by Dennis Dalman
Ramon Navarro is proud of what makes his new restaurant special – “authentic Mexican recipes.”
The restaurant, named Añejos Fine Mexican Cuisine, recently opened in the PineCone Marketplace mall on Pinecone Road S. in Sartell. It is the third Mexican-style restaurant at that location, the others being Little Fiesta and then Mi Rancho Grande.
Añejo, which means aged to perfection (as in tequila or wine) is pronounced “Ahn-YAY-hoe.”
Navarro was born and raised in the city of La Piedad in the state of Michoacan in southwest Mexico. He has managed restaurants for 23 years in Michigan, Missouri, Kansas and once before in Sartell – at Mi Rancho Grande where his own restaurant is now.
Navarro and his staff completely redesigned the interior of the restaurant, hanging very large, colorful folk-art paintings on the walls, each illuminated by spotlights to make the interior resemble an art gallery. There are bright, stylized scenes of flowers, rustic homes, desert, cacti and more. One of the showpiece artworks is a huge, round Aztec-style creation comprised of thousands of pieces of inlaid wood.
Booths and tables line the walls, and a bar connects the two halves of the restaurant.
“One of our specialties is our molcajetes,” Navarro said. “It’s a lava stone we heat and serve food on, so the food continues to cook a bit while it’s on the tables.”
In Mexico, molcajetes – made of volcanic basalt – have been used for centuries to grind foods, such as spices and maize; and also to heat foods.
Añejos has a large menu brimming with a huge variety of offerings: tacos, enchiladas, burritos, chalupas, nachos, chiles rellenos, chimichangas, quesadillas – virtually anything for anybody hungry for any kind of Mexican-style foods. There are also seafood and vegetarian menu items. There are also combination platters – 20 kinds for dinner, 11 kinds for lunch. The lunch special is served from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Añejos also offers Mexican-style desserts, a dozen Mexican beers and margaritas fresh-made.
“We make our margaritas only with fresh-squeezed lime and orange,” Navarro said. “We do not use frozen concentrates. That’s why our margaritas are so good.”
Navarro and his wife, Martha Rodriguez, who live in Sartell, have four children: Maria, Jacquelyn, Kimberly, Raymond. All of them work at Añejos.
“Oh, yes, we all work here,” Navarro said. “We are a family business.”
Añejos is open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; and from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.