If you manage to leave the waterfront and the main touristy strip, San Miguel de Cozumel drops its Hard Rock Café, cruise ships and expensive watches façade, and reverts to a real town. Nice and not so nice, clean and not so clean, but real, screw the amusement park.
There certainly is a lot of broken bottles topping garden walls, and I don’t think it is because homeowners have a hatred of parkour.
Also the electrical grid makes for interesting pictures, perhaps it looks a little bit messy but it works, what else can you ask for?
We were searching for some place to eat that was not too gringo oriented. After chatting up some folks in a dive shop (always a good move) and studiously avoiding things that looked too fancy or touristy, we were pointed in the direction of “Los Otates”. It took a bit of walking around, but to be truthful in a large loop, looks like our orientation is better underwater, we found the place. It advertised tacos and pozoles, the later being a traditional maize soup. I sensed truth in advertising right there. plus the restaurant did not really have walls, I figured we could not go wrong.
Los Otates is the name of a town on the mainland, in the state of Veracruz (while Cozumel is in the state of Quintana Roo, along with Playa Del Carmen, Tulum and Cancun). I assume the resto’s original owners must have come from there, and it brings to mind something I heard on this trip: that in Mexico, you have as many regional specialties and cuisines as you have states, with one exception. You see, there are 32 federal states plus the district of the capital region, and all those places have specific culinary traditions. All of them except Quintana Roo, because apparently everybody here comes from somewhere else. That throwaway comment, by a gentleman from Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco, the state tequila is from, made me think of the importance of tourism in a country’s economy and how it transforms a local job market. For example, on any given day there was no less than 30 dive boats visible from our beach, but that’s a post for another day, back to tacos.
The menu was as you’d expect, tacos and soups, though there were a few unexpected (damn gringos) choices among the tacos, like sliced tongue or brain. I had the surdito, the mix of everything and it was very good.
The menu also had helpful suggestions, like using your finger to point to menu items, I guess quite a few tourists must have ended up there despite being a little out of the way, good for them. However, between our beginner Spanish and the waiter’s beginner English we got along splendidly.
I ditched the light beers for something a touch heavier, and it went nicely with my tacos, several choices of hot sauces made me a happy man.
Were the tacos fantastic? No, it was good “everyday” food, for lack of a better term, but the tastes were very distinctive. Was the experience excellent and the meal super pleasant? Absolutely, and then some. I thought it was interesting that flour tortillas cost more if you ordered them, whereas corn ones, the local standard, are the exotic sought after ingredient here.
Will we go back to Mexico anytime soon? I’m glad you asked. As it happens, October should finally let us encounter whale sharks and hammer heads in the Sea of Cortez. More on that in a few months.
In the meantime, should you happen to find yourself on a slow but steady dive boat called the Estrella Del mar, look for our club sticker, it’s good luck if you find it.