El Rancho Viejo: Classic Mexican dishes and new creations
“We came to pursue the American dream. We want to show that this is what we have learned and this is what we can do,” explained Silvestre Rincon, founder of El Rancho Viejo in South Philly, who came to Philadelphia from Puebla, Mexico.
When Silvestre Rincon arrived in the U.S. in 2007, he had never cooked a day in his life. He had spent most of his time as a farmer in the fields around Puebla.
But as a new immigrant in Philadelphia, he found work in the restaurant industry, doing everything from washing dishes to supervising the kitchen to cooking the food.
Now with over a decade of experience in the industry, Rincon, alongside his wife Katelyn Schneideman, sister Angeles and brother-in-law Eliazar Cortes, is venturing out on his own with the new restaurant El Rancho Viejo, located in Queen Village.
“We came to pursue the American dream. We want to show that this is what we have learned and this is what we can do,” explained Rincon.
The idea behind El Rancho Viejo, which gets its name from another restaurant the family owns back in Puebla, is to serve classic Mexican dishes, such as tacos, tortas, chimichangas and cemitas, but also offer other items that the Rincon siblings and Cortes have learned to cook while working at other restaurants in Philadelphia.
For instance, among the taco options are the classic Al Pastor, Chorizo, Carnitas and Suadero, but the restaurant also offers wildly different takes. One example is the deep-fried mahi mahi with red pickled cabbage, sliced avocado and chipotle mayo.
In the mornings, Rincon still works as the in-house butcher at Capitol Griller in Center City where he has learned to handle meat, which he proudly displays while working the grill. The extensive meat options on the menu are perhaps what most distinguishes El Rancho Viejo from other Mexican places in South Philly.
Among the meat choices are the Bone-In Sirloin (served with green or red chilaquiles, a fried egg, cheese, sour cream, rice and refried beans), the Lamb (served with mole, fried plantains, rice and pickled salad) and the T’Bone Steak (served with fried cheese and onions, roasted cactus, red rice, refried beans and your choice of sauce).
In addition to serving fresh combinations of American and Mexican cuisines, Rincon places emphasis on each dish’s specific aesthetic.
“We want to have dishes that are more elegant looking than typical Mexican ones,” said Rincon. “We have a much better presentation.”
For example, the Lamb plate lightly rests the meat on top of a fried plantain while brown mole sauce is elegantly shaped in a circle underneath.
Going forward the restaurant plans to incorporate food delivery, such as Grubhub or UberEats, for customers who live farther north, as well as renovate the interior. The family also plans to host a special event for the neighborhood sometime in August to thank them for helping to get the word out about their restaurant.
“We are so thankful to the locals in the neighborhood,” Rincon said. “They advertised us and called their friends next door. It’s been really amazing.”L
Learn more about El Rancho Viejo on Facebook. The restaurant is open from 4 p.m.-10 p.m. on Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-11 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. on Sunday. El Rancho Viejo is located at 942 S 5th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147. Prices - $5 - $27.