El Ranchito Laguna Beach: Three Generations of Love

There’s just nothing better than Mama’s Avila Soup, a giant bowl of their version of “chicken soup for the soul” with chicken, rice, avocado, cilantro, onions, and tomatoes. It arrives steaming hot with a full set of warm tortillas.

“We’ve had people call us and tell us that they’re so sick they can’t even come into the restaurant to pick up their soup,” says Michael Avila, grandson to founders Salvador and Margarita and owner of the Laguna Beach restaurant, “We tell them to just come down the alley behind the restaurant for a quick pass-off. They usually drive up in their pajamas, bless their hearts.”

There is a natural friendliness and graciousness here, and Michael talks about his family and Grandma’s cooking with equal love and grace. “A couple of weeks ago, about 30 of us went over to my Grandparents’ house for my Grandfather’s birthday,” he says. “And Grandma’s still in the kitchen, just like she’s always been, showing us how to create this or that,” says Michael.

“And I’ve got to tell you …we all re-create her recipes to the letter, but there’s just something about the love in her hands that makes her version better. She’s been such an awesome model to follow.”

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