In the heart of the Bishop Arts district lies one of DFW’s longest standing Mexican food restaurants. El Ranchito has been in business for nearly 35 years, and owner Laura Sanchez is still expanding upon her empire.
In September, Sanchez opened El Ranchito’s South Cooper location in Arlington. Opening the restaurant was a process that took nearly seven years.
“The original building owners originally wanted to lease the place,” Sanchez said. “I wanted to own it, so I had to wait until the owners were ready to sell the space. When we heard the building was finally for sale, we bought it, and then it took two and a half years to actually build the restaurant.”
When deciding on a location to open the restaurant, Sanchez made sure to strategically pick a Hispanic-populous area.
“We are feeling very optimistic about the new location,” Sanchez said. “It’s a larger restaurant attracting the Hispanic communities of South Arlington, Mansfield, Grand Prairie and Fort Worth.”
In terms of measuring up to the success of the original Oak Cliff location, Sanchez is looking forward to seeing the new Arlington location thrive.
“It’s doing very well so far,” Sanchez said of the new location. “The Oak Cliff location has been in business for 35 years, so the new store is gonna take some time to meet the original’s success, but as for now, we are very confident about it.”
El Ranchito’s menu consists of North Mexican cuisine. Sanchez emphasizes that much like the food in the U.S., Mexican food specialties differ by region.
“Northern Mexico is very meat, beef, and pork oriented in terms of food,” Sanchez said. “We have a lot of tripas and other dishes that aren’t as popular in the south or southwest regions of Mexico. Northern Mexico offers a lot of cabrito, asado, machado; all those dishes they don’t have in the other places.”
With its new location having opened up, El Ranchito will also be dividing its traditions and events among the stores.
“Every year, we celebrate the birth of Elvis Presley and we commemorate his death,” Sanchez said. “The event takes place across four Wednesdays in January and four Wednesdays in August. However, my brother and I have decided that the Elvis events will take place two Wednesdays in Oak Cliff and two Wednesdays in Arlington during the two months.”
The Elvis Presley celebrations consist of look-alike contests.
“The people who come to compete just make it a culture,” Sanchez said. “They just always go all out. People are already calling to reserve their spots.”
When she’s not holding down the fort at her two El Ranchito locations, Sanchez is either helping organize events in her Jefferson Tower event center, or handling matters at La Calle Doce, her Mexican seafood restaurant.
“At La Calle Doce, we serve a lot of Monterey-inspired seafood dishes,” Sanchez said. “Some of our specialty dishes include our tilapia, which is served on top of our signature paella. We also serve a really good ceviche, and our shrimp cocktail is loved by Oak Cliff’s Hispanic community.”
Part of what makes Sanchez’s dishes so authentic is the fact that many of her employees are members of both her immediate and extended family.
“It’s wonderful working with family,” Sanchez said. “Most of them have been working for me since they were legally able to work. It helps that they really love the restaurant and put a lot of care into creating quality dishes and providing good service.”
El Ranchito is currently open in Oak Cliff and in Arlington. Also, be sure to try some delicious Mexican seafood at La Calle Doce in the Bishop Arts District.