Mexican food is a blanket term. Thankfully, living in Waco, we get such diverse Mexican culture that the segment has fragmented; Mi Jalisco Grill specializes in tastes coming from the capital, Guadalajara. Taqueria Zacatecas on La Salle features elotes and mole popular in the central state. On 25th street in North Waco, a mother and son spend their days rolling out tortilla and braising meats work to provide hungry Wacoans with the taste of Michoacan.
“It’s simple food. Nothing really crazy, nothing fancy.”
Eric Gama is the owner of Rufi's Cocina.
“La Michoacan style is your panbazos, your sopes, a lot of (of course) corn meal. A lot of chicken. A little bit of pork. More like the beans and veggies.”
Since opening in January 2015, the restaurant has built a reputation for bold flavors and rich family heritage.
“Rufi’s Cocina is a Michoacanse style food that I grew up eating as a kid. I decided to name it after my mom, which is Rufina. So it’s just a little local place that we have. We try to make everything by hand, make everything fresh as possible, and of course put a little bit of love in the ingredients.”
Foodies keep coming back for the salsas, often made with guajillo chiles or fruit, as well as friendly banter between Eric and his mother.
“Our blender broke yesterday and she’s not very happy about it.”
I'm blessed to live just a few streets away from Rufi's, so I've cycled through the menu a few times - even trying adventurous plates like sesos, goat brains sourced from some of animals living on the Gama family farm. If you're already feeling queasy, don't be scared; the menu also offers a cheeseburger, tex-mex favorites like enchiladas and nachos, and my morning breakfast favorite.
“Porkchop plate, eggs over easy.
Porkchop sizzle In the kitchen, as my meat sizzles on the grill, Rufina let's me sample a red soup on the stovetop.
“Que es esto?”
Eric's parents were raised in Michoacan, a state that his sisters and he visited regularly until deemed unsafe due to cartel activity. But despite its recent downturn, the region of Rufina's youth instilled characteristics that she has passed down.
“Both my parents grew up in Mexico, close to Tusantala, which is a town, the biggest town they have across the region because they’re both from the mountainsides of the area. My mom was the last of 14 or 16 kids so she wasn’t taught to play with dolls or play with little toys. It was more like, ‘Go chop wood, make tortillas.’”
Rufina hasn't only shared the regional secrets with her family; thanks to Eric and his mother, now all of Waco gets a taste of Michoacan. I'm Austin Meek with Waco Business News shining the small business spotlight on Rufi's Cocina.
The Small Business Spotlight is presented by American Bank, with three convenient locations in town including an expanded branch at Franklin and 4th.