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The Legend Lives on...


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#1 Carey

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 09:43 PM

The popularity of the restaurant Otates is puzzling to me.

Here's a topic for discussion -- How does a legend like this get started? Did the place start out good and then go Hollywood or, more likely imo, is it a manifestation of the herd mentality snow balling out of control on various internet forums?

Comments anyone?
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#2 Charles

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 11:23 PM

The waiters seemed good at bridging the language barrier with minimal English with clients who spoke no Spanish. I like their salsa, but that is about it. Whether is started with dive masters bringing their customers, who knows. It seems that near universal opinion is the quality wasn't that great in the beginning and then declined as they increased in popularity with tourists. It isn't that it is such a horrible place, but I have never seen a place that I would rate as below average at best, receive so many rave reviews. Surely there must be a couple dozen other places that offer far better food at even better value prices. I have eaten there maybe five times over the years and each time seemed worse. The last time must surely be my last. I got a to go order with three kinds of meat, all were tough and with grizzle. The frijoles charros were among the most bland I have ever tasted. All recipes I have seen or tasted included meat. I wondered if they were trying to create a vegetarian version, without meat nor meat flavoring.

There was finally a review on TA that mentioned a dead fly recently.
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#3 beachbum53

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Posted 13 February 2010 - 12:36 AM

IMHO, let the legend live on. Los Otates serves better, cheap Mexican food than most Americans will ever find anywhere in the States and their posole is actually pretty good. Kudos to them for their success.

Are there are better places on the Island? Yes, but many of these place would cause most tourists to walk in, and with their head facing straight ahead, would eye left :unsure: and then eye right :unsure: and then back out. Leaving me to enjoy these places in peace.

This is ok by me.
Otherwise, all these wonderful local places would one day turn into Los Otates.

Yes, I'm a cynic.
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#4 Carey

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Posted 13 February 2010 - 06:32 AM

Otherwise, all these wonderful local places would one day turn into Los Otates.


You have a point there, BeachBum. But surely it's not a given that restaurants inevitably start moving to the bad side once they gain success. Certainly, such an establishment would be justified in raising price if they're better than everybody else. But food quality should maintain.

As to other loncherias and tacquerias around town appearing less inviting/threatening to tourists, well, maybe I've just lived here too long. But the cheap eats places I frequent are right on a par with Otates in terms of cleanliness and ambiance.

This is not to say Otates is terrible and you should take your business elsewhere. Just not one of my personal fav.s and hence my puzzlement at its popularity. I'd like to see some of the other local places serving the typical Yucatecan fare at inexpensive prices get to share in the airtime hype also.

Other places I'd like to see get more business because they deserve it and I don't want to see them go under in these hard time:

Loncherias for lunch noon-3:30 or 4:

Sabores: Avenida 5 between Salas and Calle 3. Very clean, nice garden, good food

Tonitas: Salas between Avenida 10 and Avenida 15. Very clean. one special for lunch every day in addition to her classics. Good pozole

Las Flamitas: a favorite of locals with a lot of variety each day in the fixed menu entree choices. Ave 20 1/2 block south of the intersection of Calle 3. (Not the larger first place you come to -- keep walking another 20 yards south on Ave 20

Herradura: One Ave 30 about 8 blocks south of the intersection of Calle 11 and 30, east side of the street. Near the restaurant Tortugas. Chef works at Guidos at night.

San Carlos Pescaderia: (the whole fried fresh fish is the bargain here) Avenida 50 between Calle 3 and Salas. Beer served

Camarones Dorados--yummy fried shrimp tacos for cheap. Earlier hours -- open for breakfast and closes in the PM. Not sure about beer. On the cross island road on your right as you leave town and start to head to the east side beaches. It's pretty much the last building before 'civilization' stops

La Candella--Avenida 5 with either Calle 4 or Calle 6. Ocean side of the street, 2-3 blocks north of the pedestrian only downtown plaza.

Taquerias (open from 7 PM until 2 AM or later if there are customers)

Los Seras--cheap, good pastores is the thing to have here -- thin sliced BBBQ's pork on a soft taco topped with onions, cilantro and pineapple. Their green sauce to top it off is very good. Corner of Avenida 30 and Morelos -- about 6 blocks north of the stop light at Calle 11 and Avenida 30.

El Pique--typical taco and huarache menu and very popular with the locals, nice garden setting in back. Right across from the big San Fran D'Assis grocery store which sits at the intersection of Juarez and 30. Serves beer

El Foco -- right by the plaza -- just south of it by 1/2 block on Ave 5. Serves beer. Very filling huaraches and zapatos. Little more expensive than others mentioned but the location by the plaza makes it a convenient place so.. Also they serve liquor.

Chilangos -- a block or so south of Los Seras mentioned above but on the other side of the street. Choice of several delicious fillings for your tacos or huarches. Generous portions.

3 Gatitos -- panuchos, salbutes and tortas are the thing here. Her soup is good too. Calle 7 between Ave 10 and Ave 15

Oh -- I just realized another reason for the popularity of Otates -- they serve beer. The only two on the list above that have liquor licenses are El Pique, El Foco and Pescaderia San Carlos.

Anyone else have other favorites to rec? I remember several in Corpus Christi were mentioned on the old forums and I don't know about those.
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#5 DONO

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Posted 13 February 2010 - 05:47 PM

To really enjoy it you need to catch it when they have "wrestling" on the TV cranked up to max volume. Otherwise it is one of my favorite "cheap eats" on Coz.

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#6 captain ronald

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Posted 13 February 2010 - 09:41 PM

Thanks Carey. You just answered a question I've been meaning to ask. Camarones-Dorados. Last year we were heading out to the tequilla place and noticed it. Nice cars and lots of well dressed locals so we decided to stop and have lunch. Very little english spoken but the waiter was very helpful and we figured he wanted us to try the shrimp tacos. We had lunch for 2 with cokes as I didn't notice any beer being served. It was less than ten bucks for both and the food was outstanding. Think we will also try them for breakfast this trip. We also made our first trip to Sabores last year and it also was excellant and very reasonable. We have never done Otates and probably won't as we keep trying all these other places and just plain run out of days. Again a big thumbs up to Camarones from us. Enjoy! We never did make it to the tequilla tour.
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#7 beachbum53

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Posted 13 February 2010 - 10:39 PM

You have a point there, BeachBum. But surely it's not a given that restaurants inevitably start moving to the bad side once they gain success. Certainly, such an establishment would be justified in raising price if they're better than everybody else. But food quality should maintain.



I agree success in any restaurant does not necessarily mean a move to the dark side. In my experiance however, it often goes hand in hand. Here's why (and I should point out that this is just as true in the States): You own a restaurant. You provide a certain kind of food and you do it well. You have a small (ie. local) following. Then word gets out that you are good. More people come. What was done well with a small following begins to lose it's quality at the demands of a larger crowd. I don't know if this is true at Otates, but I have noticed that as the number of non-locals has increased, that the quality of the food has gone down. Like I said earlier, it is still better Mexican food than most of us see in the States.

As to other loncherias and tacquerias around town appearing less inviting/threatening to tourists, well, maybe I've just lived here too long. But the cheap eats places I frequent are right on a par with Otates in terms of cleanliness and ambiance. And two, Sabores and Tonitas, both two blocks from Otates but only open for lunch are a lot cleaner-looking.


I don't think it is the cleanliness of restaurants on Cozumel that intimidates American tourists. IMO restaurants in Mexico can give most restaurant in the States a run for their money in that regard. The language barrier and the lack of other American patrons is what is so scary. I remember our first trip to Sabores. It had been years since I has spoken Spanish and I was pretty intimidated at the prospect of having to communicate in another language. That and there really weren't many other gringos in the crowd. I of course had forgotten the Traveling Rule of International Language. That is, if you even attempt to speak the language, people will bend over backwards to understand you and be helpful. We have been going back to Sabores ever since. While their English has not improved much, my Spanish has. It is as it should be.

This is not to say Otates is terrible and you should take your business elsewhere. I'd just like to see some of the other local places serving the typical Yucatecan fare at inexpensive prices get to share in the airtime hype.


I agree and I love all of the places you have mentioned. They are some of my favorite places on the Island and they are the places that we miss the most when we are at home.
My kids don't say; Hey, we really miss Pancho's Backyard."
They say ; "Hey dad, can you make tacos like we had at Los Seras or El Pique."
I too have recommended these places to friends traveling to Cozumel.

But here is the question that I always ask myself when I make such recommendations. "How will more tourists/travelers effect some of my favorite places?"
This is the same question I ask myself when I post my favorites here.
Sites like Cozumel My Cozumel, are sites that have pointed me in the right direction more than once, but do they also risk changing the atmosphere of some of the places we love the most?

I realise that I am being selfish in this regard and I usually share my special places anyway because I have come to know the owners of these places and more than anything else I want to see them succeed.

Geez, I feel like I'm babbling. Have I made any sense?
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#8 Carey

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 07:08 AM

Camarones-Dorados.... food was outstanding. Think we will also try them for breakfast this trip.


CapiRon -- just be aware that Camarones Doradoes doesn't serve tradition breakfast -- eggs and such. It's tacos de camorones, fried shrimp tacos all the way.
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#9 Carey

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 07:22 AM

But here is the question that I always ask myself when I make such recommendations. "How will more tourists/travelers effect some of my favorite places?"
This is the same question I ask myself when I post my favorites here.
Sites like Cozumel My Cozumel, are sites that have pointed me in the right direction more than once, but do they also risk changing the atmosphere of some of the places we love the most?

I realise that I am being selfish in this regard and I usually share my special places anyway because I have come to know the owners of these places and more than anything else I want to see them succeed.

Geez, I feel like I'm babbling. Have I made any sense?


You're not babbling and you make a lot of sense. Anyone who lives here or travels here a lot will understand the sentiment. I think your point about the language intimidation problem will keep these places from being swamped and going Hollywood, however. They'll get the discerning, more experienced, slightly more adventurous travellers who read this. And, you know, we need to write a short tutorial on how to order the lunch-time comida corrida for those folks.

I also think it's a question of the character of the owners of these small businesses. Some have great personal integrity and will take pride in keeping their food and service quality high even if they decide to raise prices because they figure they can. Others will succumb to greed. And they may fail over time.

AJ and I frequent all the places I just recommended. Most have been featured on the website for at least five years and I'm not seeing any signs of them "Going Hollywood'. Of course, this is an amateur, largely non-commercial website that doesn't have nearly the impact of a huge commercial enterprise like trip advisor. So far fewer visitors per year I would expect. Now I'm babbling! :blink:
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#10 Kandy

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 08:38 AM

I have to throw in my .02. I do enjoy Otates. They have great guacamole and I like the gringas. However, there are other places that are raved about on this forum that I'll never eat in again: Casa Denis, Capi Navigante, Le Bistrot. We ate in each of them once (maybe twice to give them a second chance), but the food was not good, the service was poor, and the prices were too high for what we got.

Each person has a different taste palette, so we're going to like different things. Menudo? OMG, never again! Does that mean it's awful? No, it simply means I don't care for it. That leaves more for the people who do. So, rather than saying you don't understand how someone could like it, it seems better to say that you don't particularly care for it, but a lot of other people seem to.

I like Parilla Mission and several other places for cheap eats, too. On different days, I'm in the mood for different things and I choose accordingly. About once a year, I like Chinese; my husband could eat it every week. He's on his own. We just have different tastes.
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#11 CZMDM

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 09:23 AM

IMHO the most over-rated restaurants on the island (that non-locals rave about) are Otates, El Moro and Capi Navigante. Otates has gone downhill since day one. Capi Navigante is just too expensive for what you get. El Moro....I could never understand the interest in that place.
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#12 Carey

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 10:39 AM

Yah, I'm updating the static restaurant pages this week and Capi Navigante is coming off. Or it may already be off. Can't remember. Their prices are too high for what you get. Although they have the awfully good authentic margaritas on the rocks like Josefina makes in her cooking classes.
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#13 Charles

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 11:47 AM

El Moro is the number one rated restaurant by the taxista union, $40 pesos per couple I believe. We had a deal with the brother to buy our things we had installed in his rental house, $1000 pesos credit in the restaurant Los Moros on ave 35. Even way back in '95 it could be a struggle to take a taxi to Los Moros. "I think they're closed today" "the food is better at El Moro" "are you sure you mean Los Moros, not El Moro"? It usually took a blunt statement from us, if you can get the owner to apply the credit we have with his brother, we eat for free and he'll still pay you your commission, we'll consider it.

Capi Navigante I have never tried. The only times I have considered it over the years was during slow season and it always had so little business, I'm afraid to eat in any place that might have only one or two couples per evening. Not enough turnover to maintain an inventory in freshness.

Casa Denis used to be a good place to take visitors to try out Mexican cuisine. We'd take guests there to order a collection of appetizers, so they could sample a variety. We gave up on Casa Denis maybe in 99.

True some things can be a matter of personal taste and preference. In the case of Otates, the meat was often tough as shoe leather, but the last time, frijoles charros without meat is bean soup.

A major problem faced with all restaurants, especially those geared to locals and economical has been the rising costs. All the costs of doing business have increased steadily in the last 15 years, skyrocketed at times. Our landlord last year made to observation of one place that had been packed every morning with workers, business died when they raised the price of emplanadas from $5 to $7 pesos. Many places have to balance raising their prices and risk losing customers or compromising value to offset the increase in business overhead. Mexican minimum wage has been running way behind in inflation rates and minimum wage has had less buying power the past six years than at any time since the revolution.

Official government inflation figures is another topic as most items in the basic basket of essentials, might go up 10-15%, even twice during the year, but official rates always remain in a "looks good for international banking" very low 2-3%. Small businesses are getting clobbered worse than ever by cost of business. To maintain even the slightest profit margin and hope for volume sales, a small increase can kill their lower income clients.
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#14 Carey

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 02:10 PM

there are other places that are raved about on this forum that I'll never eat in again: Casa Denis, Capi Navigante, Le Bistrot.
Each person has a different taste palette, so we're going to like different things. Menudo? OMG, never again!


Capi Navi is off the rec.'d restaurants list this year. And I hate to say it because it's such a venerable old place but Casa Denis disappointed me a lot last time I was in there over Christmas. I think I should try it for breakfast before giving up on it. As to menudo. You're a braver gal than I am, Gunga Din. I believe that's tripe soup. Rico menudo is traditionally served at Sunday morning breakfast places -- including El Museo -- where it is reputed to be a cure for a hangover. Personally, I'd take the hangover any day. :rolleyes:

Le Bistrot has undergone some changes since you were there last probably. Eduardo is now featuring the old menu from Le Chef there and has organized a new, tapas and h'ors d'oeuvres based menu to go with the wine at his Olive Bar. You might want to give it another shot before passing judgement on that establishment.
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#15 DONO

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 02:29 PM

Nobody has mentioned Abuelo Gerardo's. We stumbled upon it a couple of years ago and found the food , portions, atmosphere and service really good. Prices are resonable.

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#16 MexFan2

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 06:38 AM

I probably havent really been looking for it but have not seen much menudo in this part of Mexico. What I do often see is a similar local dish, Mondongo. I am not really looking for either.
I also have found Otates to have gone downhill quickly and am not so fond of Casa Denis as I once was. About all I do there is eat empanadas on the back patio. Another vote here for Abuelo Gerardos. One of Cozumels longest running restaurants but gets little mention with the tourists. I have noticed many ship crew members when I go there.
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#17 TiaTia

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 07:20 PM

I agree on Abuelo Gerardo's too. Located on Avenida 10, entre Juarez and 2 Norte, it's a quick walk to/from the plaza. On the east side of the avenida. There is also a parking lot a few steps down the street, about 8 pesos per hour I think. We took a large group and not only was the food great, the service was exceptional. We ended up taking food home there was so much.

~Tia

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#18 beachbum53

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 09:36 PM

I love menudo, but I really think it is more of a Norte dish than one from the Yucatan. The cusines of Mexico are as diverse as they are in Los Estados Unidos.
Country ham, grits, red eye gravy and biscuits in Wisconsin? I wish!

People have trouble with tripe like people have trouble with squid. It's a texture thing. For me, menudo is all about the broth. That, and the fact that it's medicinal properties are true. :P

Edited to add: I replied to MexFan2 but my post showed up down here. Did I do something wrong, or are things no longer as linear as they were before?
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#19 divadiver

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 11:27 PM

Chilangos -- a block or so south of Los Seras mentioned above but on the other side of the street. Choice of several delicious fillings for your tacos or huarches. Generous portions.


Location of Chilango's on 30 is east side between Morelos and 3rd.
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#20 nauticab

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Posted 18 February 2010 - 10:52 PM

regarding los seras: their pastor pizza is amazing. i have never had a pizza with more thick chunky toppings in my life and for only 100 pesos.

what i don't understand, is why la choza isn't on your list? i always take folks there and have NEVER been disappointed. i never order from the menu...i ask for the specials of the day when i go during lunch or late lunch hours. their breakfasts are also great. the specials are about 45 pesos and include the drink, soup, tortillas, the meal and of course their famous sauce with chips. and for such a cool treat, the avocado pie. the afternoon hours are always filled with a nice mix of tourists and locals, and they have a parking lot on calle 3 just before you get to 10 on the left hand side. free parking. their coffee is delish too.
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