1. Travel

Crossing the Border into Nogales, Sonora, Mexico - Part II

Shopping - Fine Sonoran Dining - Color and Culture


La Roca Restaurant

La Roca Restaurant - Nogales, Mexico

Copyright: Elizabeth R. Rose

Remembering that we were in Mexico, I looked at a piece of pottery, decided how much I felt it was worth and then inquired about the price. Of course the first price I was offered was way high. The brightly painted dish was not worth $30! When I said that was a bit much, the shop owner reduced the price to $20. I countered with $10 (which was what I thought it was worth) and he said, in perfect English, “Let’s split the difference,” meaning he would reduce the price to $15. It wasn’t very crowded that day and I held firm to my original $10. He ended up selling me the plate for $10. In reality the $15.00 price was about right. Expect to pay half of what you are originally quoted. The shop owners expect to bargain with you. In one shop, the items were priced, but the shopkeeper quickly said, “That price is for my enemies.”

My friend showed me several shops where prices were marked. There are a few. We headed into a small liquor store, Pepe's House on Ave. Obregon, where she wanted to show me some good prices on liquors. The owner was very friendly and showed is a great selection of Tequilas and advised us on how to choose a good Tequila. He also said that tasting is no longer allowed in the stores. The prices there seemed very reasonable.

Day of the Dead in April?

Next we headed down the street. I was drawn to a shop that had very high quality decorator items in the window. Indeed, they had fantastic pottery and beautiful tin mirrors. Along one wall they had the best collection of pottery Day of the Dead figures I had ever seen. In fact, it wasn’t anywhere near November and Day of the Dead folk items were everywhere!

Shopping Strategies

  • Shop before you buy. Not only will you get the best selection, you will have more bargaining leverage if you know prices from other shops.
  • Bring cash. Some shops, especially liquor stores, will accept checks but most are reluctant to accept credit cards. They may charge you a fee, if they do.
  • Ask others where the best shops are. Word of mouth recommendations are very helpful.
  • If you can, shop off-season (Summer). You may get better prices.
  • Know the U.S. Customs regulations.
Should You Eat in Nogales?

You know, I had the same question. But the answer is a definite “yes!” Again, there are restaurants that are known for serving quality food and who have a large American following. Get recommendations from those in the know. Everyone we spoke with recommended “La Roca,” the restaurant built into the rock cliff just across the border. La Roca has an interesting history and has been passed down through the Alicia Bon Martin’s family since 1972.

We were invited to dine with Alicia and her husband. After touring the beautifully decorated restaurant, we sat in a corner booth and chatted. We learned that Alicia had ordered appetizers for us and we enjoyed Margaritas (here's a Free Margarita Coupon for you) and non-alcoholic fruit drinks. I especially liked the shrimp quesadilla. The shrimp was very fresh and the salsa fresca was a perfect accompaniment.

As the evening progressed, we were introduced to several of the restaurant’s specialties which were all excellent. We enjoyed hearing about the surprise anniversary party that Alicia held for her parents at La Roca and could easily envision her parent’s surprise when they entered the restaurant by a back door, found it dark and once the light switch was thrown, found themselves in a beautifully decorated party with music, family and friends.

The restaurant is a love of Alicia’s and her family but they are known as owners of a large produce business which has been run by her family for three generations. The distribution of their produce stretches throughout the United States. We found out some interesting things about Nogales. Evidently over 80% of the produce coming into the U.S. passes through Nogales, a busy Port of Entry.

Having enjoyed the evening immensely, we said our farewells, walked down the street, across the railroad tracks and back to the well-lighted border crossing.

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