Clearwater- Asadas Compadres Closed. Found a helluva dumpy gem though! El Ranchito de Pepe
Hand was forced into going out to Clearwater today. I know, bleh. Anyway, I figured after Bills great writeup on Asadas Compadres and it being on "the list" for so long that I'd make sure to give it a try. Much to my dismay, as I walked up to the door the owner was taking down the decorations & stacking the chairs. I asked him if he wasn't open yet (it was 11:15) and he said that they were "closed forever". Also World of Beer there in that same shopping plaza (the original store) just closed too, whaddaheck happened to that? I'll miss that place.
So off to pick up the item we were out in Clearwater for in the first place (bought some stereo stuff off Craigslist) and we just happened to pick it up at a funky/scary/cool bookstore (stuck in a previous decade) that was right across the street from a scary/scary/awesome looking Mexican grocery store that had none other than "tacos" written on a sign. Sold. So my co-worker (who looked more scared than I, and is a far less adventurous eater) and I meandered into El Ranchito de Pepe and upon entry I think I heard angels singing (in spanish of course).
They had a plethora of awesome goodies, Mexican sodas, a huge deli counter with a lot of different meats and cheeses, produce, and a little restaurant area in the back (a la Mi Acapulco, but Pepe is much larger overall). The first thing that caught my eye though was delicious looking chicharones that were about the size of a freaking snuggie in a glass warmer/case staring me right in the face. "Next time" I thought, and picked up a menu which listed about 10 different tacos ranging from tripa to lengua to pastor to pollo to barbacoa to carnitas to you get the idea. Tacos ranged in price from $1.65 to $1.95 (broad range, I know).
I was just about to order a few different tacos (one tripa, of course) when I saw the "especiales de hoy" and one of them was Menudo! After Bill & Monica's review of the Compadres menudo, I had to try this tripey gem. My friend got a chicken taco and a steak taco. The menudo had good earthy tripey flavor to the broth and a bit of heat, but the meat was just too soft for my liking. It wasn't bad by any means, and very well may be true to style, but I really like a tiny bit of bite to my tripe, almost a soft calamari like texture, while this was almost pudding-soft. My friends tacos were a different story, she got corn tortillas which appeared to be homemade, and were pretty darn sizable for less than 2 bucks! The first one filled her up and I was the fortunate beneficiary to the second (steak) one.
This thing was freaking delicious. Fully involved with lime, tomato, onion, cilantro, and a sprinkling of mexican crumbly cheese that tasted reminiscent of feta. Both green & red salsas were provided and both were good, both had heat but neither was too "picante". I was immediately sad that A. we were in a hurry, and B. I was full, because I really wanted to see what they could do with some tripa.
I couldn't remember the name of this place. I always go to Blue Moon, the book store. Been shopping with them since the late '70's. Glad to know they are still open. Last time I was there they were talking about closing since so few people come in.
El Ranchito de Pepe is in the old food co-op turned Natures Food Patch spot IIRC, before they (NFP) moved up to the plaza at S. Lincoln Ave. Can you eat-in or is it just take out for the prepared food?
Sad for Compadre but excited about Pepe's Ranchito...
Any Menudo simmering over 3 hours and you get that 'completely surrendered' tripe... I don't like it that way either, and when I make it I don't let it get anywhere close to that...
Enjoyed the story!