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Oct 13, 2008 04:57 PM

Providence, RI: SKIP El Rancho Grande!!

I was so excited to try this place after the great reviews (some here, some on Yelp). I'd been missing excellent Mexican food ever since coming back from a vacation in CA. Not only was this not excellent, it was truly awful. Yes, the prices were impressively low, and the atmosphere was cute. But the food, oy. Salsa was promising, nice and spicy. I went for a variety with 3 tacos (chicken, pork, and fish), a tamale, and guacamole. The guacamole was surprising - it was clearly just mashed-up avocados - no seasonings added...It needed, at the very least, lime juice, salt, and pepper. So, fine, mashed-avocado on tortilla chip, tastes okay. Moving on to the tacos...(I'd requested one w/o onions, there were onions on it, and I had to spit out my first bite). The rest of the bites, were so dry, I was practically coughing them down. The flavor was good, if that makes sense, but the dryness of the meat and the sogginess (meat falling out through the bottom onto the plate) of the tortillas made the experience less than pleasant. I tried covering each bite in the avocado to get it down. But the pork tamale...that I was SO excited about, was a JOKE. It was so dry that I feared for my safety while choking down the crumbling pieces I broke off. I couldn't even finish it - or come close - even though I was still hungry.

After lots of online research, I was very excited to make this my dinner spot for my one night in Providence on a budget. I could not have had a more dismal food experience. SKIP THIS PLACE.

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  1. Really? I go once a week therabouts...i have never experienced anything like what you experienced. My tamales have been moist, as have the tacos I enjoyed.

    Perhaps an off time for you? I am not sure that warrants a huge "SKIP", especially when you are passing through and cant try it again.

    12 Replies
    1. re: basachs

      Maybe you're right. I was just so excited about it being good, I'm sure my disappointment tinged my review - as I'm sure isn't uncommon.

      1. re: Jel212

        I really love the place, but would be hesitant to recommend it if you only had one meal in town. I'm sorry your experience didn't live up to your expectations. It's unfortunate, because Providence has a lot to offer.

        1. re: dagwood

          I am a big fan of the place and pop in frequently. I am truly surprised to hear the guacomole was a disappointment because that is one of our favorites, as it is made to order. As for the entrees..there are certain things i swear by, most of all the mole poblano, as well as the enchilladas verde & rojo. i love the huge and delicious hurraches, priced at a whopping $4.00. i have had a few dishes i wasn't thrilled with but i certainly wouldn't classify it as a "skip" , as i feel their redeeming qualities far out weigh the short comings. personally i would reccomend folks give it a chance, as it won't cost them much anyways. one comment i will add is that the food typically takes a LONG time to come out, but i guess i've told myself that's because it's made fresh to order?? plus the chips & salsa are slammin....

          1. re: sarabean

            I hear you, but I will say that we tried a few different things, and they were all disappointments. Based on my experience, I would still say skip it, especially if someone will only be in town for a short time and could have a real hit-or-miss experience, but I can respect if you go often and like it.

            1. re: Jel212

              I, too, am less than a fan of this place. Their guacamole is truly laughable (aguacate licuado, basically)...and I am always mystified by how long it takes food to come out. I mean, made to order is awesome, but it's mostly antojitos and they should NEVER take that long!

              And despite the neighborhood that it's located in, there's consistently a suspicious lack of Mexican patrons. Oftentimes when we are there and it's full the only Mexicans are my husband and, well, my husband. And maybe one other dude.

              Only time I can get him to go is when he's not starving (he invariably gets ticked off by the seemingly endless wait) and my craving for sangria reaches an intolerable level.

              Otherwise it's La Casa del Pueblo in CF...the food is cheap and plentiful.

              1. re: GabachaYucateca

                let me ask then, where do you reccomend for good mexican in providence because i'd certainly to get a different perspective..?

                1. re: GabachaYucateca

                  Whenever we go there are other mexican patrons. And honestly, I dont what the hell that has to do with the quality or authenticity of the food.

                  I am not sure why it takes a while either. I do know the owner is there everytime I am and I wonder if she is the only one making the food.

                  1. re: basachs

                    Well, considering that just about every single Mexican I know here is either desperately homesick and can never go back there until they plan to stay or just incredibly nostalgic for a reminder of the food back home, I think that they know something about what fits that criteria. And in a neighborhood chock full of Mexicans that is saying something about the restaurant. And I certainly don't know much about "authenticity" (whatever that truly means), but if one definition of authenticity is a close proximation of what one finds in one's home country and craves, their absence either speaks of the restaurant's food or marketing.

                    But I guess it's not all that important, no? I mean, if it's good enough for the people who go there, then right on.

                    I actually always go to CF for Mexican, but really liked the food at Maya Azteca just down the street from El Ranchito...although the food was a weird mixture of Guatemalan and Mexican food. I probably wouldn't go there on a Saturday night though since I was the only female in the packed bar save for two prostis.

                    1. re: GabachaYucateca

                      I'm far from an expert on Mexican food, and there are places I like better than Rancho Grande, but I think that some of what they make is excellent (the carnitas have particularly impressed me). The overall quality is quite high, though the flavor is sometimes not quite there.

                      As to the ethnic makeup of the clientele, I do tend to agree with Gabacha's concerns. In some cases though, and I think this is one, the whiteness of the patrons may have less to do with the food and more to do with the feel of the place and the racial dynamics of a diverse city, including gentrification. And I don't feel like going there right here and right now. Suffice it to say that some white patrons tell their friends, their presences makes a place "safer" for more white patrons, and the phenomenon develops momentum. I think a similar dynamic occurred at Chilangos. Also, Rancho Grande has a web presence--unusual for a taqueria.

                      So Gabacha, is Casa del Pueblo your rec for the best Mexican food in the area? You seem to have strong opinions, and I'm inclined to try your recommendations.

                      Oh and one side comment--I was in on a Friday night for the first time a few weeks ago and had PHENOMENAL service. We were blown away by how sweet and attentive they were. Definitely not my experience in the past (not that I really care, personally) but it bodes well.

                      1. re: celeriac

                        Where is this restaurant, anyhow?

                        AS for Mexican, I have been going to Cancun, which is on Rte 44 in Johnston - where 'Pat Orlando's' was (until July of this year). Every experience has been great - the food is delicious and fresh (very fresh). The prices are more than reasonable. (As a matter of fact, I should write a seperate review for it; don't know why I haven't).

                        1. re: OOliver

                          yes, i've been there too, and the food is absolutelly amazing,

                        2. re: celeriac

                          I getcha why you don't want to get into it here, but it's still an interesting conversation for another time and place!

                          For straight up tacos, I always go to Don Nacho's taco truck on the corner of Barton and Dexter in Pawtucket, although I've seen mention of other near Olneyville that sound good.

                          For the closest to comida corrida and my favorite, cozy atmospehre, La Casa del Pueblo on Broad in CF.

                          For booze and a lot of food, we've liked Mexico Garibaldi, although the prices had gone up last time we were there and I believe that the quality of the food may vary.

                          I do have strong opinions, no? :) Lived in Mexico for the better part of seven years and now have listened to my Mexican whine about the food here made by his paisas for the past year and a half.

                          Oh, and I can't figure out why we haven't gone to El Salvadoreno way down Lonsdale in CF again...a good mixture of Central American food (which I don't know much about), lots of beer, and a nice, bustling atmosphere. They have super thick tortilas that we'd never seen before, but were delicious although waay too filling for someone who usually finishes off half a kilo every meal.

        2. I too think this posting is overly harsh. I've been there three times and the food has always been very good. The last time with a Mexican friend who loved it.

          I do agree that it is incredibly slow.

          1. your lucky to get away with out having your car stolen plus its a nasty neighborhood thanks for the update and saftey factor

            5 Replies
            1. re: happycook1

              Come on. It's a low income neighborhood but it's not particularly nasty or unsafe. Only person I ever knew to have their car stolen in Providence was downtown at the time. Chowhounds aren't deterred by a working class area.

              1. re: happycook1

                I don't get your post at all. Why is it a nasty neighborhood? I am in full agreement with celeriac.

                1. re: digga

                  From my previous apartment, I could walk to Rancho Grande. Low income does not equal nasty. Or unsafe. Just low income.

                  1. re: bastaya

                    I lived in the neighborhood for years. It is not unsafe. It is lower income, sure, but definitely not unsafe.

                    1. re: dagwood

                      The neighborhood was fine. The food was not.

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