Flavorful Taqueria Opens on Riverside Drive

The family-run business opened in mid-October.

For years, friends have been telling Ruiz family members they should open a restaurant.

Their menudo has always been top-notch, and family patriarch Cesar Ruiz makes a chile toreado—a hot sauce—that beats any store bought brand.

So two weeks ago, the family opened Taqueria Mi Casita on Riverside Drive between Union and Main streets.

"We saw the opportunity and decided to take it," said daughter Olaya Ruiz. "It's always been a dream for my parents."

It's a labor of love for the Ruiz family. They saved up to open the business and are optimistic their food will find a following in Watsonville, even though there are two other taquerias on their block alone.

"We trust our flavors," Olaya said. "We know we have authentic food."

The family is trying to find its niche in the Watsonville restaurant landscape. They're planning a fixed-rate lunch service targeting field workers and truck drivers, and a meal program for residents in the apartments nearby.

A student lunch special appeals to teens at Watsonville High, which is just blocks away. For $5 or less—and with a student ID—kids can get a burrito, carne asada, quesadilla or two tacos and a drink.

And the modest restaurant already has a loyal, if small, group of patrons inherited from the earlier establishment that occupied the building. They love the new menu.

"Everything is authentic Mexico," said Olaya, who works at the taqueria with her mother, also named Olaya, and sister Karen, while her dad babysits his grandchildren.

She recommends her dad's sauce, a spicy blend they someday hope to bottle and sell.

"My dad says it's love at first bite," Olaya said.

Taqueria Mi Casita, at 51 E. Riverside Dr., will have a grand opening celebration on Nov. 10. It's open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends. The hours will lengthen in the spring.

Born & Raised November 01, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Really? ANOTHER taqueria? Yeah, I'm excited!
Jack Kramer November 01, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Come on now Born. Any time a new business comes in — and anytime a family follows its dreams — is a cause for optimism. In case you hadn't noticed, there a handful of Mexican people in the community. Opening a taqueria makes sense.
Myrna Sherman November 01, 2012 at 06:44 PM
I know we have way too many Taquerias, but it takes allot of energy to follow your dreams. It also let's us try more wonderful home made food. I'm for that. Until other ethnic foods are profitable here, this is what we get in Watsonville. Until we change the face if the down town to chic shops (ala Los Gatos....in our dreams), then we must support these family restaurants who are trying to supply the farm families in this community, with affordable meals. it might be nice if they served healthy mexican food though. Just putting my thoughts out there.
Olaya Ruiz Hernandez November 01, 2012 at 07:07 PM
@ Myrna we try to keep it as healthy as we can gives us suggestions were happy to make things happen
Watzon McWats November 01, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I kinda face palmed when I read the headline that another taqueria is opening in town, but of course, I will have no choice but to stop by and try it. The notion that this town can't support a greater diversity of restaurants due to our demographics makes me laugh a little though, as if people are too narrow to eat food from ethnicitys other than their own.
Jennifer Squires November 01, 2012 at 07:48 PM
We should also remember that there is diversity within Mexican/Latin American cuisine. What you'd get at this restaurant versus a the seafood-focused Mexican restaurant up the street, Nacho Mamas across the way or El Alteño a few blocks the other direction is all different. Try it before you knock it.
Watzon McWats November 01, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Most definitely! I intend to try it, and I bet I'll love it! Still wouldn't mind another Pho joint, some Korean BBQ, a legit Italian ristorante, or (in my dreams) a nice German place.
Andrew Bokariza November 01, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Like you Jennifer I live in Santa Cruz and enjoy a wide variety of foods offered by local restaurants. I travel to the San Jose area every week and there I find a vast array of foods from all over the world, good eats! However when I come to Watsonville on business twice a week or so I find I have a choice of fast food or the taco joints. Yes, they may all be a little different but they are limited in their pallet and quality. So where are the other food in Watsonville? Korean, Tia, Viet Pho, indian.... not to be found! This is especially for lunch. It would be nice to see some diversity in this town.
Jack Kramer November 01, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Also remember that nearly all the taquerias are family-owned, which is refreshing in an era when most things are run by giant, soulless corporations. The small businesses can choose their own recipes based on family tradition. If you have a problem at Taqueria Mi Casita, you can talk to the owner. By contrast, food at corporate-owned restaurants are developed in a lab, and if you have a problem you might get through to a call center in India. We should celebrate our independent establishments.
Cathy P. November 01, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Technically, this taqueria isn't "new," it's just replacing one no longer there. It already has a local following and plans to cater to a certain customer base as well as students. At least the store front is no longer empty! I wish them much success. I'm with many in town who would like to see a lot more ethnic food choices. We do have the best Vietnamese place, a great Tai place, the best in the Universe Japanese place, and so on. I've always thought that Watsonville is indeed diverse, but there actually is very little diversity, no matter how anyone tries to paint the truth. And that's my opinion.
Samantha Heredia November 02, 2012 at 12:08 AM
I guess another taqueria is better than another fast food joint. We don't need anymore of those. I wish the family well on their new venture. I'm so tired of hearing about the demographics in Watsonville. Why pigeon hole us? We mist definitely need more diversity. It would be nice to have a decent bookstore, an natural food store, some decent clothing stores. Lots of folks leave town to go shopping and visit specialty shops that they can't find in town. We do have a Bangkok West in town. I'm bummed Green Valley Grill didn't make it. That was our only "fancy" restaurant.
John November 02, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Watsonville has all of the potential in the world to even surpass Los Gatos. Close to beach, beautiful buildings down town, great residential architecture surrounding much of downtown, generally moderate weather - wow, what more raw material could you ask for. It would take time, but also leadership. And more leadership. I live just outside of Gilroy and would love to have your downtown with its potential. Watsonville could really shine.
Cathy P. November 02, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Pretty sad Samantha, I agree. I think it all boils down to a lack of (city) leadership. The old saying "you can't fight City Hall" rings true around here. If you aren't part of the status quo, you have no voice (no one listens anyway) imo.
angielica woods November 02, 2012 at 01:33 AM
I knew the restaurant that was there before, I went in today to try out the food and let me be the first to say it was AMAZING service was great, and the food was in no way like the previous restaurant. Im glad its here now and I will be sure to go again. If you guys feel so strong as to having different food in watsonville set up shop or write a blog but dont take the focus of a New Restaurant just to complain about diversity I say new restaurant because it is new owners, new flavor, new people its like when you go to a store for the first time you can no longer get the first time buyer discount because there already was a customer before you. I tryed Mi Casita today and im sold! Keep up the good work
Watzon McWats November 02, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Just for reference, Bangkok West recently opened a location next to Target, and there's a new Pho place next to OSH, Tran Noodle (which I haven't tried yet). Still though, it would be nice to have more than one choice for Tai and Viet.
Watzon McWats November 02, 2012 at 07:57 PM
I DEFINITELY agree with you there. I'm not all that excited to hear that Olive Garden and Fresh Choice have their eye on Watsonville. I want diversity in food choices, but not by those means. Mom and pop all the way!
Watzon McWats November 02, 2012 at 08:08 PM
I wonder how well an Ethiopian joint would do in Watsonville. It's essentially another countries take on the taco. Typically a variety of spicy meat and vegitable stew-like dishes are eaten with injera (tortilla). Good stuff. Great way to eat with the family or close friends.


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