There is always difficulty discussing Mexican restaurants, at least on my part, because they always seem so similar, at least when it comes to the cuisine. Entire menus are seemingly concocted with basically the same essential ingredients: tortilla shells, meat (chicken, pork, beef, shrimp), lettuce, salsa, some sort of sauce, rice and beans, and maybe some guacamole if you’re going for gusto.
Make no mistake, though, there are certain restaurants in town that offer Mexican food which separate themselves from that ilk, and El Rancho Tapatio, just off of Nicholasville Road on Burt Road, seems to be that sort of establishment.
The restaurant has an extensive menu of appetizers, burritos, quesadillas, fajitas, a la “carta” items, speciality and seafood dishes, soups (only served on the weekend), and even breakfast plates (served daily from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.).
A guest and I grabbed a booth on a recent evening amid a formidable crowd for a weekday night, and we were brought a ubiquitous basket of chips and salsa. Be sure to ask for the “dipping sauces” as well – a variety of spicy, different red and green salsas a little more interesting than the regular tomato salsa – if your server doesn’t bring them. Try not to fill up on the chips though, as I always do.
As a recommendation from a regular visitor, we ordered a pair of ceviche tostadas – shrimp marinated in lime juice served on a fried tortilla with onions and slices of avocado ($3.50 each). I could have eaten half a dozen of these; they are delicious and a refreshing deviation from what most American diners consider Mexican food. We also ordered some cheese dip as a guilty pleasure.
For dinner, we decided to forgo the route of having separate dishes (and there are many from which to choose), and ordered a smorgasbord of single items to try and sample as many as we could. We ordered an empanada, a hand-made corn tortilla stuffed with a filling (beef for us, $3.45); a tamale, a masa pocket stuffed with marinated pork and wrapped in a banana leaf ($1.99); a sope, served on a thick, fluffy tortilla with your choice of meat (we went with steak; $2.75); and a gordita, a corn tortilla stuffed with a meat and topped with cheese, lettuce and sour cream (we had chicken; $2.75).
I was worried that this wasn’t going to be enough food, most tamales and empanadas I’ve eaten in the past were smaller affairs, but my guest assured me we would be well fed, and I’m glad she did – all four of these items were much bigger than I had expected. Surprisingly, I was very taken with the chicken gordita, it has a delicious taste.
Our bill, prior to tipping, came to $48.12, and included a few starters, a tableful of dinner items and a couple of margaritas. El Rancho Tapatio also has a number of dessert dishes, many of them whipped up at the adjacent bakery – hopefully I’ll save some room next time to try one. I also want to make sure I go early on the weekend, to try to get some pozole soup.
El Rancho Tapatio
144 Burt Rd.
10 a.m. - 10 p.m. Mon. – Sun.