50th Anniversary Celebration



The 13 Family-Owned Neighborhood Restaurants Continue to Serve Mama Avila’s Authentic Mexican Recipes

Made from Scratch Daily

With a modest $2,000 investment, a collection of Mama Avila’s recipes and a passion for creating something meaningful for their family, Salvador and Margarita Avila established a Southern California tradition by opening their first restaurant in Huntington Park, California. Three generations later, Avila’s El Ranchito is an icon in the region’s culinary landscape and celebrates its 50th anniversary as a beloved and successful collection of authentic Mexican restaurants in Orange County and Los Angeles.

The Avilas credit the longevity of their family restaurant to the love and unity of their family, Mama’s authentic recipes, their pledge to serving fresh food made from scratch and a decision to have a member of the Avila family oversee each restaurant.

“Mama brought with her recipes that have been in her family for generations,” explained the eldest daughter Maria Elena Avila, owner-operator of Avila’s El Ranchito in Costa Mesa, the third location opened in 1977. “These recipes are the same Mama used in her kitchen and are still being used in our restaurants for the past 50 years. It was Papa, though, who had the idea to involve the whole family and create a truly special restaurant.”

The first Avila’s El Ranchito opened in Huntington Park in 1966 with only five tables. Fifty years later, a menu featuring Mama Avila’s authentic Mexican cooking continues to be served at the original restaurant as well as 12 other family-owned locations throughout Orange County. It’s not only a family business, it’s a family-loved legacy. “Mama and Papa eventually shared the responsibility of running the restaurant with myself, my three brothers, sister – and now their grandchildren,” Maria Elena said. “Each restaurant is under the personal care of an Avila family member, guaranteeing the reputation our family has earned for treating guests like part of our family.”

Generations of Southern California Families Have Grown Up with Avila Family Mexican ‘Comfort Food’

Just as the history of Avila’s El Ranchito spans three generations of family members, its popularity also crosses three generations of devoted guests who have a deep connection to the food and the warmth of the Avila’s hospitality.

“It’s Mama’s recipes, working with only the freshest ingredients and passion for flavor that continue to connect with our guests,” Maria Elena said. “It’s this Mexican authenticity, prepared by hands who know the heart of each dish that will continue to carry our family legacy for new generations to experience.”

Each location has the same commitment to faithfully recreate Mama’s recipes in their scratch-cooking kitchens. This attention to detail ensures Mama’s recipes are always made to her standards, including several signature specialties. Mama Avila’s Soup, a guest favorite, is made with fresh made chicken broth, hand-pulled chunks of chicken breast and rice. Garnished with generous portions of avocado, tomato, cilantro and lime and served with warm tortillas; it’s Avila’s El Ranchito’s way of expressing the traditional artistry of real and hearty Mexican fare.

The Carnitas also has become a favorite menu item over the decades, thanks to the Avila family’s signature method of slow cooking chunks of lean pork marinated in garlic and citrus. Guests continue to find comfort in the most popular combination plate of a Crispy Taco with a Cheese Enchilada to the Camarones Al Mojo de Ajo that features jumbo shrimp sautéed in butter, garlic and a little secret ingredient no one in the family will reveal.

“Avila’s El Ranchito has been part of the fabric of Orange County for so many generations that it’s difficult to imagine a time when their food and family haven’t been a part of our communities,” said Gaddi Vasquez, a prominent Latino leader in the community. “We offer our sincere gratitude for their contributions and congratulations on achieving such a significant milestone.”

Avila Family Kicks Off Summer of Fiestas

The story of Avila’s El Ranchito began with the family 50 years ago, but the family recently gathered together with over 40 Avilas – spanning three generations – to celebrate another milestone, Mama and Papa Avila’s 70th wedding anniversary.

“Loyal customers are the heart of our business,” Maria Elena said. “Each one of our family-owned and –operated restaurants is inspired by the communities we serve.” No Avila family celebration would be complete without a fiesta to thank their guests, and they have planned a series of summer events to celebrate every community in which an Avila’s El Ranchito operates.

The summer series of fiestas begins June 10, 2016, at the Costa Mesa location (2101 Placentia Avenue) with the members of the Avila family celebrating with their loyal customers. Continuing every Thursday throughout the summer, the remainder of Avila’s El Ranchito locations will host a neighborhood celebration:

• June 16, 2016, Laguna Niguel (27941 La Paz Road, Suite E) – When this family-friendly spot opened its doors in 2006, it became the first restaurant owned solely by a third-generation Avila family member, Marcus.

• June 16, 2016, Laguna Beach (1305 S. Coast Highway) – Third-generation family member, Michael, opened this location in 2006 with the help of his wife Christine and their two children, Benson and Braden.

• June 23, 2016, Huntington Park (6703 Santa Fe Ave.) – The original Avila’s El Ranchito restaurant, entrusted to daughter Margarita, laid the foundation for the success of the restaurant collection, and generation-after-generation of locals embrace the beloved staff, most of who have been working alongside the Avila family for years.

• June 30, 2016, Foothill Ranch (26771 Portola Parkway) – Son Sal, his daughter Monica and son Jeremy opened the location earlier this year, ensuring the family legacy will continue with a third generation of Avilas.

•July 7, 2016, Lake Forest (24406 Muirlands Boulevard) – Sal opened this south Orange County location in 1998, and it reflects his eclectic surfing travels.

July 14, 2016, Huntington Beach (318 Main Street) – Son Sergio continued to embrace the Avila family’s love of surfing by opening this themed restaurant in 1999. Growing up, the Avila boys surfed in Huntington Beach after school, and this downtown Surf City restaurant is not far from their favorite surfing spots.

•July 21, 2016, Corona Del Mar (2515 East Coast Highway) – Sergio and his daughter Maribel established this location in 1996 in the heart of Corona Del Mar’s cozy village community.

•Aug. 4, 2016, Santa Ana (2201 E. First Street) – Son Victor established this location in 1983, which is known as a hot lunch spot among downtown residents and also cherished for its several cozy fireplaces.

•Aug. 11, 2016, Newport Beach (2800 Newport Boulevard) – Son Sergio introduced Orange County to Avila’s El Ranchito when he established this flagship restaurant on the Balboa Peninsula in 1975.

•Aug. 18, 2016, Seal Beach (209 Main Street) – Elyse, third-generation Avila family member, owns this location and can often be found on the floor talking with Seal Beach’s guests. She opened it in 2015.

•Aug. 25, 2016, Orange (182 South Orange Street) – A restaurant with the storied history of Avila’s El Ranchito deserves a location among one of Orange County’s most historic neighborhoods. Grandson Marcus opened this one in Old Towne Orange in 2011.

•Sept. 1, 2016, San Clemente (204 Avenida Del Mar) – The summer of fiestas wraps up here, where son Victor opened this location in 2003.