Armando’s has become an established favourite in Bucerias. I see you are currently #2 on Trip Advisor out of 117 restaurants in Bucerias – congratulations!
Thank you – I am very proud indeed.
Where were you born?
I was born in Guadalajara and lived there for 20 yrs. I was kicked out of school for being a trouble maker. My grades were not very good, I tried to get into a couple of high schools but my grades were too bad.
What did you do for work?
I got into business buying fish, cleaned and gutted, from the cooperatives in the Baja California: Guerrero Negro, Bahia San Angeles, Los Cabos and Aguas Verdes – there were many varieties: swordfish, halibut, sea bass etc. I had a truck with big ice blocks in it and sold through brokers.
The fish was boxed up in San Diego and went by truck or by plane to San Francisco, Los Angeles or Texas. It was hard work, but good money for 5 – 6 years. I built up the business. But then I lost two trucks in an accident and lost all of my money and I went bankrupt.
Sorry to learn that. So then what did you do?
I went into business with a partner – he had the money to invest and I had the knowhow , and I had my own fish market – more hard work! I was working from 4 in the morning till at least 5 in the afternoon. There would be 22 tons of fish in a trailer and it had to be sold within 2 – 3 hours. Sometimes there were no sales . Or if it was raining I had to throw at least half a trailer away.
Then I went to San Diego and worked in a Mexican sea food restaurant, just a small one, washing dishes. Somebody saw me doing this so fast they put me on the floor to learn the business. The employers were Americans and the employees were Mexicans. I learnt English on the streets.
When did you come here?
I came here in 2007, because in San Diego I never saw my mother – she still lives in Guadalajara. Now she visits me once or twice a month.
What did you do for work here?
My first job was in the Grand Mayan restaurant for 2 – 3 months. Then near to it was a place OJs Only, I worked there and people were asking me for tortas, sandwiches and I said, ok, I’ll do it. But then someone built a big wall, it was no good for our business and we moved to Bucerias and I worked at Adriatico Restaurant as head waiter.
And then you started Armando’s Place
I’d always wanted to open my own restaurant but I didn’t have enough money. But as I was able to live in this house, it is my mother’s house and she does not charge me any rent, I was able to realize my dream and I started doing up the place and bought the tables and chairs.
Did you have any major obstacles in setting up your restaurant?
Not really, although it is pretty hard to open up a restaurant. I checked first that it would work out before I started the paperwork! It took three months to get the permits from the fire department, the health department, and of course hacienda and then employ an accountant … lots of visits, papers, and time.
You obviously love cooking
Yes ! I am a “natural chef”, I have loved cooking and learning as I go along. I make everything myself, I think up the recipes – I am making a new sauce for the tacos, my menu is constantly changing with new sauces and new flavours, and of course I have my blackboard daily specials. If I go to eat somewhere I taste their sauce and I can work out what are the ingredients. I think my fish tacos are my most popular dish.
How difficult is it to be in the catering business in such a seasonal town?
It is very hard to get money here in low season, there’s not many people here, and of course the rain just stops me completely as I am an outdoor place. And I still have all my bills to pay.
But now you have done this major renovation!
Yes, I knew it was necessary and so I saved very hard, it’s meant pulling down a couple of walls and then putting down tile, painting and making everything clean after all the construction dust! My mother gave her permission, and now I can have 5 or 6 tables inside out of the rain!
You intend to be open all summer?
I will be open 7 days a week, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and you can call me for take away orders! But I think I will take a small break and close for two weeks in September, give me a chance to relax before the season starts.
Your business occupies most of your time?
Yes! I don’t spend time on the computer reading, or following the online groups! I’d rather be cleaning my kitchen, making sure I have everything nice and fresh, making sure whatever is on the menu: I have it. Three times last season people asked for flan, I don’t really make it, but then I did, just a small batch so I didn’t have to throw anything away. I have my menus, my ideas, but I also listen to what my customers want, and I can make changes to suit them.
As always, word of mouth has played an important part in promoting your business – and also Trip Advisor
Yes it has been very good for me. At one point I was actually No. 1 ! Maybe a few more reviews will put me back there again! I get customers from as far away as Conchas Chinas and Pta Mita, and also from the Grand Mayan, my original starting point, so that makes me smile !
Do you have children?
I have three boys who are all in Tijuana with my ex wife. She didn’t like the weather here and she was scared of the bugs, and also she has family in Tijuana. I don’t see my boys but I support them, I send the money. I miss them so much. They are 14 year old twins and a 16 year old. They go to school and have very good grades, I am very proud of them – their mother is doing a very good job with them.
You are now married to Alejandra
Alejandra was my girlfriend a long time ago but we both got married to other partners. When I returned to Guadalajara I saw Alejandra again – it was meant to be! She had two children, they are now 17 and 18 and they live in Juarez. Well one day I said: “Hey – you want to marry me?” And so now we are together again. I am teaching her English.
Do you have any brothers or sisters, and have they visited you here?
I have a sister, Sylvia, and a brother, Felipe, like my mother they both live in Guadalajara. They have come here and they both liked it very much.
Do you have any pets?
No. I used to have a little bird in a cage, Barney, he belonged to my neighbor, but now he has died.
You said you are battling with your weight…
As a chef of course I am always tasting my food to make sure it is correct. Every month Bahia President Jose Gomez Perez invites people to go out cycling – about a thousand people go along! But I need to do more than just that to keep my stomach down ! It’s just making the time…
I just don’t have the time with all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, so my only hobby is the cycling.
Of all your many clients, one remains in your memory
A man had been at that table there smoking and he asked me how much I had paid for the table, so I said I got it from Sam’s Club for 550 pesos. He took that amount of money out of his pocket and said he was very sorry, he’d burnt a hole in my table! I said don’t worry … look at this burn, it is really small ! … but he insisted on giving me the money anyway. He was very nice!
Well I love my restaurant but I’d have liked to have kept my fish market. And I’d like to see my boys… I haven’t seen them in 8 years. When I get enough money together I will bring them down – they can help !
Armando, you are obviously not afraid of hard work ! Thank you for your time and we wish you continued success!
Armando’s Place Restaurant is on Fco Madero, #34, between streets Morelos and Galeana. Cell phone: 322 728 9515