Aptos . California

(831) 662-8795
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Blanca Moreno with a long time client and friend

About Us
When I continued my parent's Mexican Restaurant tradition I knew that Rio del Mar and its clients had become a fundamental part of my life.

First watching my parents create Rio del Mar, develop their recipes and ambiance and getting clients that appreciated what they did was something beautiful. Continuing their job made it part of my life, and I have found deep satisfaction.

Once the recipes and cooking process were developed and perfected to complement a Mexican warm ambiance, everything is about the service and the clients. We have clients for decades that became friends, and seeing them return over and over is what provides meaning to what we do.

In the News
We are proud of having been recognized by pour food, Mexican Cuisine, ambiance and service.

Rio Del Mar Mexican Cuisine

2017 Rio Del Mar Mexican Cuisine. All rights reserved.

A Hungry Guy Review -- Santa Cruz Sentinel
A Place So Good it Requires a Strategy by Bob Fenster, Features Editor

OK, the Hungry Guy confesses I haven't written about this place because I like it too much. I got selfish. Didn't want bigger crowds than they already have. So I've been debating: Am I a journalist who's got to tell all? Or am I a happy eater keeping a good thing to himself as long as possible? Obviously, the journalist won that debate (although he also had to pick up the check).

Welcome to my find: The Rio del Mar Mexican Cuisine Restaurant.

But a Hungry Guy won't stop there, with so much to choose from on a large menu, with many Mexican favorites and some exotic specials. Among their more popular dishes with a hungry clientele the burrote charro - a 12 inch flour tortilla stuffed with tender beef, chicken or pork, plus rice, beans and cheese... You've got to understand, when they say stuffed they mean stuffed the way hungry people want it stuffed, not stuffed the way PR people want to convince you it's stuffed. You can have the burrote charro dry (without sauce) or wet (with a great enchilada sauce). How big is this meal? We're talking a challenge of a dinner or a more reasonable dinner plus enough left over for lunch.

The margaritas are ...incredibly tasty, about as good as they get. The dining room is big and colorful, and there's a deck out back.

Rio del Mar is a place where you want a certain amount of elbow room to dig in, and you get it. The place has a relaxed atmosphere and the feel that most people there are regulars, or about to become so. Kid friendly? Absolutely. There's music playing, no pretensions, a kids' menu, although it's the kind of restaurant where kids graduate to better food. It is also the kind of eatery that calls for a hungry guy strategy: Go with people of modest appetite, so you can sample their food as well as your own. Then you're in for bonus heaven.

Only one request: Could you go on Tuesday night when I'll be busy and leave Saturday for me? "


You've probably driven by it a hundred times, but when was the last time you stopped in for a meal at Rio Del Mar Mexican Cuisine? If you're a Rio regular, you can stop reading this right now; you already know about their homemade tamales, scrumptious skirt steak and incomparable fajitas. As for the rest of you, I highly recommend you stop by for an authentic and truly pleasant dining experience.

Rio Del Mar Mexican Cuisine is located on the Soquel Drive frontage road just north of Redwood Village and has been in business for 18 years. Owner Blanca inherited the restaurant from her parents, and has lived and breathed Mexican cuisine ever since. The foundation for Rio Del Mar Mexican's unique flavor is a host of old family recipes brought across the border by Blanca's uncle. Federico Ham. Those recipes are the same today as they were when he concocted them in a Mexicali kitchen a quarter of a century ago.

And what of the end result? What do the recipes taste like brought to life here in Aptos? On my most recent trip to RDM Mexican, I had the house specialty; steak fajitas (try the chicken and SHRIMP as well). The restaurant's sign makes a bold claim: "We make the best sizzling fajitas in town." After one meal, I believe it.

Every morsel of the steak was delicious. Cooked to perfection, tender, flavorful, the meat was unlike any I've had. According to Blanca, that's because Rio Del Mar Mexican does not prepare their meat like your average taqueria. Every skillet is prepared and cooked when you order it using meat fresh from the butcher and produce fresh from local farms; there's no frozen or precooked steak in the whole place! When a "fast-food" taqueria whips up a carne asada burrito in three minutes, it's because that meat was prepared well before you ordered it. You may have to wait 10 or 15 minutes at RDM Mexican, but it's well worth it.

Blanca's menu is not limited to fajitas; in fact, she's managed to put together one of the most diverse and comprehensive Mexican menus I've ever come across. All the usual suspects are present (nachos, enchiladas, chimichangas, etc.) as are "enchiladas de jaiba" (crab), chicken mole, and prawn burritos. A super burrito from Rio Del Mar Mexican can come "wet" or "dry" - with or without a bath of homemade enchilada sauce. If you're a vegetarian, try the "enchilada de espinaca" (spinach). Warm up with a bowl of chicken or tortilla soup, and cool down with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on your homemade flan.

The atmosphere at Rio Del Mar Mexican is comfortable and inviting. Music plays softly in the background, splashes of culture adorn the walls, and the private booths are downright cozy. Coming soon a tropical garden below the deck.

On sunny days, ask to be seated out on the deck. There's nothing like a meal amongst redwoods to the tune of a gurgling creek.

So next time you're driving by Rio Del Mar Mexican Cuisine, pull over and eat! You'll be glad you did.

Rio Del Mar Mexican Cuisine Keeps it in the Family

Business Profile is a regular feature of The Mid-County Post.

by Jessica Woods

Blanca Moreno is a petite, energetic woman with a warm and welcoming smile. It's a good thing, because as the owner, manager and some-time waitress and cook at Rio Del Mar Mexican Cuisine she is a busy woman.

"I really enjoy my job," Moreno said. "I'm here all the time, except Saturday lunch and Mondays - because we're closed."

Rio Del Mar Mexican Cuisine is a family owned and run business in the true sense of the word. Moreno's parents, Merced and Jesus Ham, bought the restaurant in 1988 on a tip from her father's brother, Federico.

Federico had been working at the restaurant for the previous owners and when they put the business on the market Federico called his brother who was living in Los Angeles at the time to tell him about the opportunity.

Jesus and Mercedes bought the business and moved to the central coast. It wasn't long after that, that Blanca left her home in Mexico to join her parents, uncle and one of her brothers in running the restaurant.

Blanca had been an elementary school teacher in Mexico and didn't know the first thing about running a restaurant - but that didn't last long.

"When I started here I had no idea about the business of running a restaurant, I was learning, learning, learning," Moreno said.

She learned everything from her parents and uncle - how to wait tables, find and hire good employees, keep the customers happy, deal with suppliers and how to mix a great margarita.

When her parents decided it was time to retire in 2000, Blanca 26 took over the business.

Three years ago she bought the property outright and has had to learn even more.

"I learned everything about the building] painting, remodeling the deck, the plants, everything, which is a work in progress."

Comida y Bebidas
Featuring recipes developed by her father and uncle and in the style of their ancestral home in Mexico, the restaurant has developed a strong following among locals.

Moreno said she gets a good number of patrons from adjacent businesses and there are a lot of hungry construction guys lured in by her in-house lunch special - "2 plates for $10.99. We also do food delivery through Takeout Taxi."

Evenings are generally full of regulars and their families, with Friday and Saturday nights the busiest.

Situated on a cool, shady hillside above Capture Creek, RDM Mexican Cuisine boasts some of the best fajitas in town.

They are her uncle's trademark dish and the featured Wednesday night special. Sixty three year old Federico still makes them with only the freshest local ingredients.

"My produce comes from Starkville," Moreno said. "We use only fresh food."

If the entry way wall is any indication, the restaurant has a dedicated corps of diners. The wall is covered with snapshots of her regulars, some of whom have been eating there for over a decade.

"I have a lot of friends here, they are like family," Moreno said.

If you are not enticed by the sounds and smells of sizzling fajitas, there are plenty of other options to choose from.

The two page menu offers the traditional tacos, burritos and enchiladas and a good selection of wine, beer and margaritas from the full bar. If you really want a treat try Moreno's personal favorite - the came Masada tacos - or her handmade tamales crafted following a family recipe from Signaling.

If there is a vegetarian in your party they can choose from several options such as a spinach enchilada, veggie burrito or quadrille - a nice selection for those who are often relegated to a helping of rice and a green salad.

Kids are welcome at this family oriented restaurant. Many a restaurant says they are family oriented but you can tell RDM Mexican really means it when you see the impressive line up of high chairs along the wall.

There is a kids menu too - they can choose from a chicken taco, a bean bum to or a quesad1lla.

Small kids will be entertained by the bright colors tn the scrapes and sombreros hanging in the walls, and older kids will enjoy sitting outside on the deck where they can gaze into the trees and watch the creek below.

La Familia
Though Moreno works nonstop during the year, she sticks to her annual vacation - closing the restaurant for 10 days over Christmas each year.

When asked what she likes to do during what little time she has away from the restaurant, Moreno said she likes to shop with her daughters and - get this - cook. You might be surprised to learn that her favorite thing to cook is Chinese food. That is, until you learn more about Moreno's family history.

Both her mother and her father were born to Chinese fathers and Mexican mothers, and Moreno enjoys honoring the other half of her heritage by making her favorite dishes - sweet and sour and bar-b-we pork in particular.

When asked if she'd ever considered opening a Chinese restaurant she laughed, "Oh no, it's too hard, the restaurant business."

Moreno and her husband -who is a business owner in Starkville- have two daughters. Her youngest daughter, Rosella, is in the Air Force and is currently stationed in North Dakota. The oldest daughter, Dennis, works at the restaurant part-time. It is clear that Moreno hopes that her older daughter will someday take over the restaurant and continue the family tradition. If Dennis Moreno does eventually take the restaurant over, she will have the history and strength of generations of successful restaurateurs to guide her.

Rio Del Mar Mexican Cuisine is located at 9067 Sequel Drive in Capture and is open Tuesday through Sunday from11 am. to 9 pm. (9:30 on Friday and Saturday).

They can be reached at 831.662-8795