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s Honorio Zaragoza practiced the art of cooking Mexican cuisine while managing an El Rodeo Mexican Restaurant in Roanoke for 18 years, he became occupied with entrepreneurial inspiration. “At most Mexican places around here, everyone has the same menu and nothing has changed since 20 or 30 years ago. I grew up around Mexican cooking and [those restaurants] are not serving the real food you would find in Mexico,” he said. What Zaragoza decided was missing was authenticity. Two years ago, he decided to do something about it. “While I was working in Roanoke, I wanted to open up a small Mexican restaurant where the cooking was more authentic. I couldn’t do it there very easily, so I decided to come out to Smith Mountain Lake to do it,” he said. In 2008, a regular customer at the restaurant Zaragoza managed at the time suggested putting a few miles between his new establishment and the 62 January • February 2012 | SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKER



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popular spots in Roanoke. One of the owners of Westlake Plaza, Charlie Tooley, a fan of Zaragoza’s service at El Rodeo, was planning a major renovation of the 22-year-old shopping center. He told Zaragoza it was the perfect time to create a new Mexican place in the heart of the Westlake community. “He came to me about putting a restaurant here,” said Zaragoza. “He told me he would have to fix the place up, but that was okay with me because then I could fix it up the way I wanted it to be. The renovation took about a year.” Though the building was undergoing remodeling, Cancun Mexican Restaurant & Grill began serving the public almost immediately. Only recently did the eatery receive its final touches. “We stayed open during the renovation but sometimes people would have to sit here through hammering and construction going on. Thank God we have great customers; they were understanding,” said Zaragoza. The owner/chef, along with his wife, brother and other family members, serve their customers with the

Smith Mountain Laker JanFeb2012  

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