Mi Rancho, Mi Mistake-o?

Our friend told us as we walked into Mi Rancho (8701 Ramsey, Silver Spring) that his experience there has been absolutely average: not particularly good, not terrible. If you live nearby (which he does), it’s not a bad place to go have a margarita or beer once in a while, he said, but certainly not worth going out of your way to visit. The bar set thusly, we proceeded to limbo under it, but just barely.

Mi Rancho is a mini-chain with other locations in Rockville and Germantown and an irritating flash-based website. The Silver Spring location is festooned with the decor you’d expect at a Tex-Mex place, and a fun-looking large semi-outdoor space that is not used during winter. I thought I smelled Chinese food when we walked in, but eventually figured out it was fajitas — not sure that was an omen or not; at least it smelled like pretty good Chinese. Chips and salsa arrived immediately: chips were fresh and tasty, salsa was kind of bland, but overall a solid start.

The menu says you can get the “Chicken Enchiladas” with either chicken or beef, but chicken is not an option for the “Beef Enchiladas” — I was tempted to discuss this seeming paradox with our server, but he didn’t look like the type to engage in that kind of conversation, so I went with a platter involving enchiladas, a taco, a tamale, to get an overall sense of the place. Others ordered soft tacos, a salad, and quesadillas. It was almost all, as our friend predicted, mediocre-to-average, and really not even worth describing. Think of the various mediocre Tex-Mex you have eaten, and this was that.

Except the rice and beans, which are my primary barometer for Tex-Mex quality assessment. The rice was bad, flavorless and dry. The beans were not refried, which is really more of an incomplete than an F, but even as pinto beans they were average at best, just as bland as everything else despite apparently including bacon in the recipe. The Mi Rancho kitchen needs a reminder that Tex-Mex is supposed to be at least a little spicy, and who knows, maybe they ran out of jalapenos, and apparently also salt. If I lived nearby, I might go back during nice weather to have a drink in their outdoor space, although the margarita pitcher at a nearby table looked suspiciously reliant on sour mix.

Did I mention the tortilla chips were quite good?  Also a well-balanced Diet Coke (not as common as one might think or expect). And we had a fun time hanging out with our friends!

It was another reminder of how difficult it is to find good Tex-Mex around here. Austin Grill is better than Mi Rancho but still nowhere near the quality of a good Texas establishment, like Chuy’s or Ninfa’s or any number of places I don’t even know about. Cactus Cantina is unimpressive, and I had the single worst margarita I have ever had in my life at the Cleveland Park Alero (margaritas aren’t that hard to make! Fresh limes, people!) (I mean, “use fresh limes,” people, not that fresh limes and people are the two key ingredients — maybe that was Alero’s problem? Now that I think about it, that drink was a soylent shade of green…).  Uncle Julio’s (aka Rio Grande Cafe) is the best Tex-Mex I know in MoCo or DC, but is a national chain. There must be some great local family-run place around here somewhere. Mustn’t there? Probably in Virginia, but that hardly counts.


15 responses to “Mi Rancho, Mi Mistake-o?

  1. I believe the quality of the Silver Spring location of Mi Rancho has suffered since they opened the Rockville branch. The Rockville branch seems to be a lot better in service and quality.

    New Kam Fong, although good suffers from poor service(two visits)
    For good Tex Mex- I find that some of the independently owned restaurats have very good food

    • Thanks for the comment! Any specific independent Tex-Mex recommendations, especially in MoCo?

      I have to say, having (like you) been twice to New Kam Fong, I have found the service to be excellent. Friendly, helpful, efficient, no mistakes.

  2. La Union in Arlington VA has amazing Salvadorean food and is family-run. Homemade salsa and fresh warm tortilla chips. Sauces with soul…I am getting worked up as I write this! (-:

    They are considering opening a second location and I lobbied them for Silver Spring but they are leaning towards Virginia for their own convenience.

  3. I’ve been eating regularly at Mi Rancho since I started working here in Silver Spring over two years ago, and I have to say I have a very different perception. This might be because I tend not to order the kinds of things that lend themselves to mediocrity like enchiladas, but I have to wonder if you’d also pan the stuff I typically order.

    I like the Nachos Mi Rancho, which is pretty simple with beans, cheese, and a piece of chicken, but they give you a generous pile of pico de gallo, sour cream, jalapenos and guacamole to add as necessary. I love this dish and it sidesteps the inconsistent rice problems that lots of tex mex places have.

    I have also ordered the carne asada and really enjoyed it. To be fair I tend to enjoy my dishes on the mild end. If you find yourself there again try the nachos!

    • Kim: fair enough! Any review based on a single visit is always highly subjective and not always representative (not that that will stop me from doing it). True about enchiladas and mediocrity, but for me Tex-Mex is primarily about rice and beans, and that didn’t go well at all. Anyway, thanks for the tips in case I go back.

  4. try for tex mex

    tabasco restaurant
    4007 Norbeck Road
    Rockville, MD 20853-1847
    (301) 929-3501

    fast service
    small but yum-o
    food like home cooking!

  5. Mexican Stand-off

    There was a time that Austin grill had the best Tex-Mex in town, but it has really deteriorated since closing their Garrett Park location. Guapo’s used to be great as well, but sadly it as gone down hill as well. I don’t even know where you can get a Margarita with fresh limes these days outside of Casa de eatin’inwheaton. Keep searchin, and we’ll be watchin.

    • Agreed, AG and Guapo’s are not what they used to be (now get off my lawn, you kids!). I will never give up my quest for quality restaurant margaritas!

  6. Yep, seems like a fair assessment of the other day, and a pretty fair assessment of Mi Rancho. Like you, I don’t know that I’ve found my “go to” TexMex joint in the DC area. I’m not as averse to Alero as you, although I recognize that it’s not the best out there. Cactus Cantina is so-so, and Austin Grill always seems to let me down for some reason. I’d like to try Samantha’s on University Blvd sometime to see what all the fuss is about, and Taqueria Distrito Federal in Columbia Hts also gets some good press.

  7. Hey Wheaton eatin’ people – how ’bout some info on the Latino places in …. Wheaton! There’s a lot of ’em, and I wanna know which ones are best, what different ones do well. Which have good slow-cooked meat, for soft tacos and the like? Cervice? We all know about Pollo Rico; but how’s the bird at El Pollito on Georgia? Help me out here!

  8. Has anyone ever been to El Norteno‎ on Brookville road in SS? I am curious.

  9. Fajita coast in four corners next to corner pub is great and didnt see it on your site. Recommend the bbq trio, chicken or beef, grilled shrimp and ribs delivered sizzlin. Margaritas will warm you up too. Excellent place to bring kids too.

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