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Restaurants & Bars 7

[VAN] Su Casa El Ranchero

extramsg | Apr 1, 200502:01 AM

Let my wife talk me into trying a new Mexican restaurant, the type of place I usually only try if I have coupons or hear some positive word. It's located in a relatively new strip mall, though this is the second restaurant in this location that I know of.

The place is pretty bare inside with some cowboy art on the walls and booths with burned or carved horseshoes, etc. I wonder if they decorated it to fit the name or if they named it to fit the decor.

The only reason I agreed to eat there was that I noticed a line of Jarritos, the Mexican soda, lined up just inside the entrance. They even had toronja, guayaba, and tamarindo -- my three favorites. Oddly, though, I forgot to get one.

Brought chips and salsa out immediately. Freshly fried chips, but they were only okay. My wife, who I had talked into taking her high school aged brothers to Iguana Feliz the other day when they flew in from a class trip to DC, kept commenting on how great Iguana's chips are. Best chips and salsa in town, imo. When you get mediocre chips (or anything else) after a place like that you really feel the lacking quality. Salsa was pretty plain -- oniony, tomatoey, and garlicky.

The menu is entirely typical. That's fine with me if the execution is good, but I wonder *why* so many Mexican American places share these menus. Is there a "Mexican Restaurants for Los Tontos" out there or something that all these guys use to make their menus? Really. I understand why they all share nachos, fajitas, and taco-enchilada combo platters. People expect them. But do people expect pollo ala gloria? Yet, it's on most Mexican-American menus around PDX, I think. And you rarely see a regional specialty. I'm starting to suspect there's just one Mexican food syndicate out there creating 90% of the restaurants.

My wife got the chicken sopitos, two sopes with beans and rice. The rice was adequate and the beans were relatively tasty. The chicken on the sopes was bland. Very weak poached chicken. At least it wasn't rubber. Surprisingly, though, the sopes themselves, allegedly house-made, were quite good. Addictive, in fact. If they weren't under so much watery lettuce being steamed by the hot beans and chicken they would have had a better texture. But the flavor encouraged me to try a tamal there some time. Avoid the guacamole, though. It looked like stuff from a tub made to last in the frig without browning.

I got the chile verde. It was a buck or so cheaper than most dishes, and sauce heavy stews like that are good tests of a place. Very black peppery, but otherwise fairly tasty. And the pork was adequately tender. The corn tortillas provided were steamed to the point of almost falling apart, but I enjoyed my meal.

I know some people here think that I would always go out to Mexican. It's just not true. I *dread* mediocre and bad Mexican. I can stand a lot of mediocre Thai, but not Mexican. While it wasn't good, there were moments that were quite good. It might be worth a lunch special. And I suspect there could be a couple dishes that are quite good after the flavor of those sopes.

Su Casa El Ranchero
6700 162nd Ave. #713
Vancouver, WA


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