El Rancho (Columbia, MO)

el rancho (from El Rancho’s Facebook page)

El Rancho sits next to Eastside on Columbia’s main drag; you’ll recognize it because it’s the most lit-up place on the street. At Christmastime they string the colored lights up in droves, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen those lights up at less appropriate seasonal intervals too.

It’s known for drunk food. I once told someone I was going there at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and he said “you’re kidding, right?” The line starts at 1 when the bars let out, and El Rancho doesn’t close until 3.

But I am here to disabuse you of the notion that El Rancho is only suitable for a slack palate. To those who pay attention, it’s actually pretty good. For starters, El Rancho sells horchata, my favorite Mexican beverage. It’s made of rice milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. They make it there. You can also buy Jarritos Mexican soda. In case you hadn’t been drinking enough, they also sell beer.

I always order the Mushroom Quesadilla. It has a hearty portion of mushrooms, fried yellow onions, and lots of cheese. It tastes like they put paprika in it too. (I should add that the good people who make your food are not always keen on explaining it. I asked what kind of cheese they were using and one of them scoffed “White cheese.” Still, that white cheese is worth eating.) You get a side of guacamole and lettuce, and you can also order sour cream.

So, foodies, if you want to pick up something between classes and you’re tired of Chipotle, maybe El Rancho will do the trick.

My Rating: 7
Recommended Dish: Mushroom Quesadilla
Atmosphere: Silent before midnight, Times Square after 1.
Price Range: $6-$10
Clientele: See above

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