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Jan 5, 2010 10:06 PM

Jonathan's Worldly Eats: Confessions of a Foodie - Mi Ranchito - Cancún, Quintana Roo

There is nothing worse than a tourist attraction. When I am abroad I want to go where the locals go. What is the point of eating and drinking some concoction that has been custom tailored to the tastes of an unenlightened invader. I seek out the places that fulfill the essential role of nourishing the locals with soul food reminiscent of their childhoods. The kind of place that is greasy, but in a good way. A good friend of mine, Alejandro Pedro Medina, was born and raised in the Yucatan and he knows his Mexican barbecued meats. I asked him one morning where he recommended for carnitas, the Mexican version of pulled pork. He suggested a restaurant on the main strip downtown... I then clarified my request. "Where do you take your family for carnitas?" I asked. Oh what a question...

Next thing I know, the six of us (yes, Jeremias also came along for the ride) were packed into my parent's rented four seater, sub-compact Dodge. As we navigated the alleyways and neighborhoods of real Cancún, my excitement and hunger for barbecued pork flesh roasted in its own succulent, fatty juices became insatiable. We were not on the mainland of Mexico for five minutes before we arrived at the Holy Palace of Pork. Mi Ranchito is a small, family run barbecue joint that is just close enough to downtown to be easily accessible by bus or taxi, but still far enough away from the Zona Hotelera to avoid being corrupted by arrogant tourists and the greedy proprietors that usher in their company. Mi Ranchito is the perfect undiscovered gem in a town filled with cliche excuses for dining establishments such as Senior Frogs and the shockingly disgusting Hard Rock Cafe.

We met Alejandro's lovely girlfriend and soon the ordering commenced. While they do sell tacos, we were not interested. Our savvy hosts knew better... So we began ordering kilogram after kilogram of rich porky goodness. A kilo of sortido (half pork meat, half crispy pork skin, all chopped and mixed together; my personal recommendation), a kilo of pork carnitas, and of course a kilo of barbacoa. With the legs of our white plastic lawn table beginning to bend under six pounds of glistening pig and lamb meat, we began to stuff the flesh into fresh corn tacos, sprinkle chopped white onions and cilantro as if it were pixy dust, carefully added a fiery dollop of Mexican chili sauce, before finally indulging into bite after bite of carnivorous Mexican history. Wash it all down the traditional way, with a cool glass of agua de horchata, a sweet drink made of rice and almonds, and you have a truly memorable meal. Mi Rachito is located right at the intersection of Calle Nichupe and Calle Abeja. For the best pork in Mexico, Mi Rachito is clearly the kosher choice...

*A version of this article was published on on May 18, 2009

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  1. kosher? that's curious.

    1. Interestingly written review...and alos want to point out that there are dozens, if not hundreds of places in Cancun like this.

      Even after years of living and eating in Mexico, I am still picky about the parts that I will eat. Whenever I order carnitas, I am sure to order maciza, not surtido, because I'm not into the funky bits. We usually got carnitas from a place on Av. Chichen Itza just near the intersection with Av. Palenque, but I'm not sure of the name.

      Confused about the location of Mi Ranchito...what SM (Supermanzana) is it located in? I'm guessing you meant Av. Nichupte, which I know well, but am unsure of where exactly along it without the SM listed.

      1. I'm confused. You wrote that you didn't want tacos but then it sounds like that's exactly what you had. Meat and the typical accoutrements in a tortilla. That's what I call a taco.

        2 Replies
        1. re: c oliver

          I think what they wanted were "make your own tacos", not made by the restaurant. What he describes is a common way of ordering carnitas: by weight.

          Hereabouts (Pátzcuaro, and Quiroga, Michoacán). we usually get a half kilo for 2-3 of us. We get the tortillas from a separate vendor. When I just want a snack, I order tacos.

          I differ with the OP in that I don't consider carnitas to be barbecued pork. Carnitas are simmered in their own lard. BBQ is smoked or pit cooked.

          1. re: Anonimo

            exactly. carnitas = little fried chunks. "pulled pork" would be tender, stringy, moist roast lechon. opposite ends of the pigly spectrum.

        2. Where to start! There are so many misconceptions and errors in the OP's 'review' of his experience with carnitas...starting with spelling (it's *surtido*, OP) and ending with 'Mexican chili sauce' (which of the hundreds of varieties did you eat?). "Surtido" isn't as the OP described, either. "Surtido" (assortment) indicates a mixture of meat from the leg, meat from ribs, and pieces of ear, intestines, snout, tongue, etc.

          And for huckfinn--traditional *carnitas* are not "little fried chunks". I know folks make them that way in the country to the north, but they're not done that way here. Think huge sections of the pig, simmered till crisp on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, and chopped into hunks that will fit on a platter as they're brought to your table.

          One of these days soon I will write an article for Mexico Cooks! about carnitas, starting with the animal on the hoof and ending with a succulent platter of meat on the table. One day soon, I promise.


          1 Reply
          1. re: cristina

            Hi Cristina,

            Even my own gringa sensibilities registered a BS factor on this post.

            Please do your story on carnitas and, hopefully, contrast south vs. north traditional preparations.

            Our go-to carnitas restaurant in Rosarito, Baja Norte, has been operated by the family for over fifty years. The menu is carnitas or carne asada, but you can have either one with eggs for breakfast. No rice, but great, luscious refried beans. The standard salsa is a red one made up of chiles arbol and jalapeno, but, occasionally they do a tomatillo poblano jalapeno salsa in the molcajete.

            Today, when we were waiting to pay our bill at the cashier, I saw one of the waiters squeeze fresh limes into a glass, then he added a spice mixture and the customer poured his beer into the glass. That's a michelada, I think.