.Watsonville’s El Alteño: Family Style, 20 Years

Un favorito del barrio

Almost 20 years ago, and two days before Noe Ortiz was born, his grandparents Maria and Ventura opened El Alteño restaurant in downtown Watsonville. Noe started working there three years ago and says he really loves being a server, meeting a lot of people and having new experiences every night. He defines the atmosphere as colorful and cozy, soft lighting cast against bright colors, completed by a spacious and verdant patio.

The menu is authentic Mexican, best begun with appetizers like the chicken and cheese flautas with mango papaya sauce and the spicy aguachile. Entrée favorites include the molcajete with mixed proteins and bell peppers, and the filete empanizado, a deep-fried breaded filet of white fish topped with mango pico de gallo. Shrimp lovers can enjoy the bacon-wrapped prawns and the spicy camarones a la diabla.

Both their corn and flour tortillas are homemade from scratch, and the dessert is a locally sourced classic flan. Popular, delicious frozen margaritas and homemade aguas frescas highlight the beverage offerings. Dark on Mondays, hours are 11am-8pm (Sundays from 9am). 

What makes El Alteño a local favorite?

NOE ORTIZ: We get nothing but compliments on the food, beverages and service. People rave about our cuisine and often say they plan to return soon. Guests really love our homemade tortillas, which they say are the best they’ve ever had and really set us apart. And our carnitas are also a great family recipe, authentic to Michoacan, the region of Mexico where my family is from. It is a weekend special, and I see many guests come back just for it. We have many regulars that I’ve gotten to know personally.

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Tell me about the parties you host.

NO: They range from birthday parties to large weddings, celebrations of life, anniversaries, quinceañeras and everything in between. Our outdoor patio makes for a great venue because it’s very private, they can hang their own decorations, play their own music and really customize the space to their liking. And we offer diverse dishes and an extensive menu to meet the guests’ needs. I love serving these big parties.

323 Main Street, Watsonville, 831-768-9876; elaltenomexicanfood.com


  1. El Alteno is a very good restaurant in Watsonville, it is a favorite of mine. Food is very authentic and delicious. The staff always so friendly and helpful. I highly recommend this restaurant.

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