Meals ‘cooked differently’ offered at recently-opened Rancho Viejo in Salem

The Rancho Viejo family restaurant opened two weeks ago at 377 S. Ellsworth Ave. offering “food cooked differently” along with a bar with domestic and foreign beers. The staff of Rancho Viejo includes, from left, Mario Curiet, chef; and servers Carmelina Huerta, Daiel Marcos, Claudia Cuellar, Abraham Manuel, Destiny M. Velo and Jose Marcos. Rancho Viejo changes food specials every day and offers booth or open table dining. (Salem News photo Larry Shields)

SALEM — “Our food is cooked differently,” said Claudia Cuellar of the Rancho Viejo restaurant that opened two weeks ago at 377 S. Ellsworth Ave.

It’s the seasoning and preparation, she said noting the kitchen staff has to approve of the entree before the dishes wind up on the menu.

“If we don’t like it, we won’t serve it,” Cuellar said of the richly Mexican menu that has a lunch-only section, children’s plates, vegetarian selections and specials running from beef, roast beef, chicken, pork shrimp and fish plates.

“How can we expect the public to like it if we don’t,” she said. “The way we create dishes with seasoning is different. We’re a small business but don’t underestimate us.”

Caludia Reyna and Hector Cuellar have operated restaurants in the Akron-Canton and Massillon area for years. Hector is the “brains of the operation,” she said.

The Rancho Viejo is family-operated. While Hector Cuellar manages the restaurant, Reyna was the decision maker in opening in Salem.

“Mom decided to open a restaurant in Salem,” Claudia Cuellar said. “We came up here and the owner of the building had a good offer.”

Merle McGuire of Hanoverton owns the building, but Cuellar said coming to Salem actually began as a “little wager between mom and dad — that we could actually come here.”

She explained that mom was more into convenience stores while dad managed a number of restaurants.

Then why open?

Cuellar said, “Mom wanted to do it.”

They knew they were moving into a competitive environment, she said.

The restaurant features booth and open-table seating along with a bar.

“Each customer will try us once,” she explained, noting the importance of the first-time diner.

The Rancho Viejo might taste a little different but Cuellar said they have already had customers who noted that difference and “they actually walked out very happy.”

The cook, Mario Curiet, has 10 years of experience in the kitchen and is “really proud of his cooking.”

Two of the most popular items on the menu are fajitas and the margaritas, Cuellar said. Daily food specials change “depending on the most popular.”

Rancho Viejo serves El Campesino Old Fashioned root beer, Jarritos soda and a number of domestic and Mexican beers. Rancho Viejo will provide customer pickup catering with three days advance notice and is on Facebook

Hours are Monday and Tuesday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

To contact Rancho Viejo, call 234-575-7221.