El Rancho Viejo opens in Niles

Published 3:28 pm Wednesday, March 9, 2022

NILES — Owners of a new local restaurant are excited to offer customers a fresh, authentic dine-in experience.

Mexican restaurant chain El Rancho Viejo, 1109 S. 11th St., opened its doors for the first time Wednesday afternoon. Fernando Hernandez, along with business partners and family members Ismael Lopez and Jose Guillermo-Leon, opened the first El Rancho Viejo in March 2021 in Goshen, Indiana and a Mishawaka location in August 2021. The Niles location is El Rancho Viejo’s third.

“People kept telling us. ‘why don’t you guys open in Niles?’ And it got us thinking,” Hernandez said. “There’s not really a big dine-in Mexican experience inNiles.”

The restaurant is currently conducting a “soft” opening over the next few days in order to make sure its systems are in order and its cooks up to speed. Traditional restaurant hours will be 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Hernandez said he and his family became good friends with Home Plate owner Earl Foster, who owns the building El Rancho Viejo now occupies. It was the former location of Foster’s second restaurant, Hob ‘Nob Bistro, which closed in 2020 due to lack of staffing.

According to Hernandez, the lease was signed last fall and the remodeling work took approximately four months to complete.

“The actual structure of the building was in very good condition,” he said. “We just changed the layout a little bit and added that traditional Mexican touch. It’s nice and colorful.”

The restaurant offers a unique dining space for customers, with the walls, tables and chairs decked out with painted murals and carvings depicting Mexican culture and history. It also features a 30-seat space that can be reserved for special events.

“Each table and chair has a different picture that has to do with Mexican history,” he said. “There are a lot of agricultural messages being told in these images.”

The menu features a variety of traditional Mexican options as well as select American foods and plans to serve alcoholic beverages in the future. Hernandez said a fan-favorite option is the Rancho Viejo Burrito — a grilled burrito wrapped in a cheese quesadilla and two chicken taquitos, surrounded by four wrapped 3-ounce ribeye.

Hernandez said the restaurant will be offering senior discounts as well as discounts for military, first responders and city officials.

“We want to help our community and provide for those who do so much for us,” he said.

“We hope to stay for a long time,” he said. “We always want to serve customers and treat them as well as possible. It’s exciting; we put a lot of sweat and tears of joy into this place and hopefully we’re here to stay.”