WORDS Justin Fields / Emily Penn | Photography Tim Sugden
Nuestra Mesa means “our table” and it’s obvious that owners Todd and Tania Moravitz strive to bring that sentiment to their restaurant in downtown Camas. After meeting in Mexico, Todd and Tania worked at restaurants throughout the Pacific Northwest before they finally settled in Camas and opened their own restaurant in 2010.
Nuestra Mesa lives up to its name with a dark, warm interior that encourages diners to linger over great food and good conversation. Their menu offers salads, an extensive selection of tacos, their signature Tinga Nachos, and other large plates crafted with local and sustainable ingredients. The tradition and care put into each dish sets Nuestra Mesa apart. Locals love this spot for the delicious food, inviting atmosphere and top-notch margaritas.
Todd, tell me about your first travels in Mexico. What drew you in and captivated your attention? Mexico has been a passion in our family long before I was born. Beginning with my grandparents love of both coastal and interior Mexico, my parent’s honeymooning in Mexico City in 1965 and my own surfing trips, I always knew I was destined to become a part of this culture. In 1994 an opportunity presented itself to move to Sayulita and open a restaurant with a childhood friend. Being able to enjoy two of my biggest passions, surfing and food, was a perfect match.
What is Sayulita like when you compare it to say, Puerta Vallarta, or Cabo San Lucas? Having lived in Sayulita, a quaint fishing village, for nearly 7 years, I got to know the real culture. Places like Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas are beautiful, but they are busy and very touristy. Sayulita was special because there were only a handful of us North-Americans.
What kinds of culinary wonders did you discover there? While I lived there, I had the opportunity to visit places like San Miguel Allende, Guanajuato, Oaxaca, Mexico City, and immersed myself in the daily culinary celebration: Chiles en Nogada, true enchiladas, mole, tacos al pastor and tinga.
Tell me more about your wife Tania. How did you two meet? One day, getting out of the water, I saw the most beautiful woman my eyes had ever seen, and it has been the best journey. Tania and I married 20 years ago in Sayulita, where her parents live. Her father left Germany at the young age of 21. Found his way to Canada and ultimately Mexico where he met Tania’s mother. Tania was born and raised in Mexico City. She attended the German School in Mexico City and speaks three languages fluently.
How did having your first child influence your life and career choices? When our first child Luke was born, it put a fire in my belly that I wasn’t aware of up until that point.
What restaurants did you work at in Seattle and Portland? What was your most formative or valuable takeaway from those experiences? After moving to the US, I first worked at Southpark in Portland, catering companies such as Food in Bloom and Art of Catering, and then Blue Water Bistro on Lake Union in Seattle. One of the owners of Blue Water Bistro put me through a “boot camp” that I will never forget.
What inspires you about food? What ingredients are most important to you? When it comes to food, I love the sense of community that it brings. At Nuestra Mesa, local and sustainable ingredients, accompanied by authentic Mexican items have proved to be a key factor in our lives.
What menu item are you most proud of? What’s most popular? We are proud of ALL our menu items because we feel like they each represent Mexico in its true glory. The most popular are our Tinga and Chile Relleno. Our Chef, Johnathan Curial, has done a great job and puts his heart into everything he does.
Do you have any advice for young aspiring restaurateurs who may be unsure about whether they can reach their dreams? If there is one bit of advice I give to young aspiring restaurateurs, it’s that if you look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you are happily willing to do all that is required to do, and not just holding a glass of wine in your hand and saying hello to customers, then you have a chance.
Nuestra mesa means “our table.” What was the process that led to your decision to name your dream? What does it mean to you? Nuestra Mesa, Our Table, started as a dream in our home kitchen, on our family table. As a child growing up, I was raised in a house that really cherished the art of cooking. My father was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and lived a very modest life with little exposure. He knew that there was a lot to discover in the world and made a conscious point to learn it. He became a very successful money manager and took a liking to the culinary world. As a child and still to this day my father has prepared various things in the kitchen that absolutely can be called treasures. Night after night growing up our family was treated to nothing ordinary.
Your father sounds like a great guy. What other ways did he impact your becoming a restaurateur? My father is responsible for igniting the passion I have for food today. His back story is so inspiring and tells the tale that simply because you come from a family that may not pursue the “arts” does not mean that you cannot. He has been an inspiration, a mentor and a hero. I don’t know if he even truly knows this. That’s where my love of food and serving the community comes from.
Tell me about the interior design of Nuestra Mesa. What kind of feelings do you want your guests to experience? What mood do you strive to evoke? The interior design was inspired by our desire to create a warm, inviting ambiance. My wife Tania did an amazing job designing the space and making it a welcoming place.
There’s something special about Camas. What is it?
We feel incredibly blessed to be in a community like Camas. There is a strong, true sense of community and the city has been incredibly supportive of our restaurant.