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.