Mexican Mick was magnifico
"A MEXICAN restaurant in Byron Bay? It won't last three months."
That was one of the more printable responses Mick Cambray got in 1969 when he opened the doors of his Mexican Mick's restaurant on Jonson Street.
But Mick had his critics eating their words - and his tacos topped by his legendary chili sauce too - with the restaurant trading for 14 years and cementing its place as a Byron icon.
If you grew up in the Northern Rivers in the '70s and '80s, chances are Mexican Mick's holds cherished memories as the place where birthdays and other special occasions were celebrated.
Mick was the jolly host in a sombrero hat who carried in your birthday cake with a dazzling array of sparklers while he serenaded you.
"It's showtime folks!" Mick would say, as he opened the restaurant doors every night. But with Mick's death at 83 years of age on Saturday, another piece of Byron Bay history has passed.
Mick died at his Burleigh Waters home surrounded by his family after a lengthy illness.
Daughter Cindy Cambray, one of Mick's six children, said her siblings would carry fond memories of a dad who was "wickedly funny with a twinkle in his eye". But behind the happy, life-of-the-party facade was a deep thinker, said friend of 40 years John Wright, a former owner of Byron Shire News.
"He wasn't a superficial person at all. He thought deeply about things, about life, and why we're here," John said.
After the restaurant closed in 1983, Mick pursued his interest in natural health. But in 1998 he published a book Under The Mexican Sun which contained an entertaining history of the restaurant as well as 101 of his original "magnifico" Mexican recipes.
The family will hold a private cremation with a public celebration of Mick's life to be announced in the new year.