New Mexican Grill benefits from owner's early cooking lessons, ex-wife's encouragement

New Mexican Grill, Ralph Aranda
Ralph Aranda (right) credits his loyal customers for keeping him afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy New Mexican Grill)

Ralph Aranda (right) credits his loyal customers for keeping him afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy New Mexican Grill)

Image description
The breakfast menu includes chorizo burritos ($6.49) with eggs and potatoes. (Courtesy New Mexican Grill)
Image description
The grilled carne asada tacos ($2.99 or $4.99 for two) come on soft corn tortillas. (Courtesy New Mexican Grill).
Ralph Aranda’s and Sydney McKinney’s marriage may not have worked out, but their friendship and business partnership stands strong.

Aranda runs the operations and McKinney does the administrative work for New Mexican Grill, the restaurant Aranda started in 2011 at McKinney’s urging, 13 years after their divorce.

The different roles suit them and keep them from “tripping over each other,” said Aranda, who has nothing but praise for his former wife.

“We had a good divorce, you know? Friendship,” Aranda said. “And we’ve been in business since. She’s a very trustworthy person, hard worker, dedicated and has a big heart. So I’ve probably got one of the best business partners anybody could have.”

Aranda said he caught the restaurant bug growing up with parents who ran Rafaelito’s, a small Mexican food place on South Central Avenue in Phoenix. They closed it in the mid-1970s as they both were working two jobs on top of the restaurant.


But Aranda learned to cook from his mom and a grandmother living in Silver City, New Mexico. Her house always smelled of the Hatch chiles in the area that she was constantly cooking.

“When you went in her house, you had to eat,” he said. “It didn’t work any other way, so you had better go there hungry.”

Aranda has delivered pizzas, worked as an assistant manager at Taco Bell, opened a restaurant in Mesa for four years and worked as the food service manager for a nursing home.

But during the Great Recession in 2008, Aranda lost his job and could not find other work. That is when McKinney urged him to start a restaurant cooking his way—“don’t add to it, don’t take away,” she told him.

That meant cooking everything from scratch and using only Hatch chiles from New Mexico, just like his grandmother.

When he opened the restaurant in January 2011, he made enough money to pay his bills.

Business picked up over the next couple months, and with some publicity, he soon was too stressed to keep up with demand and had to expand his staff. It has gone well since then.

“When I get to work in the morning, I think about my grandma or my mom,” he said. “I always think that they’re still with me. I honestly believe that.”

Customer support

Opening New Mexican Grill lifted Ralph Aranda out of the Great Recession, and it does not look like the coronavirus pandemic will end it, he said.

“The [customers] that hadn’t been around in the last few months or even a year or two back, that we haven’t been seeing them for awhile, all came back and supported us. All of them did. I’m so blessed to have great customers. I don’t even know how I can express what I feel, but it’s been total support.”

New Mexican Grill

3107 S. Lindsay Road, Ste. 101, Gilbert

480-899-0773

www.facebook.com/new-mexican-grill-131115090288041

Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-3 p.m., closed Sun.
By Tom Blodgett
Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


MOST RECENT

Susan Bailey was elected president of the American Medical Association in June 2020. (Courtesy American Medical Association)
'I am convinced we will beat COVID': American Medical Association President Susan Bailey discusses vaccine successes, myths, challenges

Bailey was elected president of the American Medical Association in June 2020. Much of the organization's focus during that time has been on vaccine transparency and distribution.

Gilbert mural
Gilbert residents asked to participate in National Community Survey

The feedback from the survey provides the town with insight on how it is serving residents and helps drive decision-making in the community, according to Gilbert officials.

See a breakdown of COVID-19 cases, vaccinations and more local data. (Community Impact staff)
COVID-19: See cases, vaccinations by ZIP code in Gilbert

Here are the COVID-19 data updates to know today.

Here are the coronavirus hospitalization data updates to know across Arizona. (Community Impact staff)
ADHS: Hospitalization for COVID-19 increases slightly from last week

Take a look at the hospitalization data across Arizona.

Residential real estate data for Gilbert ZIP codes in March 2021
Gilbert home values climb fastest in 85298 for March 2021

Here is what you need to know about Gilbert's residential real estate market from March 2021.

Quick Quack Car Wash
Two car washes coming to Gilbert

Quick Quack and Super Star car washes soon will be opening in Gilbert.

Higley USD District Office
It’s official: Dawn Foley takes over for Mike Thomason as superintendent at Higley USD

Mike Thomason officially retired May 3, and Dawn Foley stepped up from associate superintendent to acting superintendent ahead of officially taking over the superintendent role July 1.

Road construction barrels
Street work on Recker Road in Gilbert has resumed

Work resumed May 3 on the Recker Road street project between Ray Road and Loop 202-Santan Freeway after more than a six-month delay.

Randy Duren co-owns Hair of the Dog with his wife, Marleen. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)
A pet-friendly bar opens in Gilbert; a 99 Ranch Market will anchor a Chandler shopping center and more top news from the Phoenix area

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Phoenix area.

Lori Wood
Gilbert Public Schools adopts revised maintenance and operations budget of $263M

Gilbert Public Schools’ final revised maintenance and operations budget for fiscal year 2020-21 is the largest to date for the year.

Almost 3 million COVID-19 doses have been administered to Maricopa County residents as of May 4, according to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Nearly 3M vaccine doses have been given to Maricopa County residents

Almost 3 million COVID-19 doses have been administered to Maricopa County residents as of May 4, according to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

Laurin Hendrix
Gilbert Town Council gives preliminary approval to $988.25 million budget

For the second consecutive year, Gilbert Town Council is heading toward a budget that is smaller than the previous year.