Home » Ernesto’s Mexican Food celebrates 20 years
Community Voice

Ernesto’s Mexican Food celebrates 20 years

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Despite challenging times, Ernesto’s Mexican Food in Midtown will celebrate 20 years in business next week, and owner Pauline Jiménez said the key to success has been focusing on quality food and service.

“We’re a neighborhood restaurant,” Jiménez said. “I’ve lived in the community for 50 years, and I think for the past 20 years we have been a staple here, and we are still going strong.”

For 13 of the past 20 years, Jiménez said, Ernesto’s – located at 1901 16th St. – has been listed as best Mexican restaurant in Sacramento Magazine and has received other recognition in local contests.

The business opened Nov. 18, 1991 in a space that was best-known for a Chinese restaurant, The Golden Buddha, which operated for 40 years. A pizza restaurant was there for three years in between.

To celebrate the milestone, the restaurant is preparing a $20 prix-fixe menu for two people, which will include an appetizer, two entrées and dessert. The special menu will be available Nov. 17-19 starting at 6 p.m.

The local Mariachi Mi Tierra Mariachi band will perform each night starting at 6:30.

Tequila tastings will also be held during the celebration, with Jose Cuervo Tradicional tequila being used in all margaritas – without a price change.

“We partnered with Jose Cuervo, so people are getting the premium tequila for the same price for our anniversary,” Jiménez said.

The menu items have not yet been set, said Director of Operations Dani Jiménez-Pareja, granddaughter of Jiménez, adding that it will include several of the restaurant’s most popular items.

“Our carnitas are one of our most popular dishes,” she said. “A lot of people really like our tortilla soup, and the chili rellenos are good, too.”

Jiménez said that while the industrial section of the nearby neighborhood hasn’t changed too much, restaurants in the nearby blocks have come and gone.

“These times are tough,” Jiménez said. “We have had to look at places where we can save, but we don’t jeopardize the quality of our food, and we haven’t raised our prices in four or five years.”

Jiménez added that of the changes seen over the past two decades, most of them have had to do with the day-to-day running of the business, from remodeling the building after the first year to the advent of touch-screen computers for sending orders to the kitchen.

“We also made our food more healthy,” she said.

Jiménez-Pareja said eliminating trans fat and offering more healthy options with kids meals – such as fruit and vegetables – have all been recent changes in a trend toward more healthy eating, and more is coming.

“We’re working to have less sodium in the food,” she said. “That’s probably the next thing the health departments will focus on, and it just masks the flavor anyway. We’d rather have the natural flavor of the food come through.”

Jiménez said the natural flavors are key to the flavor palate of Mexican cuisine, and she only buys fresh ingredients, from local markets whenever possible.

“You get better food. It’s a healthier food when you get it fresh from the market,” Jiménez said.

Another change when vegetarianism became more widespread shortly after the restaurant’s opening was switching soup bases from chicken broth to vegetable broth.

Alyssa Bressen, a 23-year-old from Las Vegas, ate at the restaurant for the first time Monday afternoon. She came to Sacramento to visit relatives.

“These are seriously the best carnitas I’ve ever had,” she said. “They know how to do them right here.”

Sophie Bressem, a 49-year-old Sacramentan, said she thinks the chile verde is the best dish on the menu, and the restaurant is a place she takes family members and friends when they come to visit.

“I’ve been coming here for years,” she said. “I eat here at least once a month, if not more. It’s great food, a great atmosphere and it’s got great music.”

Jiménez said she enjoys the business, and even at age 74, she is happy to continue coming in to work every day, and she has done all the jobs except dishwashing and serving.

“I’ve been in the kitchen, I’ve bussed tables and I’ve hosted. In the early years, I had to do quite a bit, but now I don’t,” she said.

“It’s a tough business,” she added. “When people come to me and tell me they want to open a restaurant, I think they must be mad, but if you have the patience and the will, you can do it. I love coming to work every day, and I’ll keep doing it as long as I can.”

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.

Support Local


Subscribe to Our
Weekly Newsletter

Stay connected to what's happening
in the city
We respect your privacy

Subscribe to Sacramento

Share via
Copy link