“Ranchos” Mexican and Vegetarian Cuisine
1830 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.
Ocean Beach, CA 92107
A good friend called me today to wish me happy birthday, and said she had been following my restaurant reviews and wondered if I ever stayed home and cooked any more. It does seem like I have been going out a lot – and my increased girth tells me that is true – but I hate to pass by the opportunity of going out and trying new – and old – restaurants, so I decided to take my two students – Monica and Jeffrey – to Rancho’s for dinner. (And for clarification purposes – both students are adults studying English at ESL schools.)
Remember the old song, “The Old Gray Mare Ain’t What She Used To Be”? Well, turning the words around I have to say that “ . . . the Old Ranchos Ain’t What She Used to Be” either.
And I am so very disappointed. I have eaten there dozens of times. I have several friends that are vegetarians and it is a perfect place for all of us to enjoy a meal – vegetarian or not. The menu is extensive with several HUNDRED items available. Those that are meatless are marked with a “V” so it makes it very easy to distinguish what can be eaten by whom. Without counting, I wager there are close to 100 vegetarian items also.
Besides the Appetizers, Combination Plates and typical Mexican fare, there is an A La Cart section; all day breakfast, an array of beverages, and something for everyone. (Check their menu out)
We arrived Thursday night at 7:15pm. We had a short wait for a table, and I remarked to my students that I have never seen it so busy. After we were seated we were brought the traditional chips, salsa and water. (A word about the salsa – it is some of the best I have had in San Diego. It is not out of a jar and a goodly amount is brought to the table.)
It was not until 7:51pm that I finally flagged down the waiter to take our order. Yes, they were busy, and yes, there appeared to be only 3 waitpersons on the floor, but we had finished our water and the chips and salsa and were no longer hungry. We felt like getting up and leaving but since I was doing a review we decided to stay.
The guitarist was performing, and if we could have heard him it might have made the wait more palatable. But he uses a manual guitar, and no amplification, and unless you were right under his nose you could not hear a word of what he was singing. Even the guitar was indistinguishable from the noise of the room. No one clapped for him; I didn’t see anyone leave a tip; and I felt sorry for him as he plodded on with his music.
We received our order 21 minutes after placing it: Monica had a fish burrito ($7.95) with a side order of rice; Jeffrey had a chicken burrito ($6.95) with a side order of rice ($1.95); and I had the blue corn avocado enchilada( $3.95). All of our orders were ala carte. Even without drinks, which is something I will discuss in a moment, our bill was $24.57.
Monica’s burrito was good but should have been warmer. Jeffrey’s burrito was also good, but so hot he could not pick it up; my enchilada was lukewarm. I might have sent it back to be reheated, but I could not get the waiter’s attention. In spite of the temperature difference, everything was tasty. But the service was, to put it bluntly, terrible.
Our waiter walked around and refilled the water glasses on 5 tables near us. All of us had finished our water with the chips and salsa but he never came to us to refill our glasses until 6 minutes after he passed our table and Monica managed to get his attention. Those of you that will say I am too nitpicky about this have to realize that after eating spicy salsa a cool sip of water is almost a necessity. Too much time passed without the liquid refreshment.
Not once did our waiter come to us and ask if everything was ok. He never asked if we wanted something else. We would have ordered dessert if he had asked. When we began finishing what was on our plate he never picked up the dirty plate to remove it from the table. In fact, it was a waitress that came by on her way to another table that removed it.
We did not leave the restaurant until 8:40pm – we were there way too long for a local neighborhood restaurant. I also want to mention that I had cut a coupon out of the “Get 1 Free” coupon book that we get monthly in the mail. It was good for one free entrée when another was purchased. The one thing I neglected to see was that we had to also purchase two drinks with the entrée. We chose to have water so when I went to pay the bill the coupon was not honored. That’s fine – it was my error for not seeing that restriction in the first place. (And if the least expensive entrée was removed from the bill it would have been my $3.95 enchilada, and two drinks would have been more than entrée.)
Will I go back again. Probably. I have been there so many times when the food AND service has been good. I hate to think that this is now the norm for this restaurant. I can only hope that it was an off-night and the next time I go things will improve. There are too many other Mexican restaurants in the neighborhood, albeit none vegetarian.