El Ranchito Taqueria
3916 Macon Rd
Team Oster is officially cheating on its steady, Summer Avenue. We're completely smitten with Macon Road.
Last week one of my facebook friends made reference to Mike's Taco Express on Macon Road. It's nothing more than a convenience store, but I was dead set on trying it. Friday night I convinced Warren and the monkeys to check it out with me. When we turned off of Graham on to Macon, it was like all the best parts of Summer Avenue were crammed together. Before we drove two blocks to Mike's Warren was pointing out restaurants and bakeries he wanted to try. When we pulled into Mike's parking lot, we had second thoughts. It looked a bit sketchy for the kids. (i.e. There was a pick up truck full of pit bull puppies for sale, no windows, and lots of people just hanging out.)
We decided to back track one block to El Ranchito Taqueria. It didn't seem like much from the outside, but we were intrigued.
Inside there were five small tables covered in blue and white checked table cloths and a few stools at a sidebar. There was a large counter opposite the door and just over it you could see a couple of guys working in the kitchen. Whole chickens were smoking on the grill and the place smelled fantastic.
Warren started translating some of the Spanish signs around, i.e. goat and pork sold by the pound, menudo on Saturday and Sunday, etc. I couldn't wait to see the menu.
A young girl came over with menus and took our drink orders. Jiro was being a bit grumpy so I directed his attention to the cooler full of Juaritos, beer, and a few other kid targeted drinks with plastic Toy Story character tops. We went over and picked out a Tutti Fruiti Juarito and then joined Satchel and Warren back at the table. The rest of us ordered water and watched in dismay as Jiro spilled half of his drink on the table. Luckily we had a stack of napkins handy and got it cleaned up with little fuss.
The menu was just one page and had several items blacked out. There wasn't any cheese dip or flautas--the kids' standbys, so I had to do some quick thinking. I asked Satchel if he wanted a taco, and he replied, "Tell me everything they have on the menu." I hate it when he says that.
"Just get them a carnitas plate to share," Warren said. "Or they have quesadillas," he added. Jiro often orders quesadillas, but rarely eats them, so I decided to go with the carnitas. Then I had to decide what I wanted. While we were wringing our hands the waitress came to take our order. We asked for a few more minutes. Warren finally decided he wanted a carnitas torta (sandwich). I narrowed my choices to a burrito and the steak plate.
When the waitress came back I ordered the carnitas plate for the kids. "We're out of carnitas," she said in broken English. I quickly recovered. "Ok, then how about a steak plate?" She nodded. Then Warren interjected. "So no carnitas torta either?" Nope. "Carne al pastor?" he asked hopefully. She nodded. I asked what came in the burritos and she pointed to the list of sandwiches and said, "All of these." I assumed she was talking about the various meat options, so I just ordered chicken and hoped for the best.
Once she went off to fulfill our order Satchel looked at me and said, "Why didn't you read me the menu? Why didn't you order me something? What do they have?" I informed him that I ordered him a steak plate to share with Jiro. "But what if I'm still hungry?" he asked.
"Then I'll get you some more food," I said.
"What food?" he asked.
Mindlessly, I said, "Soup, I'll get you some soup."
"They have soup?" he exclaimed. "I want some soup!"
"Let's get through the steak plate first," I said.
We enjoyed some conversation and some Mexican TV while we waited for our food. Jiro requested my notebook to color in, but I took it out of my purse before dinner for some strange reason. I had a nice view into the kitchen, although I was too low to really see everything going on. I definitely saw the guys cutting pork off of the bone and I saw a large stash of hot dogs in the freezer, which seemed weird. I also noted an inflatable pink flamingo floatie hanging from the ceiling.
Within ten minutes our food came out and when I saw it I almost squealed out loud. My burrito was humongous. (Oink, oink.) Inside was chicken, beans, lettuce, sour cream, and tomatoes.
The steak plate was equally impressive with grilled onions and jalapenos, rice and beans, salad and tortillas.
Even the beans were fancy. They had hot dog chunks in them (solving the earlier mystery) and a hunk of bone for flavor.
Warren's torta sandwich was almost as huge as the burrito. It was grilled and had onion, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and jalapeno on it. Yum.
Unfortunately the kids were not immediately impressed. Satchel gave me a look and I asked the waitress of we could have some soup. She looked at me like she had no idea what I was talking about and said, "We're out of that." So, Satchel and Jiro were stuck with their steak plate. I asked for two extra plates and immediately started cutting up the meat. I needed to separate it from the onions and jalapenos, which were freaking them out. I added some rice and put a plate in front of both Satchel and Jiro. I tasted a bit of the steak while doing this and realized that the parts of it that had been touching the jalapenos were a tad spicy. Satchel didn't seem to notice, but Jiro did. It wasn't super spicy, so I just wrapped his meat up in a tortilla and he happily ate it that way. Satchel cleaned his plate pretty quickly and started on the beans.
Now I know what you are thinking. No, you probably can't take your kids here, especially if they are chicken nugget dependent. But Warren and I both agreed we'd bring in fast food for the kids if necessary, because it is definitely somewhere we plan to frequent. In fact, this place was so good I questioned whether I even wanted to tell you about it!!
What they lacked in salsa and cheese dip, they more than made up for in hot sauce. Warren and I couldn't agree which was spicier, but they were both addictive.
Warren and I did halfsies and then split the boys' leftovers. Everything was so freaking good, we couldn't stop eating! The strange part was that even though we were stuffing ourselves we didn't get that super full feeling. (Probably because we didn't eat a couple of baskets of chips, salsa, and cheese before dinner.)
Once everything was gone, I went to the counter to pay. Our ticket was $29, and luckily I had $40 cash with me because that's all that they accept. I gave her a $5 tip and took a minute to really observe the guys at work and the kitchen. Igave them a thumbs up and told them how much I liked everything. They nodded politely and went about their business. (I'm pretty sure they thought I was weird for taking so many pictures. Weird or a health inspector.)
Once we left, I told Warren that I still wanted to check out Mike's Taco Express. "You could eat a taco, right?" I said. "Sure," he said. "Surprise me."
Warren and the boys waited next to the pit bull puppies and I ventured inside. Right inside the door was a group of people just hanging out. I walked past them and many rows of shelves to the back where there was a large counter and a kitchen. The counter was lined with chairs and there were a couple of tables off to the side. Then menu was in Spanish and there wasn't anyone around, so I just made a circle an walked out, glad I hadn't brought the monkeys. (We never would have gotten past the Doritos and gum.)
As I walked to the car, I noticed a colorful umbrella in the parking lot across the street. A man and woman were standing under it selling something. I got in the car and told Warren he was out of luck on the taco front, but that I needed to find out what they were selling across the street. He looked over and said, "It's probably tamales." As we got closer and could see better, I shouted, "It's something on stick!" I was thinking it might be a popsicle.
"It's corn!" Warren said.
"Pull over!" I instructed.
"I want one!" Satchel and Jiro shouted in unison.
I hopped out and inquired as to the cost. $3. I had $6 and plans to go to Jerry's Sno Cones. I could only get one, but it was definitely big enough to share. (I really wish I had more cash!) It wasn't just plain old corn, but the kind they smother in mayonnaise, cotija cheese, cayenne, and lime. I chatted the couple up a bit and found out they are there every Friday and Saturday and that they also sell pork and chicken tamales for $7 a dozen.
I got back in the car and explained that we'd have to share. I was also trying to figure out how we were all going to get a sno cone at Jerry's for just $3. (Some digging through the change drawer got us enough to share a wedding cake supreme. We ate the corn while we waited in line!)
Okay, so back to El Ranchito Taqueria. Here's what I suggest. Get some corn and eat it in the parking lot. This should satisfy the kids long enough for you to eat at El Ranchito. Bring fast food if you must. Just don't take pictures if you want them to like you!