Authentic but not intimidating.
This is a fitting description for the dining experience at El Rancho, a Mexican restaurant that opened in 2011 at 2801 N. Broadway. The Mexican food is flavorful, and the translated menu and bilingual waitresses make the restaurant accessible to those who speak Spanish or English.
After doing some research online, it seemed that the thing to order was barbacoa. The fatty, juicy meat can be ordered in half pound, pound and two-pound portions and comes with white corn tortillas and a big plastic divided container full of diced cabbage and cilantro, onions, lime wedges and shredded cheese. Our waitress also brought us two big squeeze bottles, one full of a very spicy red sauce and one full of a milder green chili sauce.
The other must-order item at El Rancho is the gordita. The chewy tortilla shell is grilled on the flat top, split open, then filled with choice of chicharron (pork skin stew), green pork, red pork, poblano pepper with cheese, beans and cheese or barbacoa. We ordered a chicharron, a red pork, and a bean and cheese. The red pork was the favorite of the table. The chicharron had good flavor, but the somewhat mushy texture was a little challenging.
The clean, brightly lit dining area has white walls adorned with a few artistic touches but lacks the coziness that most look for when seeking a special dinner out. When we went at 7 p.m. on a Saturday, the largest section of the dining area was closed.
Prices at El Rancho are low. The gorditas are only $1.99 a piece and the half pound of barbacoa was $6.50. Most items on the menu are in the $5-$6 range.
There was one waitress on the Saturday evening, and even though all the tables in the small dining area were full, service was fast and efficient. She patiently answered our questions about the menu, and when we complimented the gordita shells, she let us peek back into the kitchen to see how they were made.
Where: 2801 N. Broadway, 316-838-8252
Type of food: Mexican
Hours: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays