Restaurant expanding its horizons


For 13 years, Rancho Viejo on the Madisonville Square has been serving up Mexican cuisine.

Owner Juan Villagrana recently added a sports bar to the venue, which sits on the corner of Texas 21 and is visible to travelers passing through town. In fact, that’s how Villagrana found the site.

“I was driving to Waco and passed through,” he said. “I saw the ‘for lease’ sign. I liked the area. I think it’s the best location in town.”

Villagrana started out washing dishes at a restaurant when he was 15 years old. A native of Mexico, he said he began to question the cuisine that was served in Houston restaurants.

“I would see orders for cheese enchiladas, but it was yellow cheese,” he said. “You never see that in Mexico. It’s queso blanco.”

He became interested in how food was prepared, and the rest is history. As an ironic side note, however, the cheese enchiladas prepared at Rancho Viejo actually contain “yellow cheese.”

“That’s what people wanted,” Villagrana said. “You have to give the customers what they want.”

Hence, the addition of the sports bar, which Villagrana expects will grow in popularity during football season.

The restaurant’s most popular dish is called the Juan Luis – a plate of grilled chicken and beef fajitas with bacon, small shrimp and grilled mushrooms, covered with Monterey jack cheese and a side of rice, beans, pico de gallo and tortillas.

Although he enjoys the food, Villagrana said his favorite part of owning a restaurant is socializing with the customers.

“I like talking to people,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of friends. I like it when they leave happy.”

The restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and features a mariachi band on Thursdays.