Monday, October 12, 2009

FOOD CZAR REVIEW #57: EL RANCHITO RESTAURANT

There's no doubt that I'm a proud Texan. I love the people, the atmosphere, and most of all, the cuisine. Yet, I once left the state for a couple of years and had to do without my beloved barbecue, Tex-Mex, and chicken-fried steak, and even though my destination city had its own culinary charms, most notably much better pizza than we had at the time in DFW, still I suffered serious withdrawal pangs. As you can probably tell, I've since moved back to the Lone Star State, and while I often harbor dreams of living in such wonderful places as Seattle or Las Vegas, I'm sure I would miss Texas dishes. But as I delve more and more into exploring the cuisines of other states and countries, I'm finding many similarities to our native specialties. For instance, do you know that while chicken-fried steak is in many ways uniquely Texan, it actually closely resembles dishes in other countries, such as German wiener schnitzel or Italian cottolette alla Milanese? In fact, milanese is a generic term that applies not only to the pride of Milan, Italy (hence the name), but also the breaded-and-fried beef, chicken or veal treat that is actually quite common in Europe and South America, not to mention Mexico. Therefore, to make a (very) long story short, I discovered that El Ranchito Restaurant in Oak Cliff serves one of the best milanesas I've ever encountered under any name. Unfortunately, my lovely wife the Rock Star was attending to other business when I pointed my vehicle and made the long journey south to Jefferson Street.

First off, you should know that parking in Oak Cliff can often be a tricky situation. Therefore I would suggest if you go there for lunch, you get there very early or late. I got there well before noon and the smallish lot was almost full. Luckily, one space was left. Upon entering, I found that there was no need to worry about finding an empty table, as El Ranchito is quite large. I was quickly seated within site of the in-house Torterilla Sanchez (the lovely lady who actually makes all the tortillas used by El Ranchito) where I began to peruse the colorful array of murals, fiesta decorations, and other trinkets.

In this case, I really did not peruse the menu, as I knew what I wanted. Mondays at lunchtime, El Ranchito serves milanesa, and I had determined in advance that I must have it. First, very good chips and salsa found their way to my table, the latter a red variety with just enough kiss of fire to make for good eating, but not so much that I had to reach for my ice tea glass every few seconds. Next I was presented with an excellent cup of caldo de res, with zucchini and other vegetables floating in a savory broth with fork-tender stew meat. A bowl of this soup would make a marvelous meal by itself, particularly on a cold day. Then, the daily special was brought, a substantial slab of milanesa pounded very thin and served under fried papas and alongside some of the best rice and beans I've encountered in this fair city. Coupled with the in-house-made corn and flour tortillas and a small salad, this lunch proved to be a Tex-Mex meal to remember, as I savored every luscious, slightly peppery bite of the fork-tender beef. I spooned on salsa instead of cream gravy and noticed how easily the breading melted away at my touch. Soon enough, I boxed my leftovers and left.

Service was quite nice and accomodating, and I noticed a great variety of patrons, from families to business partners to solo diners. Website is http://www.elranchito-dallas.com/, and I fully intend to return to try some of their more exotic fare such as cabrito.

Overall, I think that El Ranchito Restaurant served me one of the best lunches I've had all year, and at about ten dollars for all that food, one of the best bargains as well. Discover your own reason to stay in Texas soon, and remember:

LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!

4 comments:

Eddie G said...

Great piece, Food Czar!

I <3 Texas, too :)

Food Czar said...

Thanks so much, Eddie G! I'm hoping that El Ranchito has a few vegan dishes so you can dine there yourself. After all, you have to have something besides margaritas, don't you? (Well, maybe not....)

Margie said...

We love that place. Haven't tried the milanese though. Sounds great!

Food Czar said...

Margie, if you guys love chicken-fried steak, you'll love El Ranchito's Milanesa. Guaranteed!