Latitude 20 owner personifies ‘community’
By Staff Jamaican-born, New York City-raised Peter Metrick has a penchant for doing extraordinary things. When he went into the Vietnam-era U.S. Army, regular infantry wasn’t enough, so he joined the Rangers.
After the Army. he attend the “RCA Institute for TV Production” in New York to satisfy his curiosity about theater arts, and studied with people from the popular “Sesame Street” children’s show. “I took to directing and wanted to see if that would be my calling,” he said said last week at his Latitude 20 Restaurant overlooking the dolphin-populated “Lagoon of Dreams.” But the call of the cradle trumped city life and Metrick, an affable and attentive host often seen trading wits with patrons, returned to Jamaica where he was born. He opened a casual restaurant where his family ran a small resort on a stretch of family-owned beach. Over the next 20 years the business grew into a beach bar and string of cabanas as divers and recreational sailors discovered a new paradise. He put his training at RCA to work and joined up with the iconic Bob Marley among others directing reggae performances, which he still does here at Latitude 20.
After 20 years of that and seeking a new adventure, Metrick came to the Riviera Maya and became an integral part of Puerto Aventuras’ development. “There were probably only 50 people here,” he said, when he opened his first PA restaurant 25 years ago. It was called the “Papaya Republic” and was situated in a stone house where Villa del Mar II now sits. As development spread, Peter moved adjacent to the Dreams Hotel, across the bridge, and opened the first Latitude 20 Restaurant there. He accessorized the place with basketball and volleyball courts for that little extra Metrick touch.
Competing with the developing Centro area, he launched a free water taxi service to carry visitors from Centro to Latitude 20 and let the pull of his friendly personality, good service and decent prices create a loyal, local clientele.
There followed a two-year hiatus to Tulum, then a return here and the opening of Latitude 20 again adjacent to the boat ramp. Last summer he moved again to the lagoon area where he now operates what he likes to describe as a “community” restaurant aimed at residents, though he gets his share of visitors, he says. The sense of community is expressed by his Friday morning cooking classes, having a local youth band, the “Salsa Kids,” appear intermittently to gain experience; meal delivery service at night and closing up to feed sailors in the recent regatta. Coming soon, he says, is a free golf cart shuttle service and a round-the-world cookbook along latitude 2o, which is the route followed by the restaurant’s cooking class. His goal is reminiscent of the Cheers TV theme song: “Sometimes you like to go where everybody knows your name.” The eatery’s food, service and prices get constant high marks from travelers in TripAdvisor and other travel-guide reviews. Latitude 20 Restaurant along with Peter’s banter and repartee are welcomed as a sponsor of the Pelican Free Press.
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