The mission of Yelp's Munch Madness – to find the single tastiest food item anywhere in Manhattan. The result? From a field of 16 different delicious foodstuffs – both famous and up and coming – Otto's Tacos pulled off quite the upset. Heavy hitters like the combo plate at The Halal Guys and the tres leches donut from Doughnut Plant were no match for Otto's delectable carnitas taco… so I caught up with Otto Cedeno to get his thoughts on the big win:
Ruggy: What did you do celebrate the Yelp's Munch Madness win? Russian/Turkish baths? Disney World?
Otto: Russian Disney Land obviously. No, truth be told, we actually won on my birthday so we celebrated (both) the only way we know how to in the East Village: Mezcal drinks over at Duck's Eatery.
R: What was the inspiration for bringing LA style Mexican street tacos to NYC?
O: It was really a perfect storm of many things. But I love NYC and I love the Mexican food I grew up with in Orange County. Just thought they should be friends really.
R: Did you have a mentor? Or were you just born with mad culinary chops and savvy business acumen?
O: I have been so blessed to have amazing mentors throughout my life. We could have a fireside chat just about that to be honest. This is my first business venture and it's been a lot of learn as I go. Luckily for me I have incredible partners, mentors and friends who keep me going and learning.
R: You have awesome reviews on Yelp – what does having a good reputation on the site mean to your business?
O: Firstly, we are so grateful to the Yelp community. They have been so kind with their words and very honest with their feedback. For a start up, I think it's imperative to have a dialogue with the community and the customers. It's the only way to improve. But their genuine appreciation of our food and space helps educate new customers as to what we are about.
R: Do you regularly engage with your customers via the free business owner tools on Yelp?
O: All the time. We like to send private messages to everyone to either thank them and ask for additional feedback if necessary. It's a great way to have a dialogue and get to know our customer base.
R: What was one of the biggest struggles opening Otto's?
O: Great question. I think the biggest struggle was finding our location. We spent about a year looking for the right spot in the right neighborhood. And at one point, we were getting a bit scared that we wouldn't find anything that fit our criteria. But alas, patience paid off since we were able to open our restaurant in the East Village which has been my home on and off for the last decade.
R: Any expansion plans in the future?
O: I think we'd love to see an Otto's in other neighborhoods. But for now, we are just focusing on making our second ave home the best it can be.
R: If you could be any flightless bird, which one would you be?
O: My best friend Angus and I think about this all the time weirdly enough… and we'd 100% be penguins.
R: Anything else you'd like to share with us?
O: We're looking forward to defending our title next year, but we give Yelp's Munch Madness 4 1/2 Stars. Minus 1/2 star for not having Craig Sager do the post win interview.
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