Restaurant Review: Rancho Alegre at Kingsdale
People love-love-love Rancho Alegre. It’s difficult to understand how any joint can inspire so much love, until you actually give it a whirl.
The outside of the new Kingsdale location makes it look like some sort of “mall spot”, vanilla establishment. Inside, though, it’s sort of nice – with textured walls, symmetrical design and an almost-fancy bar. All of that is combined with a giant selection of Mexican eats.
And yes, the size of the menu rivals that of the El Vaquero restaurants.
The lunch specials are a bargain. They’re all under ten dollars and the options all deliver a full plate and a full belly. It’s hard to resist ordering a Speedy Gonzales ($5.99). For what it’s worth, it does arrive at the table quickly –but so did the other lunch order. For the price, you get a taco and an enchilada with rice or beans. The taco is solid, but there’s something about the enchilada’s sauce that is terribly, plate-lickingly addictive. The sauce outshines everything. It’s red and thick and salty like an odd Mexican variation on pizza sauce -and there’s some melty cheese too, which just makes the combination more perfect.
The lunch Huevos Rancheros ($7.99) take on an almost breakfasty-like appeal when its eggs and ranchero sauce are souped up with some chorizo. It’s another $1.50, but worth it (and still under $10).
Beyond the lunchie things, the rest of the menu is still packed with value. The Carne Asada ($13.99) delivers a thin slab of rib-eye that’s filled with straight-shooting savory flavor with some long green onion shoots, a hot-off-the-grill pepper and some guacamole. The guac is a nice lumpy puddle of pure avocado goodness with a little onion accent.
Alternately, there’s lots of options that mix things up with combination meals –a typically paralyzing number of options. Combination Dinner Number Fourteen ($9.99) seems as promising as any option –piling in a burrito, an enchilada and a tamale. The sauce is involved again, that’s a huge perk. And the ground beef used is quality stuff –no mealy, fatty mush. The burrito and the enchilada were both worth a repeat try. The tamale was a one-and-done sort of thing: it just came off as plain next to its companions.
All that stuff was pretty good, but the best thing in the house came from the A la Carte menu: Chiles Rellenos ($8.25). They are obsession worthy. First, there’s the giant glob of melted cheese that centers them. Surrounding the cheese is a pepper –and one that packs enough smoky heat to bring a few tears to the eyes. Then there’s the coating, which soaks up more of the house sauce. It’s rich, heavy and hot –and that’s a combination that is difficult to pull off. Rancho Alegre nails it.
And finally, for those who must know about the obligatory house chips: they’re thick and not very salty, but they team nicely with a tangy tomatoey salsa that makes the outcome better than the sum of its parts.
Rancho Alegre has three Columbus locations. The newest is in Kingsdale at 3140 Kingsdale Center. More information can be found online at www.facebook.com/Rancho-Alegre.
Photos by Walker Evans.