Restaurants & Bars

Mole al Estilo Oaxaca @ Taqueria Mi Ranchito, Salinas

Melanie Wong | Aug 4, 200710:52 PM     3

Last week my parents and I had a casual lunch at Taqueria Mi Ranchito. It’s located next to La Princesa market in the same shopping center as Kragen, a couple blocks east of the freeway. My first time here, I sought it out because Mi Ranchito is as participant in the “Steps to a Healthier Salinas” program and I was curious what healthier options might be available here.

Tabletop tents in Spanish and English promote the vegetarian omelet and bionico (fresh fruit topped with low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese and granola) offered here. I chuckled to myself that this was a taqueria promotion technique borrowed from the beer industry.

Image of tabletop tent talker -

In addition, the lighter dishes are segregated on the wall of photos that serves as the menu. Choices include grilled fish, whole wheat tortillas, chicken and mushroom fajitas, filet of fish stuffed with vegetables, whole beans, and freshly squeezed juices.

Image of wall of menu photos for healthier options -

Mi Ranchito offers day of the week specials. The pleasant lady at the counter explained that these items are available every day, but once a week, each is discounted. I pointed to the mole al estilo Oaxaca for $5.99 saying that I missed the right day, and she said that I could have it for the same price since it was our first time here.

While we waited for our food, we munched on the fresh chips and a selection of salsas from the self-serve bar. The salsa fresca and the liquidy guacamole sauce were my favorites. The salsa verde was a bit weak. All the other taco trimmings --- cilantro, onions, pickled jalapenos, lettuce --- were also available, along with zanahorias en escabeche.

My mom ordered the filete ala plancha, $6.99. This was two large filets of bagre (catfish), griddled lightly and cooked to the perfect texture. With the made-to-order corn tortillas and a selection of salsas from the self-serve bar, she made a couple fish tacos for herself and took half her food home for another meal. The frijoles de la olla (whole beans) on the side were especially delicious. However, the sautéed veggies she selected instead of rice were old and tough.

My dad had a cabeza taco, made with a handmade corn tortilla, and a Mexican coke. Very tasty, the soft beef cheek meat had been braised in a flavorful mild red chili sauce.

I hadn’t asked which type of Oaxacan mole this would be, and when my plate was served there was no question that this was mole negro. This was the darkest, blackest mole I’ve seen. In fact, it alarmed my mother who couldn’t believe that something that color could be delicious. After tasting it, she begrudgingly changed her mind but still commented that there was some foreign herb flavor that she didn’t like.

Image of mole plate -

It is quite a miracle that the well-carbonized mole did not taste burnt at all. The flavors were quite muted and completely integrated rather than appearing in a succession of complex layers. The whole chicken leg, skinned but cooked on the bone, was tender and falling apart. At first I was disappointed not to be served white rice. However, I soon changed my mind as this was some of the best Mexican rice I’ve had in ages. Fluffy with toasty aromas and just delicious.

The basics: handmade tortillas, rice, frijoles, and salsas are all done right here. While none of our dishes were earth-shattering, they were quite satisfying and certainly inexpensive. I’ll be returning here to try more from the menu and figure out what it does best. This was a good start.

Taqueria Mi Ranchito
45 S Sanborn Rd
Salinas, CA 93905
(831) 759-2502

Salinas Californian article (Pdf file) -

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