The Norman Transcript


June 9, 2008

Plato caliente

Transcript Staff Writer

Opening a Mexican restaurant in Norman -- or anywhere for that matter -- is a risky proposition at best. The city has embraced some, but just as many have seen their doors closed because of lack of business.

Failure rates for restaurants, depending on which "expert" you consult, can range from 40 percent to nearly 95. Customers can be fickle -- forget to fill their Coke up or bring them a straw one time and you may never see them again.

And the list goes on.

Nobody knows this better than the owners of Mamaveca -- open since December 2007 -- who report their business is slowly gaining steam despite a questionable location and the recent opening of well-known local franchise Ted's Caf? Escondido just across Interstate 35.

William Chunga, a Peruvian who's been grinding away in Oklahoma City's Mexican food restaurant industry for the past 20 years, owns Mamaveca along with his wife. Juan Castro, also Peruvian and a longtime restaurateur in the Oklahoma City area, is a minority owner of the eatery.

"We've put together a recipe that nobody around here has come up with yet," Chunga said. "We have a quality of food that Norman hasn't seen yet."

Chunga and Castro said all tamales, tortillas and salsa are homemade daily, something not all Mexican restaurants do every day.

"People love our salsa because it's not too spicy, but very tasty. It's fresh. Everybody can eat it," Chunga said.

"And if the customer wants spicy, we have a green sauce to take care of them."

Mamaveca has the usual fare: Tacos de la casa, chile verde, fajitas, chips and salsa, etc. But it's the changes coming to the restaurant the owners are hoping will continue the business's growth.

Castro said one of the restaurant's long-term goals is to make Mamaveca into a "house of margaritas, not just a place for good food." The owners said they're in the process of securing a liquor license.

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