Updated: Apr 13
MOUND CITY – After several months of waiting and hoping by Mound City-area residents, Mi Ranchito restaurant opened its doors to the public for the first time on Friday evening. But it was only after construction workers, cooks and wait staff spent several hurried hours earlier in the day making last minute preparations.
With a capacity of 70 diners, the restaurant, which serves Mexican cuisine, keeps the basic floor plan of the old Jayhawk Inn, at least up front with the exception of a bar. But owner Rulber Dela Torre said he opened up a room in the back that more than doubles the original seating capacity.
Dela Torre said that while the opening weekend was very busy, his staff could handle more than that. Even Monday afternoon well past lunch time, the parking lot was crowded and a steady flow of customers were filing out and filing in.
The Mound City restaurant brings the number of Mi Ranchitos in the region to eight. Dela Torre started with a single location in Olathe in 2004 after it became apparent that he wasn’t going to get a raise from the job he was doing.
From there he added another Olathe restaurant, opening two in Overland Park, one in Lenexa, one in Lawrence and another in Gladstone, Mo. He first started in Mound City with a food trailer, but customers asked him to open a restaurant so they could have Mi Ranchito cuisine all the time.
So last August, when Garrett’s BBQ owners had the building at 827 W. Walnut St. up for sale, Dela Torre took the chance and purchased the building that had been a restaurant for years. But getting the building to live up to his vision and standards took time and patience, particularly the part about remodeling the building.
As part of that process, he had to make all of the building handicapped accessible, including the restrooms.
The former versions of the restaurants in that building had painted concrete floors, but he wanted to install a more attractive flooring that looked like wooden planks. However, he worried that the gravel parking area in front of the building would damage the new floor. The solution was to install a concrete parking area.
And getting the restaurant up to full speed will still take some time, Dela Torre said. He said he is in the process of hiring and training cooks, wait staff and dishwashers. And while some of the employees were familiar faces, he brought in help to get it off the ground.
However, he is committed to making the restaurant not only a quality eating establishment but one that is operated by Linn County residents. “My goal is to hire local people,” he said. He added that he appreciates the work ethic of the people in Linn County.
“There are hard-working people around here,” Dela Torre said, adding that his restaurants pay good wages.
As for working with Mound City and Linn County, Dela Torre said they are good to work with.
“They are very open to new business,” he said. “They’ve done nothing but help us.”
Already he has seen that customers to the new location have begun to pick out some favorite menu items, including the Mound City burrito and the cream cheese chicken enchiladas. And although the menu has 40 items, he said the menu will change as the staff becomes more familiar with local tastes.
“I am a chef,” Dela Torre said, adding that he will work to fine-tune the menu to the customers’ taste.
But above all, he said, “We are very happy to be here.”