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Restaurateur ready to branch out

David Mendoza, right, owner of Mi Rancho Mexican restaurant, and his cousin Raul Chavez take a break in the kitchen Friday afternoon. Mendoza is in the process of remodeling the former Bluewater Bait building on Washington Avenue South for another Mexican restaurant. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

In August, David Mendoza opened Mi Rancho on Anne Street Northwest.

Now, he is renovating the former Bluewater Bait shop at 801 Washington Ave. S. for another Mexican restaurant.

"This is the oldest recipe when Mexican restaurants started in the United States," Mendoza said of the food served at Mi Rancho. "We know two different kinds of menus."

He said his own favorite Mexican dish is chori-pollo, chicken stuffed with chorizo sausage. His favorite American food is a hamburger.

Mendoza said the new restaurant in the south end of Bemidji will offer a different style of cooking than Mi Rancho when it opens in March. He added that the new restaurant will also operated under a different name, but he hasn't yet settled on what it will be called.

He said he learned to cook from family members and friends, and many of the 15 people who work at Mi Rancho are members of his family and people he grew up with.

Mendoza was born in San Luis Obispo, Calif., but moved to the rural town of San Jose Piedres Blancos in the southwest Mexican state of Michoacán.

"I grew up on a farm - milk cows, limes," he said, noting that he milked cows by hand. "I think I am a Mexican with U.S.A. citizenship. Every American is lucky to be here."

He said he returned to the United States when he was 15 and has worked in the restaurant business for about seven years.

Mendoza, now 27, said he owns another Mexican restaurant in Sioux City, Iowa. When he decided to open a second restaurant to the north he knew Minneapolis and points south were well stocked with Mexican restaurants.

"I opened the map and looked at the biggest city on the north side without a Mexican restaurant," he said.

He drove up U.S. Highway 71 to scout the area and realized that Bemidji was where he would like to bring his family and his business.

"I like pines, the lake," Mendoza said, noting that Bemidji has plenty of business, as well as a university.

"It's a complete town," he said.

He said another aspect that drew him to Bemidji is the good reputation of the school district.

He and his wife, Alicia, have three daughters, 4-year-old twins, Desiree and Darianii, and 1-year-old Dulce Maria.

Mendoza said Mi Rancho has been made possible by his landlord, Bob Whelan, Larry Riley, who worked with the design components, and Dennis Niswander, owner of A.L. Restaurant Supply.

He added that the new restaurant on Washington Avenue South will be smaller than Mi Rancho and employ six to eight people.