Saturday, August 13, 2011

Remembering El Ranchito

Avila's El Ranchito
27941 La Paz Road
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

Avila's El Ranchito always seems to get lost in the shuffle for me. I never think about going there, and I really have no good reason why that is. I have never had a bad experience there. I have always liked their food. So when Emily asked me if I was going to blog about our dinner here, I had to rethink if I had already reviewed El Ranchito. After going back through my mind I realized I hadn't yet, so this would be a perfect opportunity.

El Ranchito is a mini chain that is a family affair. They have 11 locations, all but two of them are in OC. Started in 1966, in Huntington Park, each location is run by a member of the family. They are now into their third generation of family members running restaurants. Each El Ranchito is distinctive because they all have different house specialties. Let's take a look at our trip to this El Ranchito.

Our party of six arrived at 6 on a Thursday night. The restaurant was very busy inside, and also where we were sat, the patio. The young, good looking staff really had things running smooth. We were greeted quickly and our orders taken in a timely manner. Here is how the food came out.

We started with a side of Guacamole Fresco. Here they added onions, tomato, garlic and lime to the avocados. The result was a very fresh guacamole, just like when my Mom makes it. The chips were okay, not bad, nothing great.

We will start with everyone's favorite person in the family, Emily. She is a very simple food eater, and it showed when she ordered the Chicken Taco, with a side of rice. She felt that the chicken taco was average. She was not really a fan of the rice either, calling it dry.

Next up we have Lynn's choice for dinner, a Two Item Combo featuring a cheese enchilada and a chicken soft taco. This is Lynn's go to choice every time she is here. She loves the enchilada sauce because it is so mild, without giving up flavor. She called the chicken moist and delicious.

Well we might as well get all of the chicken tacos out of the way right now. Our last chicken taco review comes from Rachel. She was the third person to order this very popular taco. C'mon guys we need more variety here. Anyways, she ordered this with beans and rice as well. She felt the chicken taco was dry, until she added guacamole to it. She did not comment on the beans and rice, so I will assume they were to her liking.

We might be done with chicken tacos, but we are not done with chicken. Jimmy had the Chicken Flautas. He called this meal filling and rich. He added that, "the chicken was cooked perfectly." So if you are keeping track, that is two votes that the chicken here was dry and two votes that the chicken was moist. Unfortunately, or maybe not for the sake of variety, there is no more chicken reviewed on this night, so we will have to call the battle of the chicken a draw.

Katie headed to the sea for her meal. She ordered the Two Item Combo with a Shrimp Taco and a Lobster Taco. Adding shrimp or lobster to a combo meal adds $2.49 an item, making this dish a $16 two item combo plate. Yikes! Anyways, Katie could not tell the difference, without looking between the lobster and the shrimp. I actually had the same thing happen with my dish, which you will hear about in a moment. Katie liked this dish, but was not overly impressed with it. She did mention that the Fresco Beans were definitely worth getting.

Last but not least was my meal, the Enchiladas Camarones Ranchera. These enchiladas supposedly had shrimp in them, but I think the kitchen messed up and put lobster in them instead. They did not have a shrimp taste at all, and did not look like shrimp. I asked the waiter about it, but he said it was shrimp. Either way I was fine with these enchiladas. They had plenty of the mystery seafood in them, and the sauce was decent as well. The beans and rice were okay, not among my favorites that we have had recently.

I understand why I never think about El Ranchito now. It is not awful food, but it is not great food either. It is smack dab in the middle, average food. I have never had anything here that I really crave. It is safe Mexican food. Not popping with big flavor, it is more like Mexican food for the masses. Which would explain why a lot of people like this place, and why they always seem to be so busy. I am not dissing this place, because there is definitely a market for this kind of restaurant. They have good service and keep everyone comfortable. Which is part of what people really want when they go out to eat.

So out of five triangles, (because like Avila's El Ranchito, Tex Winter is from Huntington Park, and he helped perfect the triangle offense in basketball), five being best to zero being worst, Avila's El Ranchito gets 2.5 triangles.

For more information on Avila's El Ranchito click here:

Avila's El Ranchito on Urbanspoon

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