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The Avila family are local heroes. With 11 locations across Orange County, you can visit any one of their locations easily. Speaking with Maribel Avila, she told me about how each location caters to their respective areas. For example, their Newport Beach location has a surfer kind of feel, with most of their business being conducted on their comfortable and spacious patio. Inside should not be overlooked, with a large bar area and comfortable dining seating, the dÈcor on the ceilings and walls really speaks for the culture and positive energy the Avila family has.

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I started the night sitting at the bar,enjoying the live mariachi, having a Dos Equis Amber on tap (fancy!). It was a warm crowd, lots of smiling faces, lots of good vibes, all in celebration of this great family’s achievements for our community. To the right of the bar, there was a street taco/quesadilla stand set up. It had a homemade feel to it, watching the two chefs mead the dough and warm the torillas in front of you really enhanced that feel. There were two style of carnitas tacos, one with guacamole, one with salsa negra. The carnitas were buttery and rich, melded with the corn tortilla taste and feel created a perfect blend. The salsa negra was a deep amber color, it was not spicy or hot, I would consider it warm, very delectable. The guacamole was fresh, with a good texture, not too chunky, not too loose. Throughout the night I must have eaten at least a dozen tacos alone!

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I came back to my seat and ordered a house margarita. It was not sticky sweet (which is my pet peeve, good job guys!) and the salted rim finished off the Mexican feel. I felt like I was sitting near a beach south of the border, it really completed the gastronomic experience. I bit into one of the quesadillas, it was crisp, not too much cheese, not too little. It was freshly grated and expertly cooked right before my eyes. It had a home cooked feel, not a factory or fast food feel. The heart placed behind the food makes all the difference. If the chef is happy, the food is good, and these chefs must have been elated!

The festivities began with the Mayor granting the Avila family with a certificate of achievement for 40 years in the same location. What a great tenure! This was followed by a couple speeches by the family, and finally a prayer by the family’s Catholic Priest. As a food blogger, I am not going to go into the literate tar pit that is a religious discussion, but it is very nice to see a family embrace and celebrate their culture.

I always love family stories. The energy and love a close knit family brings to the table is immensely positive. It transcends beyond just a drink or a plate of tacos, it really influences your experience. The entire family was very approachable, very friendly. They obviously love what they do (and I love what they do too!)

After all the festivities, I came back to my margarita, snacked on a few nachos,and really absorbed the vibe. The nachos were amazing,white and red, with a great salsa. I looked around and observed the dÈcor at this point. With two foot plants on both sides of the bar, colorful banners on the ceiling, and pictures of the family and slogans running on the TVs above the bar, I could definitely come back to watch a game at the bar, or enjoy a warm meal with my family.

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Congrats El Ranchito, for 40 years in Newport Beach. Next year will be their 50th (WOW!) year in Huntington Beach. Any location with that kind of duration (let alone almost a dozen!) is a definite must try.

The night ended as it began, with a beer an the mariachi playing the night away.

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