Handmade tortillas cooking on a rotating comal greet customers at Rancho Fresco. The made-to-order style Mexican restaurant opened for to-go orders on May 9.
With no freezer in the kitchen, the name of the restaurant takes on literal meaning. Translating to “Fresh Ranch” owner Ismael “Smiley” Covarrubias wanted the name to convey to customers the premise of his restaurant.
Produce and meat alike is prepped and cooked fresh every day. “Everything comes from a ranch,” Covarrubias says. “The name had to have meaning.”
With family recipes supplied by his mom and grandma serving as the foundation of the menu, Patterson residents can be sure that everything, including the menudo and salsa is homemade and authentic.
Having owned a trucking business and a horse ranch before suffering the effects of 2008’s economic collapse, Covarrubias opened his Modesto restaurant in 2010 with a plan that prioritized economic longevity. Opening an essential business has helped him sustain operations during the current pandemic, with his third location already under contract in downtown Turlock.
Before graduating from Patterson High School in 1992, Covarrubias worked construction for his father. A trade that served him well during the remodel of this location. Wood plank lined walls, and black accents give the interior a warm modern feel.
Although Covarrubias’ parents have retired and moved to Mexico, many of his extended family members and friends are still here in Patterson. He looks forward to spending time in his hometown, where his customers are the friends who know him as Smiley.
When the county allows dine-in customers to return, there will be available seating on the patio, in the dining room and the bar. A private room with two televisions is available for party reservations as well as on first-come, first-served basis -- barring previous reservations.
Current hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Once the restaurant is allowed to open fully, Covarrubias expects the kitchen to be open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Late-night weekends combined with seating capacity for more than 150 people, a full use permit allowing live music, 10 televisions throughout the dining room, and bar Rancho Fresco offers Patterson a new nightlife option.