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by tony reverditto THREE GENERATIONS STRONG The Legacy of Avila’s El Ranchito Restaurants

nce upon a time in 1966, Salvador and Margarita Avila began a courageous journey with a modest $2,000 investment and a collection of Mama Avila’s recipes. Little did they know that the first Huntington Park location would spawn multiple locations over the decades and become one of Southern California’s most beloved Mexican restaurant chains. Today, they have 13

locations run by three generations of family, Avila’s El Ranchito, and will soon celebrate their 55th anniversary.

baja fish tacos

pink cadillac margarita The longevity of their family restaurants is at-

tributed to a pledge to serve fresh food always made from scratch and a decision to exclusively have Avila family members oversee each location. The recipes still being used today are the same ones that Mama Avila originally used in her kitchen to feed her family. My history with the Avila restaurant in Santa Ana

began in 1987, when I opened a live theatre called Way Off Broadway. Our production team and the actors frequented this spot, which was a mile or so away. We marveled at the fresh tortillas made in the Cantina area right before our very eyes, whether it was lunch, happy hour or dinner. Even our theatre patrons would drop in for dinner and drinks before heading to our latest production. Ironically, it would be decades later that I would cross paths with Patty Mitchell through another theatrical venue that we both worked for and would soon find out that she was also doing extraordinary PR for the Avila El Ranchito franchise. Patty Mitchell of @culinarypro- motions is one of the finest restaurant social media PR influencers in the Orange County culinary scene. Recently, I approached Patty and said that I wanted

to pay homage and give coverage to this wonder- fully unique culinary institution as they navigated back into the new normal of in-house dining. I knew in my heart that it had to be the Santa Ana location. Another coincidence is that I met the truly incredible general manager, Karen Edwards, all those years ago. We have remained friends because of her positive

26 | July 2020

energy and amazing leadership. Last year, I booked my 60th

birthday party there

and my mother’s Celebration of Life send-off. I am never disappointed on how my events are orches- trated and my guests have always been provided with a delicious and memorable experience. We recently met up with Patty Mitchell in Santa

Ana to enjoy some of the wonderful cocktails and entrées. The restaurant and patio are now open and set up for social distancing dining with all employees wearing masks. We were immediately greeted by veteran server Kathy Zamora, who has been a top-notch, loyal employee for 30 years. Our other guest, John, enjoyed aLos Olas

Chardonnay, while we had our sights set on their Specialty Margaritas. I savored thePatrón Chambord Margarita,the famous Skinny Margarita made withPatrón Silver topped with a splash of Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur. Patty had the Corralejo Pink Cadillac Margarita, Corralejo Silver Tequila, fresh lime juice, agave nectar and a splash of cranberry juice. Shaken with fresh lemons, limes and oranges prepared Cadillac style. We both agreed that they had the perfect flavor combinations and were so thirst quenching on the hot afternoon when we indulged in libations. The menu is so colorful and the options of authentic Mama Avila’s recipes are a wonder to behold. It was difficult to narrow down which items to sample. They have extensive options of traditional

fare of Mexican cuisine, but when it came down to it, we selected an array of flavorful dishes. First was the Grilled Chicken Salad, spicy grilled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and avocado. Absolutely delicious! The Jalisco, choice of one of the following: A soft or crispy shredded beef, ground beef or chicken taco, cheese enchilada, or chicken tamale. Karen said the combination that I ordered was the most popular on the menu, which was theCrisp Beef Taco and Enchilada. I understand why; it was absolutely delicious as usual. Another of my all-time favorites isCamarones

Diablo, succulent shrimp sautéed in a spicy toasted red chile, a side of guacamole, beans and rice. It was truly one of the best that I have had and the shrimp were huge, fluffy and tender, and the sauce was divine. John went for theMahi Mahi Soft Tacos, fresh grilled Mahi Mahi, lettuce, tomato and cheese in soft corn tortillas with guacamole, beans and rice. He loved every bite. Party trays to go are a fan favorite for any event

or special occasion. This restaurant offers several banquet rooms for your special event and are in the process of restructuring the layout to follow CDC guidelines. Full-service catering is also offered. And finally, remember that the Santa Ana is the only location to feature handmade tortillas from the Cantina’s Taco Bar! Social distancing dining room and patio now open. Reservations at 714.547.9129

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