El Jardin is a Midtown bar and restaurant that offers local Mexican cuisine paired with a family atmosphere and warm, friendly service. Open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Fri-Sat until 9:30 p.m.), they have indoor and outdoor dining with a new rooftop patio that accepts dogs and offers both sun and sun. shade, and even a dog menu. Owner Manuel Rangel started out as a busser, then became a waiter and then manager before buying El Jardin four years ago. He spoke to GT recently about his restaurant.
What sets your menu apart?
MANUEL RANGEL: Several things. For one thing, while most Mexican restaurants offer corn tortilla chips and salsa, we offer corn and flour chips, along with a free homemade bean dip for the first round. It contains refried beans, homemade spices and is topped with green tomatillo salsa, jack and cotija cheese and sour cream. It’s amazing, it’s memorable and delicious, and people often come just for that. And the same goes for our flour chips. And also, our margaritas are always made with fresh lime juice and agave nectar. We never use a mix – even our lemon and happy hour margaritas all have fresh ingredients – and we have a great selection of tequilas, too.
What are some of your star dishes?
Definitely the mole. It’s a family recipe that has a slight spicy sweetness and flavor all its own, and is like a big serving of love. It’s a brown poblano mole and we have two serving options, one on corn enchiladas filled with chicken breast and the second on grilled chicken breast. Our tortilla soup is also very popular; customers often say it’s the best they’ve ever had. It features chicken broth, rice, homemade red salsa, and tortilla chips and is topped with guacamole, sour cream, and jack and cotija cheese. It also contains large pieces of grated chicken thigh and is very rich in flavor. And if you like spicy dishes, try our Camarones Diablos. It is served with large shrimp sautéed in our Diablo sauce, which are fire roasted peppers in a butter and garlic tomato sauce. It’s so good and very popular with our customers, many put it on whatever they order and it goes well with everything on the menu.
655 Capitola Road Suite 102, Santa Cruz, 831-477-9384; eljardinrestaurant.net.