El Jardin is a Midtown restaurant and bar that features local Mexican cuisine paired with family ambiance and warm, friendly service. Open seven days a week from 11am-9pm (Fri-Sat until 9:30pm), they have indoor and outdoor dining with a new rooftop patio that is dog-friendly and offers both sun and shade—and even a dog menu. Owner Manuel Rangel originally started as a busser, then became a server and then a 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, whereas most Mexican restaurants offer corn tortilla chips and salsa, we offer corn and flour chips, as well as a housemade bean dip that is complimentary for the first round. It has refried beans, house spices, and is topped with green tomatillo salsa, jack and cotija cheese, and sour cream. It’s amazing—it’s memorably delicious, and people often come just for it. 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 mix—even our happy hour lime margaritas have all fresh ingredients—and we have a great selection of tequilas, too.
What are a few of your flagship dishes?
Definitely the mole. It’s a family recipe that has a slight spicy sweetness and flavor of its own, and is like a big helping of love. It’s a brown mole poblano and we have two serving options, one on top of corn enchiladas filled with chicken breast and the second over grilled chicken breast. Our tortilla soup is also very popular; guests often say it’s the best they’ve ever had. It has chicken broth, rice, house red salsa, and tortilla chips and is topped with guacamole, sour cream, and jack and cotija cheese. It also has big chunks of shredded chicken thigh, and is very rich in flavor. And if you’re into spicy food, try our Camarones Diablos. It comes with big shrimp sautéed in our Diablo sauce, which is fire roasted chilis in a garlic buttery tomato sauce. It is 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.