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.