Carmen's mother used to take her to La Choca when she was a kid, and the restaurant was just a palapa, or thatch hut, by the beach. Now it's a proper building—but the food is as good as it ever was, she assured me. The chilpachole de jaiba was excellent, to begin with, its smoky chipotle and tomato broth contrasting nicely with the sweet Veracruz crabmeat. Arroz con platano—white rice topped with fried sliced plantains and a tart cream sauce—reflects the region's Caribbean influences. Here, I also ate the Veracruz version of paella, arroz a la tumbada. La Choca's is dry—Carmen says it should be brothy—but it's packed with seafood: clams, shrimp, red snapper, conch, and squid. Like paella, the dish begins with rice cooked in olive oil with tomatoes, lots of garlic, and onions, but instead of saffron, the seasonings are jalapeños and epazote. My favorite dish at La Choca, however, was the light, refreshing camarones en escabeche—Gulf shrimp, carrots, onions, and jalapeños in pineapple vinegar.