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El Rancherito

Posted by ACL 1 Jul 2009 11 Comments


A new Mexican restaurant, El Rancherito, has just opened up in the Lakewood neighborhood (2300 Chapel Hill Rd)‎. Grayson’s Cafe left this location, but their other locations (3600 N. Duke St. and 433 Murray Ave.) remain open, I assume. Sadly, I never had the chance to eat there, but YAR liked it quite a bit. It’s too early to say whether the trade of this Americanized-Mexican place for the former breakfast diner/cafe will be for the better. There’s no shortage of either menu in Durham.

El Rancherito had only been open for four days when I went there with a friend, and it showed it: no printed menu, Grayson’s old decor and signage, a bit of uncertainty in the service, and a lack of customers (well…it was a Monday). But the place had the nervous charm of brand-new, family-run establishment.

Their menu hits all the favorites: nachos, burritos, quesadillas, and tortas (no tacos as far as I saw). After negotiating the whiteboard menu, we ordered some quesadillas to start (on the server’s suggestion), a chicken burrito, and a chorizo torta. The mozzarella and spinach quesadillas were appropriately toasted and tasty enough, though the combination of ingredients left me with a flavor impression approaching that of pizza. The burrito was good as well, though I doubt it will beat out anyone’s local favorite. The fresh, homemade salsa gave it some life and, for me, made the burrito the highlight of the meal. Lastly came the torta.

Chorizo torta

Chorizo torta

This was the most traditional item I saw on the menu. It was quite large and satisfying,  but the chorizo lacked the crispiness and punch of what’s on offer at Los Comalles, La Vaquita, or the taco bus.

All in all a nice spot, even if at this early stage its dishes don’t yet match up with the fare down the street at La Vaquita. I had a better dining experience here than at the nearby and similar Azteca Grill.  I look forward to trying it out again in few months after they’ve worked out some of the kinks.


  • G Wolf said:

    Random question: So I know “RPP” stands for “reasonably prudent person”, but what does “YAR” stand for?


    fooddude replies on July 2nd, 2009 at 10:42 pm:

    It’s pirate. It means “Yes.” Or “Avast.” Or “Shiver me timbers.” All depends on context, really.


  • G Wolf said:

    Or “ACL” for that matter, too.


    fooddude replies on July 2nd, 2009 at 10:44 pm:

    Anterior Cruciate Ligament. You live in Durham and you’re not a doctor or a lawyer who has sued one?


  • hookah bars said:

    That place is awesome


  • mh said:

    We went shortly after they opened and had the enchiladas verdes and a chicken burrito. The enchilada sauce was very good and it was a lot of food for the price. Hopefully they work out the kinks of service (and no menu) relatively soon.


  • awldune said:

    I thought it was really good, although the service and decor will need some work as mentioned.

    I was impressed with their meats. I tried the chicken, beef, and chorizo and all had a great taste and texture. No gristle in the beef.


    awldune replies on July 4th, 2009 at 2:43 pm:

    Their number for carryout is 419-1396.


  • sunnyd said:

    Their chicken burrito is my FAVORITE in town. Yes, better than La Vaquita. Very fresh (including guac made to order), excellent chicken, authentic-tasting tortilla and always piping hot. Have not tried anything else off the menu, or eaten-in, but will go back again and again for the chicken burrito! Call ahead to save wait time, as they take a little longer to prepare than some other joints– a good thing, no? 419- 1396.
    TRY IT!


  • Outdoor Dining Spots | Carpe Durham said:

    [...] El Rancherito, 2300 Chapel Hill Road, Carpe Durham Review. [...]

  • Katy said:

    I went to El Rancherito for lunch today and I think it may be safe to say they are going out of business or heading quickly in that direction. There is a For Sale sign in front of the restaurant and when we entered there was no one in sight…when someone finally emerged from the back they seemed surprised like we must have gotten lost or something. No one else pulled up to or entered the building the entire time we were there (which ended up going over the alloted hour lunch). I tried to order the Chile Relleno only to be told they did not have any peppers. My co-worker went with the Durango Burrito…I ended up with the grilled chicken torta. We asked for chips and salsa and were served kettle potato chips with a bowl of salsa (no joke). The chicken seemed well flavored but everything else was forggetable. Everything the waiter said to us seemed like a confused question. We were hoping to find a hole-in-the-wall type place with great food, but this does not seem to be it. I hate to give negative feedback but I would not recommend this place to anyone and I feel like they must sadly be on the way out.


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