Cozumel has two new hotspots that quickly became favorites of this expat. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I may not be a foodie, and I’m certainly not a food critic, but I can say that I’ve been a customer of both, repeatedly, enjoyed their offerings tremendously, and now would like to share that info with you. So let’s go take a peek at a coffee bar called Bisbee’s and a home based restaurant known as Cha Cha’s Kitchen. If you haven’t tried them yet, well, here’s some info for you along with a personal recommendation. And, before I go any further, I never accept compensation and I only approach a business for writing purposes after a good experience. Adhering to these simple rules helps to keep me honest. So, with that said, let’s go!
Bisbee’s Coffee Bar opened just about 5 months ago. The location is great, they are on Avenida 11 just across from the Palacio Municipal park, which is how I discovered them in the first place, very convenient. Michaela, the proprietor, is a former dive shop owner on the island who wanted to try something a little different. That’s her in the picture on your right. And, although she’d lived in various places in the states, prior to relocating, that are known for their coffee shops, she managed to combine their offerings with a touch of the country she now calls home, and with incredibly reasonable prices. In fact, not only do her prices put any of the major chains in the U.S. and Canada to shame, but some local places could take note as well. And, in addition to her reasonable prices, she’s put together a great ambiance that is as welcoming as her coffee is delicious. Although cozy, it is also quite colorful, which helps to remind you that this is a coffee bar in the Caribbean complete with local artwork and tropical flowers.
Along with Michaela you will find either Nefty, or her sister, Jen, two locals who prepare some great breakfasts and early lunches. Yesterday I had a grilled Panini that consisted of scrambled eggs, melted cheese, along with tomato and avocado slices, and it was as good as it sounds. I rounded it off with a large cappuchino topped off with cinnamon sprinkles shaken over a mound of foam. A good start to my day, yes? Then, Nefty, although shy, finally agreed to let me take a picture. That’s her standing in front of the chalkboard menu with the great big smile (you can check out the prices too, but remember, those are in pesos). The woman on the right is Denise. She helps out behind the coffee bar and is just as nice as can be. They are pleasant folks to start the day with, which reminds me, they are open from 6:30 to 2:00, M-Sat. Good hours if you are looking for something to grab before you start your day, or need a pick me up along the way.
I sat and talked with Michaela yesterday and asked her why she’d decided to open a coffee shop. She told me that she’d thought about opening either a bar, or a coffee shop for a long time. She has a love for the island, in fact, she’s been here for 14 years now, so she knew she was going to stay. But, still she mulled it over for a while. Once her decision was made she looked around the island, and spent some time in Florida as well, just to get some ideas, see what was successful, or not, and why. Once the homework was done she just went for it. And that’s a good thing! Not much beats a good cup of coffee paired with a fresh Panini for this expat, especially when I don’t have to break the bank to get them.
Cha Cha’s Kitchen is another new place in town. In fact, they just opened up about 10 weeks ago. Owned by Kathy and her daughter, Kristina, it is, to put it simply, lush. Kristina, who is both an artist and a chef, combines her talents to prepare food not found anywhere else on this island. She keeps it simple by offering just one menu a week with an entrée, salad, soup, and dessert. But, there is nothing simple about the food. In fact, the elegance in both the preparation and the presentation reminded me of upper Manhattan, which, interestingly enough, is one of the places Kristina has traveled to in order to learn more about her passion. And here is where I want to mention that, although I love Mexican cuisine, it’s just nice to have something available that is so completely different.
Kathy and Kristina originally intended Cha Cha’s Kitchen to be a take out restaurant. But that didn’t last long. In the back of their house they have a lovely multi-level patio that includes an abundance of tropical plants, a lovely fountain, and many decorative pieces collected over the years. Once folks expressed interest in remaining there while eating, they got busy, again. At this point they can comfortably serve up to 16 people at a time, and can now offer special event dinners by reservation. However, if you are simply someone who is looking for a unique luncheon experience during their usual hours you can stop by their home, which is located on calle Francisco Mujica, entre Xel Ha y calle 17, from 12-4:00, M-Fri. You can also order home delivery through Room Service, another new business in town. In fact, they worked together so well, Cha Cha’s and Room Service, that their delivery charges are now free, although a tip would be nice for the delivery man.
Kathy, another long term expat, is certainly not idle while Kristina creates. Although she primarily handles the business end of things, she also helps cook, answer the phone, shops, waits tables, and is still currently working as a flight attendant. Meanwhile, Kristina is, apparently, constantly on the lookout for new and exciting dishes that will be some combination of healthy, delicious, and yet still slightly sinful. From what I gathered while we sat talking out in the back of their home on Friday, she (Kristina) has to combine her ideas with what’s available on the island, make sure she brings something special to the recipe, as well as try to keep up with demand. In other words, these ladies don’t get much rest. Oh, and the reason I bring that up is that they may be looking for someone to help out very soon, put the word out. To say their dream took off would be putting it mildly. Just while sitting there someone knocked on their door for six more pieces of that week’s cake. And, if you’ve taken a peek at some of the food pictures here (taken by Kristina, thank you) you will understand. I’d try to explain, but there are all kinds of foodie descriptions like “reduction” and “balsamic” that I’d have to include. I’m, admittedly, out of my league. Just trust me when I say, it’s truly delicious and, once again, at incredibly reasonable prices.
Finally, although camera shy, while talking with them both it was quite an insight into their relationship. At one point, Kathy, when I asked her about the whole idea, had tears of pride when talking about her daughter’s accomplishments. Kristina, when I asked her about her ambitions, just kept saying “it’s all about the food” and would turn and smile at her mom. It was clear to me, at that point, why their little endeavor of love is taking off so quickly.
Well, this was fun, especially the research part. If you are already on the island, or hope to visit soon, I heartily recommend you go ahead and check out Bisbee’s Coffee Bar and Cha Cha’s Kitchen. They are just two more examples of why it’s great to spend time on the island of Cozumel. Salud!