is special. On arrival, patrons are greeted warmly by Javi and ushered to a quiet seating area to enjoy a cocktail (the mojitos and caipirinhas are particularly good) while they peruse the menu. Paco's cooked-to-order fare, which he prepares in the restaurant's open kitchen, features fresh local ingredients, including just-out-of-the-water shrimp and fish (tuna if you are lucky), but there's always astonishingly good beef as well. His delicate turnovers (shrimp or goat cheese) are our favorite appetizers, but the soups and special salads also are terrific. The entrees include fish and beef, each prepared several ways, coconut shrimp, and chicken -- all of which invariably are presented with style and flair. The food, the atmosphere and the easy-going pace of this restaurant invite you to linger over dinner and end the evening with dessert and a touch of mescal. You should.
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