Fulfilling a Dream on Mexico’s Riviera Maya

After a long career in the restaurant industry in New York and New Jersey, Anthony Chalas was ready for a change. He wanted his own place, where he could fulfill his vision of a seaside restaurant serving Greek food.

And he found it on Mexico‘s Riviera Maya, in the sleepy fishing village and expat haven of Puerto Morelos.

His restaurant, La Sirena, sits on the town square, just across the street from a white-sand beach. Set on the second floor, it allows diners to see the vivid blue sea from the eatery’s open-air deck.

“From the moment we opened in February 2014 it was busy, absolutely packed,” says Anthony. “We’ve been open a year and a half, and we’re one of the busiest places in town. For our New Year’s party we had over 200 people. We hit something here on the head. We spotted the opportunity.”

It’s a place he never could have opened in his native northeast. He estimates it would’ve cost $3 million to open a similar establishment in New York or New Jersey. Getting a liquor license alone in New Jersey is $800,000, he says.

But with loans totaling $160,000 from his friends and family, he was able to secure a lease on the restaurant space in Puerto Morelos, renovate it to his liking, and get all the furnishings and kitchen equipment he needed.

From the time he moved down to Puerto Morelos to when he opened La Sirena was about three months.

Just south of resort and tourist-packed Cancún, Puerto Morelos is a whole different animal. Although there are a few small resorts and hotels, it’s still a working fishing village, albeit with a sizable expat population.

Anthony had never even heard of Puerto Morelos until he came on vacation. He was looking for someplace affordable, warm, and with a nice beach.

“It was only a three-and-a-half-hour flight from New York. We came down, rented a house, and loved it.”

“My mom said, ‘Why don’t you open your dream restaurant in Puerto Morelos?'” says Anthony. “And that’s what I did. I made the bar I wanted to go to when I was here.”

And when he gets time off, he spends it at the beach—his condo is just a few blocks from the water—or enjoying Mexican traditions with his girlfriend’s family.

All in all, Anthony has found the passion of a lifetime. And he’s enjoying life in his new home.

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