(l to r: chorizo, tripe, barbacoa, al pastor)
My friend and fellow food writer, Eric Ginsburg of Triad City Beat had written about El Rancho Taqueria and their tacos in the last week or so. He speculated that “these might be the best tacos in the Triad” about them in that article. I’d like to think that as a good “foodie” that I take suggestions from my peers and run with them… or taste them. So, when my son Trey said that he wanted tacos, I thought, well, now’s the time.
We went in and it was nothing remarkable. It was just a restaurant space with run-of-the-mill furniture and very plain interior. But, the ambiance isn’t the star here. That would be the food. They have tacos, burritos, gordita, ACP, Carne Asada, quesadilla and all the usual fare you’d expect at a typical Mexican restaurant.
This isn’t your strip mall chain Mexican, though. You know the stuff. You sit down and get your free chips and salsa, order whatever it is you want and have it “piping hot” and “freshly made” within five minutes. The food is fairly decent, definitely hot, and you go home full. I’ll admit, I like that, but this…?
This is fresh stuff that is truly authentic. All of it. Lots of limes, cilantro and onions. Yes, I said onions. There’s a good bit to choose from, too. Lots of meat choices. Carne Asada (beef), Pollo (chicken) chorizo, al pastor (usually lamb), barbacoa (barbecued meat), Cabeza (usually from roasted heads of beef), Lengua (tongue) and tripa (tripe – stomach of beef). There may be a few more, but I think that covers it; you get the picture. I have had tongue before, but don’t remember if I liked it so I opted out of that tonight, only because I wanted to try some of the other stuff.
In my four taco plate, I got one each of the chorizo, barbacoa, al pastor and tripa. Yes, tripe. I had never had tripe before and definitely wanted to try it. When they brought out the plate, about 15 minutes later (meaning it was cooked fresh and they took the time to do it right), it was covered with cilantro and onions (light, as I requested), sliced radishes, five or six limes and a roasted jalapeno. In this bed of green, white and red sat four tacos. I asked which was which of the server who laughed nervously and indicated she didn’t really know. She pointed at what I thought looked like chorizo and said it was the tripe. Turns out it wasn’t. The tripe was next to it and I had already gone through that before I realized it. I asked another server about it and she brought me out a small plate with a good bit of tripe on it for Trey and me to try. It was pretty good. Lots of flavor. Kind of like chicken liver but without the foulness that comes with it and also without the grittiness that liver has. I don’t like liver, but I liked this; beef-like in its flavor.
The barbacoa had a tanginess to it that went well with the meat beneath the sauce. The chorizo was a little dry but that’s the way it is most of the places I’ve had it. I fixed that with the ranchero and Rojas sauces. Just a bit, I wanted to taste the tacos. The al pastor was probably my least favorite but was still pretty good. I liked the tripe taco and, as I said, I didn’t realize what it was until it was gone. A little crispy but beefy in flavor so I think that’s why I mistook it after being shown the chorizo one to be it. No worries, it was still delicious. The onions and cilantro were nothing more than accent. Cilantro, to me, creates a very vibrant, crisp and fresh flavor to everything. I cook with it often because of this. But, they didn’t overtake the flavor of the meat within the fluffy corn folds of the tortillas. I did sprinkle a bit of lime juice over the tacos to add that acid, but again, not too much. These are some darned fine tacos. Next time I go, I’ll try some of the other items on the list but tonight we were there, specifically, for the tacos.
The place was jam-packed with people and it was truly a very diverse crowd. All of them noshing, waiting or just enjoying the afterglow of fantastic tacos, having great conversation and loving life. I left there loving life. I think, though, my elation was mostly that I had tripe and liked it. But, the tacos were really that good. I can’t wait to take Stephanie for her first time and Trey back again.
El Rancho Taqueria is located at 613 E Sprague St in the Waughtown neighborhood of Winston-Salem. You can find more about them on their Facebook page. I highly recommend trying this great place if you’re into more authentic Mexican food and especially if you’re not so much “Americanized” Mexican food. Just go try it. Let me know what you think.