El Rancho Grande: Night Hawk dish picked as one of best in U.S.
BY SCOTT CHERRY World Restaurant Critic
Thursday, August 09, 2012
3/28/13 at 8:21 AM
I recently received an email from well-known community leader Yolanda Charney to inform me that El Rancho Grande received a significant shout-out in Gustavo Arellano's new book, "Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America."
Arellano named the restaurant's Night Hawk entree "as one of the five best Mexican meals in the U.S.," Charney said.
I have not read the book, but as I understand it, Arellano does not join the battle about what is "authentic" Mexican food but is more interested in the history and trends of the cuisine in the United States.
Regardless, this news had us sprinting to El Rancho Grande to try the Night Hawk ($8.59), which features two cheese and onion enchiladas topped with chili con carne and cheddar cheese and one soft cheese taco topped with queso.
John Walden, who owns the restaurant with brother Jeff, said the name came from the original owner, the late Ruby Rodrigues.
"Ruby was from Sonora (Mexico), and I guess that area has night hawks. They are yellow and brown, and that's the color of this dish," Walden said. "At least, that's the story from Salvador Gomez, who has waited tables here for 35 years."
The platter of food sure enough was yellow and brown, and all I can say is that Arellano must like cheese because the Night Hawk was one of the cheesiest dishes I think I've ever had.
We also had a pulled pork burrito ($8.99), and it was a dandy. The big tortilla was loaded with big chunks of pork meshed with lettuce, beans, tomato, onion, cheese and sour cream. It was slightly spicy, and the generous serving of meat made this dish stand out.
We also shared a side order of a tamale ($5.99) and a guacamole appetizer ($3.99).
The tamale was long and thin, and it was smothered in a greasy helping of chili con carne. The sizable bowl of guacamole, with little more than fresh, smashed avocado, was terrific.
Complimentary tortilla chips were crispy, and the thin salsa had a little bite to it.
Rodrigues operated her first restaurant in a building across the street (now a parking lot) from Holy Family Cathedral and moved to its current location in 1951 or 1953, according to different accounts. John Walden said it was '53, and the restaurant is planning a 60th-anniversary celebration next year.
The Waldens' parents purchased the building in 1974 as an investment (the second floor had apartments), and took over the restaurant in '84, when Rodrigues retired.
The Walden brothers began operating El Rancho Grande seven years ago, and five years ago executed a major interior remodel, anchored by colorful tile tabletops. They recently refurbished the exterior neon sign featuring a vaquero with a big sombrero and lasso.
"The second floor is empty now, and we are thinking about turning that into a cantina and private dining room," Jeff Walden said.
Book examines Mexican cuisine in the U.S.
According to promotional materials, Gustavo Arellano's new book, "Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America," answers these all-important questions:
"What exactly constitutes 'Mexican' food in the United States? How did it get here? What's 'authentic' and what's 'Taco Bell,' and does it matter? What's so cosmic about a burrito? And why do Americans love Mexican food so darn much?"
The book may be ordered through Steve's Sundry Books and Magazines, 2612 S. Harvard Ave. It is available only in hardback for $25.
EL RANCHO GRANDE
1629 E. 11th St.
(on a scale of 0 to 4 stars)
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; accepts
all major credit cards.
Original Print Headline: Night Hawk soars
Scott Cherry 918-581-8463
The Night Hawk was named one of the five best Mexican dishes in the United States in a new book, "Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America." JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
The colorful interior of El Rancho Grande was remodeled five years ago. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World