There are three Otto’s in New York City. Otto’s Tacos locations, that is. And there’s one Otto Cedeno (that we know of, anyway), and we happened to meet him after his East Village location opened.
Truth be told: we met his Masa Fries first, which left a good first impression and us wanting to order them beyond business hours (ahem, let’s make that happen, Otto).
The Orange County native grew up eating a lot of Hispanic food, but his favorite – dishes at Casa Sanchez in Long Beach, Calif. – inspired him to open a restaurant. (Thank you Casa Sanchez!)
When the founder isn’t plotting awesome partnerships with The American Cancer Society (pink tacos) and Black Tap (churro milkshakes), you can find him at the Bowery Hotel sipping Moscow Mules…. or walking his adorable pup.
Drinking With Otto Cedeno from Otto’s Tacos
Favorite NYC place to hang out for a drink?
Tough. That’s like asking to pick which parent do you like best – it’s pretty impossible. Mom, it’s definitely mom. But, I will have to say The Bowery Hotel. Put a Moscow Mule in my hand, and plop me on a couch, and I’m a happy camper.
Go-to drink order?
Really depends on the day. If it’s a Sunday: Bloody Mary, extra spicy. Any other day, it will rotate between Moscow Mules, mezcal neat, or an ice cold IPA.
Best beverage to pair with tacos?
All time favorite drink with a taco is a Michelada with a Tajín rim. Close runner up is a spiked Horchata.
What beverage should never be consumed with tacos?
You know that’s the thing: tacos welcome everyone. It’s supposed to be an easy/ fun dish, so eat it with whatever your heart desires! But maybe not, like, champagne?
First job in the industry?
The first day I worked in a restaurant was the day I opened Otto’s Tacos. It was as “figure it out on the fly” as it gets. If it wasn’t for our partner / Exec Chef Joe LoNigro, I would have most likely overcooked and under salted everything. His execution of our vision is really the backbone of our product. Before Otto’s Tacos, I was the Director of Operations and Production for Livestream.com, which believe it or not, gave me a ton of skills to navigate the restaurant industry… maybe not the cooking part.
First time getting drunk?
The first time I got drunk, I was with my best friend from childhood, Adam. On one warm Southern California evening, while his parents were away, we decided to try beer for the first time. And then Vodka for the first time. And then Goldshlager. Don’t judge, we didn’t know any better. But it’s not so much the story of the first time drinking, it’s more so the story of our first hangover. And let’s just say, I’m still hurting from it.
Who are your favorite people to drink with?
Favorite person to drink with is James Rapoport. He’s a savage. Ask anyone.
If you could share a drink with anyone – dead or alive – who would it be?
I would love to buy Elon Musk a drink and ask him all the questions.
Coffee or tea?
I’m more of a green tea guy, my favorite being from the fine folks at City of Saints, on 10th Street [in NYC]. Perfect pairing with a lovely fall day, if I do say so myself.
What’s your hangover remedy?
My hangover remedy used to be about a sink’s worth of Dr. Pepper. But then I kicked soda, because you know, it’s bad for you. So these days, I need some sort of fried food and Vitamin Water ZERO.
Do you have a guilty “drink” pleasure?
Does a piña colada count as a guilty pleasure? I’ve been known to enjoy those from time to time.
Best eats when you are drinking or – dare we say – drunk?
Favorite drinking food. Damn. That’s a tough one to narrow down. I usually find myself drawn to chicken fingers. But I eat that all the time sober. Maybe I have a chicken finger problem.
Where is your fave spot for a super chill night out or date night recommendation?
I’m a sucker for Duck’s Eatery in the East Village. When it comes to a chill spot with great eats, incredible drinks and the best service in NYC, in my humble opinion. That team puts the love in what they do, and anyone I’ve ever taken there has always left giving two thumbs up.
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
I always say that I’m most proud of just getting the opportunities. Getting this far takes a lot of hard work and a lot important people to tell you “yes.” I’m always very thankful, proud and humbled by all the little moments when someone gave me a chance to work on a project, idea or whatever that I was passionate about.
Do you have mentors or someone you look up to in the industry? Who can we thank (besides yourself) for your delicious work?
My partner / Chef Joe has been one of my biggest mentors. Also, my staff. I learned so much in the beginning and still do to this day for our GMs, line cooks, etc. We have some amazing hardworking talent that inspires me quite often. Additionally, I’m also always inspired by Chef Will Horowitz of Duck’s Eatery and Harry and Ida’s. I always feel like he’s just gotta go next level with his ideas, and they are always equal parts mind blowing and awesome.
What are some interesting things that people may not know about you?
I wouldn’t use the word “interesting” – more so “dorky”. Truth be told, I’m a pretty big dork. I’m really into space and the idea of going to Mars lately. I read a ton of books on my spare time ranging from fiction to books on physics – yea, totally dweeb right? This past January, I also made my New Year’s Resolution to learn one new magic trick or fact about magic a day. Totally fell through like most resolutions, but I had a damn good streak going for a few months.
Straight update & shameless plug time: what are you working on these days? Let’s hear it!
These days, we’re just trying to have as much fun with Otto’s Tacos as we can. We’re working with some great restaurant partners coming up with some fun special tacos. We had an amazing partnership with the American Cancer Society for the month of October. We made pink tortillas for a $1 donation with all the proceeds going to their Making Strides Against Cancer walk. We love getting a little weird and have some fun ones planned out for you guys this fall / winter, so stay tuned to our instagram @ottostacos.
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