After a year’s absence, El Molcajete is back and reaching a new audience on the opposite end of Marathon. The restaurant, serving authentic Mexican food plus some American versions of tried and true favorites, has opened its doors in the strip mall on Key Colony Beach. 

Owner and operator Eltidia Cabrera Ruiz said the clientele is completely different, but just as satisfied. 

“I’ve never had chimichanga on the menu before, but people were asking for it,” she said. Diners should bring at least one adventurous guest, though, because the lengua (beef tongue) tacos are delicious, as is the horchata (a sweet, milky drink made from rice, milk, vanilla and cinnamon) and something called chilaquiles (small pieces of fried tortilla served in a red or green sauce and topped with a choice of steak, chicken or egg). 

Eltidia Cabrera Ruiz operates El Molcajete with her two sons, Raul and Alvaro Fregoso. SARA MATTHIS/Keys Weekly

For Eltidia, the restaurant business is family business. Her mother, 84 years old, and her sister continue to operate the family seafood restaurants riverside in Oaxaca (which is pronounced with a “J” sound at the front of the word). That region of Mexico is thought to be the gastro center of the country due to its location equidistant from the crops and the sea. 

“I told her I wanted to become a doctor, or a lawyer, but my mother told me I still needed to learn how to cook,” said Eltidia with a shy smile, certainly more comfortable in her role as chef rather than interviewee. 

Eltidia’s two grown sons are part of El Molcajete’s success, too. The younger, Raul Fregoso, works in the back of the house while Alvaro runs the front. Both are graduates of Marathon High School. 

Everything is made from scratch at Molcajete. Nothing comes from “a tin,” as she says. Order at least one taco (a la carte at $3 each) because the corn tortillas are made fresh every day and have that chewy goodness that doesn’t fall apart. 

“I’m proud that everything is homemade,” Eltidia said. 

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The menu cover features art from the Oaxaca region of Mexico, the owner’s hometown.

The tacos are certainly the most accessible item on the menu, but there’s also sope — a fried corn tortilla topped with refried beans, lettuce, onion, carrot and parmesan cheese. Nummy. El Molcajete also serves tostadas, carne asada, flautas (rolled, fried tacos), enchiladas, fajitas and quesadillas. The restaurant serves a kids menu, soup and dessert, too. 

If for no other reason, go for the tortillas. 

The eatery serves soft drinks, jarritos (fruit punch in various flavors), wine and beer ranging from Miller Lite to Modelo. Right now, the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner with plans of opening for breakfast in the near future. The phone number is 305-896-3588 and the restaurant is located at 300 Sadowski Causeway on Key Colony Beach.

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