Building a business from scratch is enough of a challenge, and as Mike Barrera can attest, coming back from a tragedy will test you anew.
Barrera was three years into establishing a successful restaurant business in Weslaco – Ranch House Burgers – when a fire struck in 2014 as he was making plans to get his second restaurant open in Mission. All that Barrera had built in Weslaco was gone and there were no assurances he would ever be back in business at that location.
“When the fire happened, it was devastating,” Barrera said.
Barrera comes from a family of restaurateurs. His family owned a Tex-Mex restaurant in Dallas during his growing-up years before the family came back home to the Rio Grande Valley in 1993. The Barrera family opened a similar restaurant upon their return. He also has aunts and uncles who own some prominent restaurants in the Valley, including Los Asados of Harlingen and McAllen. The original Weslaco restaurant was in fact a former family home that Barrera and his father reconfigured to be restaurant-ready, which it was when Ranch House burgers opened in 2011.
The fire that swept through that restaurant did not deter Barrera and his wife, Christine, from moving on with their dream of having a second Valley location, so the Mission edition of Ranch House Burgers opened in 2015. Moving his Weslaco employees over to Mission, the Barreras have established a successful western Valley location that emphasizes great-tasting burgers and live music four days a week.
It took time and perseverance, but the Barreras returned to Weslaco in 2018, opening again on FM 1015 at the same location, a testament to never giving up.
“I feel like we had the support of the community in Weslaco,” Barrera said. “I felt like they wanted us back and it was very gratifying for us to come back.”
The Mid-Valley communities, like those in and around Mission, have the tasteful joy of partaking in 27 different kinds of burgers with colorful names to match the varieties of burger bliss. Many of them are locally inspired, such as the Texas Border Burger, with jalapeno and salsa, the RGV burger with pico de gallo, and the SPI burger with pineapple and ham. There are also fun burgers like the Texas Sunrise Burger with egg on a toasted bun, and the Hot Cheetos Burger.
Both locations feature robust menus that include perennial favorites of the barbecue variety, Tex-Mex dishes and the Texas signature plate of chicken fried steak. It’s the burgers, however, that are the Ranch House calling card.
“Burgers are our core,” Barrera said. “When you taste one of our burgers, I want you to taste every flavor. They’re damn good burgers, but don’t take my word for it.”
Some of Ranch Valley’s most ardent fans are Winter Texans, a clientele Barrera listens to.
“Winter Texans get around, going up-and-down the state, driving down from their homes (up north), and when they tell us that our burgers are as good as they’ve ever tasted, wow, that really pumps me up and inspires me,” he said.
Barrera is a naturally enthusiastic guy so he doesn’t need that much motivation to do better. Establishing two successful businesses gives him much satisfaction, but he wants more and he has the drive to succeed.
“I want to get our brand out and take it as far as I can,” said Barrera, who has recently added a food truck to his line of businesses. “My thing is you have to have passion. Something goes wrong? They’re just stepping stones to get to the next step. Just step on ‘em and keep going.”