After more than 22 years, popular Merced restaurant to shutter

The coming week will be Merced diners’ last chance for buffet Mexican food at Mi Casa Cafe, according to the family that runs the restaurant.

Following unsuccessful negotiations over the lease of the building, the restaurant that’s been around for more than 22 years will close on Oct. 28, according to Berenice Nuno, the daughter of owner Josie Sanchez.

Mi Casa at 2015 E. Childs Ave. was taken over in 1996 by Sanchez, who started working in the restaurant in the 1980s, according to Nuno.

“It’s been like a second home for us,” she said on Wednesday. “My mom spent the better of 22 years here. Every day.”

The family says they will continue to run Josie’s Mexican American Grill in Atwater, which has space to absorb the bulk of the employees, Nuno said. Sensing a looming closure, they’ve held back on new hires and were running two locations on a bare bones staff, she said.

The family has gotten an outpouring of support from the community trying to get one last bite to eat before the Merced location shutters.

“They don’t want us to go,” Nuno said. “I think they’re joking, but they say they’re going to picket. It’s just love for us.”

Dining at an early dinner buffet this week was Ed Acevedo, a Merced native who said he makes the trip in from his Atwater home because he likes the Mi Casa buffet. Two full plates of food can’t be beat, he said.

“I’ve been coming here for years,” he said. “I’ve known the mom and the kids — since they were kids.”

Nuno said she remembers coming into the restaurant when she was a fourth-grader and doing her homework at the lunch counter. Customers watched Sanchez’s children grow up, and the children were doing the same with the regular customers.

“We’ve seen all their kids grow up,” Nuno said. “They’re family to us. They really are.”

In other retail store news, Cardenas Market, which emphasizes Latin American food and products, recently finished its work on the Main Street building that once once housed a Save Mart. Its ribbon-cutting was Wednesday.

The supermarket has dozens of locations in Southern California and the Bay Area, according to its website. The market is similar to Rancho San Miguel or a Vallarta Supermarket.