It’s finally here. At long last there is finally a Mexican Restaurant in South St. Paul. The place is called La Rancherita and it is located at 100 7th Av S, just a few blocks from our house. The location, although ideal, has been the center of a great deal of controversy over the last few years. For nearly 20 years the former hardware store at the intersection of 7th and Marie was home the Angelo’s Pizza, a family-owned pizza place with loyal customers a civic dedication not uncommon in SSP. Unfortunately, the owners of Angelo’s were forced to vacate the premises due to a “rent dispute” and a landlord hell bent on making room for Windy City Pizza, a deep-dish pizza shop owned by his friend. Cronyism at its finest.
However, thanks to a lazy business plan, a bit of ill-will, and a serious miscalculations of the market, the new pizza place closed before it ever got off the ground. Afterall, South St. Paul never has been a deep dish town. In the mean time, Angelo’s re-located to a strip mall, focusing on take-out and delivery with plans to take over the vacant space next door giving them a much larger dining room and an even more loyal customer base.
Once Windy City Pizza shuttered its doors the speculation as to what would replace it began. Yesterday those questions were answered as La Rancherita opened for business. Believing that this town is in dire need of a Mexican Restaurant, particularly given the growing Hispanic community I felt is was my civic duty to give it a try. After sampling several dishes I can say that it is not perfect but it shows promise.
Although the place is clean the decor is sparce. None of the people responsible for preparing the food seemed to speak English but that didn’t prove a problem since the Middle School student working the cash register was both bilingual and eager to help. The menu is fairly simple tacos, tamales, enchiladas, burritos and tortas each available with a variety of traditional meats. Kristin requested chicken enchiladas in red sauce while I had two tacos (one alpastor and one carnitas) and a chicken tamale. The enchiladas were good and the red sauce tasty with an interesting flavor that reminded me of garam masala. The tacos were served with the traditional corn tortillas, onions, lime and cilantro. I preferred the alpastor to the carnitas which wasn’t nearly crispy enough. The side of sliced radishes were a nice touch though. Since I got the meal to go I didn’t realize they forgot the tamale until I got home. When I returned a few minutes later they apologized several times and sent me home with a few extras. I only had one, saving the others for lunch tomorrow but it seemed a bit dry. My guess is that they had been made much earlier and would be better when more fresh.
As I said I think the place has promise. The staff were very friendly if not a bit disorganized. The prices were reasonable and I trust things will improve once they iron out the kinks. One good sign was the number of people who stopped in commenting on how nice it is to finally have a Mexican restaurant in town. They seem like decent people and are deserving of my business.
100 7th Av S
South St. Paul