I could eat Mexican food three times a day, okay I lied, maybe four times a day. There is really no other food I like more. My Italian family certainly has always wooed me with exceptional cooking but I believe this to be true, if there was a bowl of spaghetti bolognese and a plate containing a single burrito, I would select the burrito time and time again.
When we began looking for the perfect Mexican restaurant to feature for our Wander List video series, I knew it had to have several things going for it. Excellent, authentic food, delicious and beautiful margaritas, and an exceptional story. After quite a bit of research, we found the perfect spot. It turned out, that it doesn’t just have an exceptional story, but one that exceeded all my expectations.
And that brings me this: The inspiring story of the Flores family.
The road to a great success story is often a long one. It takes a dream, perseverance, and in this case a whole lot of heart. “The story goes, mom and dad both arrived in Indio in the mid fifties and met at a farm labor camp.” What happened next, changed their lives forever. OK now you have to sit for the rest.
Grab a spot at the counter and it’s the simple things you’ll notice. A warm smile, a sense of pride, a genuine happiness. The simple things, that have made Rincon Norteno in downtown Indio a local favorite since 1964. Of course there are other things too, like the delicious Mexican food, the generations old family recipes, the traditionally served warm salsa, and the fact that the menu hasn’t changed since day one.
Prudencio Flores Jr. along with his four siblings started working at his mom and dad’s restaurant while still in high school. He remembers his parents Estella and Prudencio Sr always in the kitchen. “I just remember coming home from school, walking in and seeing dad behind the kitchen and mom behind the counter serving people.”
His parents, met in the mid 1950s at a farm labor camp in Indio my dad was the cook and my mom was washing dishes and cleaning up after dad.
They worked together there for years hopeful that one day they would open a restaurant. Success came after a combination of hard work, good timing, and luck.
The Flores family first opened the doors to their Mexican diner in a different location, a small spot on Fargo Street next to the old Desert Theater where they stayed put for 15 years.
There were only 15 stools and a counter in this location but they packed the house with customers, mostly farm workers, who would come to this theater to watch Mexican movies.
Over time they grew a loyal following, return customers and their growing families who craved what Rincon Norteno served.
I asked Prudencio Jr. what they make the best there and he said, as I expected, “EVERYTHING!” says, “I eat Caldo de rez which is the beef soup, the enchiladas are very popular, our pork chops are really good, a la Mexicana they call them.”
Authenticity of the food aside, there is something to be said about the atmosphere too. The current location just down the street from the original is simple. A window seat will get you a busy road, and a train track view but it’s home. It’s home for Prudencio Flores, his sister, Rosa and Nephew Damien who still work there every day. It’s also home to his parents, who still stop by often to see how the kids are running the place. To say hi to their forever customers and share memories of building their dream.
I asked Prudencio what this restaurant means to his mom and dad and he said, “oh god, it’s their heart and soul, they have put out all their energy into this restaurant…they love the restaurant, it’s their life.”
Prudencio Sr. never wants Rincon Norteno to change and not much has over the years. The stools are the one relic saved from the original restaurant but the spirit of family and good food, well that will never change. And those are the little things, you’ll notice.