El Ranchito del Agave Proves My Buffet Standards Are Higher Than I Thought

El Ranchito del Agave

Knowing how much I love the all-you-can-eat buffet, Serious Eats grand poobah Ed Levine IM’d pretty soon after he and the SENY crew discovered El Ranchito del Agave- the brand new Mexican restaurant on 9th Ave. btw. 36+37th that features a lunch buffet.  He knew I’d be excited (I’m very serious about my all you can eat buffets), but cautioned that he might have finally found an all you can eat buffet that even I couldn’t get behind 100%.  Ed found the taquitos to be dry, and the mole too sweet- but the rest of the crew seemed to like it enough in their review… and it’s only $8!  How could it be bad!? (After all you are talking to a guy who has willingly eaten at an all you can eat Chinese buffet in the back woods of Tennessee.)

What I’m trying to say is my standards for all you can eat buffets are far lower than Ed’s, so I rushed out 9th to check this one out.

El Ranchito del Agave

9th Ave is admittedly out of bounds for Midtown Lunch’ing purposes, but for an all you can eat buffet I will break my $10 price barrier, and travel pretty much anywhere. Luckily El Ranchito del Agave is only $8 and just one avenue out of the way. Plus, aside from El Rey del Sabor and the tamale lady outside the Mexican Embassy- there isn’t really much in they way of authentic and cheap Mexican food in Midtown. (Sorry Sombrero Cart, nacho cheese and hard taco shells are not real Mexican food.)

El Ranchito del Agave

$8 is about as cheap an all you can eat buffet as you are going to find anywhere, and El Ranchito del Agave has got plenty of options. They’ve got chicken or pork in green sauce, chicken in red sauce, a mole dish, a couple of fish dishes, tamales, enchiladas with green or red sauce, chiles rellenos, and rice and beans. Plus an assortment of salsas, and something they called guacamole- but was really just a watery avocado sauce. I can’t blame them though… if you’re only going to charge $8, all you can eat real guacamole would put you out of business pretty quickly.

El Ranchito del Agave
Clockwise from the top: rice, beans, chile relleno, enchilade w/ salsa verde, something in red sauce, tamal, chicken w/ mole

There were no taquitos the day I went, but I agree with Ed that there was something about the mole that made it tough to finish. Too rich? Too sweet? Something. The green sauce was far better (as the SENY review pointed out), but most of the stuff on the buffet suffered a ton by being out in those steam tables. Maybe the chiles rellenos were good at some point during the day, but by the time I got to them they weren’t. The enchiladas and tamales as well.

El Ranchito del Agave
Clockwise from the top: fish, pork in salsa verde, rice, steak

It’s pretty tough to get an all you can eat buffet up and running, since the quality is going to suffer in those early days while you wait to attract business that can provide the turnover you need. Especially Mexican food, which suffers tremendously as the minutes tick away between the time it comes off griddle or out of the steamer and the time it goes into your belly. The best thing I had came fresh out of the kitchen between plate number one and plate number two… this very thinly pounded steak, with a little bit of lime. Mixed with the rice and the beans, it was pretty tasty- and made the lunch well worth the $8.

But if I’m going to go well out of my way for Mexican food, I’ll probably end up at Tehuitzingo, Tulcingo del Valle, or La Rosita since at this moment their food is just better- and it’s cheap enough that you can get a variety of different things for under $10- which in the end is the biggest reason you choose a buffet over ordering ala carte.

Oh who am I kidding… the biggest reason you eat at a buffet is to stuff your face, and the call of El Ranchito del Agave’s buffet will eventually be too much for this fat man’s stomach to deny (DID I MENTION IT’S ONLY $8!!!) By then I’m guessing the the crowds will have gotten a bit bigger, and the food will be that much fresher and better.


  • Uh… all you can eat Mexican?  Hello!  What’s better than that?
  • Pork and chicken in green sauce = good
  • Did I mention it’s all you can eat for $8?!?!
  • Good variety of options


  • Mexican food is not entirely well suited for the buffet format… the tamales, enchiladas, and chiles rellenos suffer a lot in those steam tables
  • The guacamole had the consistency of watery soup
  • Needs some better turnover of the food on the buffet

El Ranchito del Agave, 476 9th Ave. (btw. 36+37th), 212-904-1198


  • Is that really how they spelled their enchiladas?


    You are right though, enchiladas and rellenos are fried foods. Best eaten fresh from the kitchen otherwise they get soggy.

  • haha! sorry… i’ll fix it.

  • Well, if those photos are anywhere near accurate portrayals of the food, they would have a difficult time selling it in Texas, even though $8.00 for all-you-can-eat would be a good price, even in San Antonio.

    And you are 100% correct — tamales, enchiladas, and chiles rellenos should be eaten immediately (tamales might be good for 30 minutes on the steam table, but that’s about it).

    Of course, what would an old Texan know? I’ve only been eating that kind of stuff for about 60 years now — LOL!

  • And look at the size of you.



  • An old Texan might know, but a lifelong resident of a welfare-supported trailer park community in deep rural Arkansas like you, DocChuck? Not so much.

  • Yes. Yes, We know. It is well known, well documented, well established, and lamented, that NYC has a dearth of good mexican food. The worst mexican food in the south/southwest is better than anything in NYC. Unfortunate, but true.

    That said, I think we make up for it in nearly all other cuisine.

  • Well said, prato. Your rare display of honesty about all things New Yawk City is a breath of fresh air.

    Carry on.

  • I don’t know. I’m willing to bet nearly everything I say is honest. Or if it’s not, it’s just sarcastic :)

  • Well, you might very well have lost that bet: “I think we make up for it in nearly all other cuisine.”

    Then again, you were intelligent enough to include the modifier, “nearly”, so that now I will have to temper my rebuttal with a degree of civility (unlike your girlfriend, Fred).

    Mr. Prato, people in your New Yawk City can NOT hold a candle to the rest of the developed country in the following areas:

    1. Seafood – people in Maine would NEVER eat your crap.

    2. Beef – Texans LAUGH at you New Yawkas who play games with your “aged”, your “Black Label”, and your other bullshit versions of meat that we have been eating way before most NYC types got off the boat.

    3. Bison – Well, hell, you people don’t even know what it is all about.

    4. BBQ – Your feeble attempts at enjoying barbecue (shades of ‘Dinosaur’) make us laugh.

    5. Soul food – NYC people, like you, would wet your drawers (TWICE) if you ever really experienced good soul food: fried chicken, collards, grits, etc.

    No, Mr. Prato, your “sarcasm” is wasted on us redneck Southerners.


  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Sorry, but I’d say our Asian cuisine is way better then the South… same games for Middle Eastern… What you just posted wasn’t even… I’d bet our Italian food is better then what the South is seeing… And I’d even guess that Irish food in these parts are tons better then what you see in the South… I’d also be sure that Spanish food… aka Puerto Rican/Dominican… is better then what you find down south… You certainly didn’t temper your rebuttal to show more civility… It seemed more like an open mock on NYC about the cuisines you mentioned… In contrast, I have devised this tempered rebuttal to your foolish post to prove that NYC does in fact pull ahead far and beyond in the cuisines I mentioned then what you find in the south.

    Now quit your NYC hating and shove your head up a horses ass.

  • 1. The seafood(Mantis prawns, shark fins, sea cucumber, hairy crabs, coconut crabs, sazae, sticky fish, Anago, etc) we get in NYC is probably too exotic and beyond the comfort zone of a typical Maine resident who is used to lobster, blue crab, and scallops.

    2. So Texas has been enjoying mediocre steroid injected meat for years?

    3. If it is tasty NYers will eat it. We have restaurants that specialize in organ meats, blowfish sperm sacs, pigs feet and heads, yet no bison.

    4. Unfortunately NYers didn’t force people into slavery which resulted in developing a type of cooking that made use of poor cuts of meats and ingredients

    5. See # 4

  • I forgot to add that slavery ended in texas roughly 50-60 years ago so of course you guys are better at #4 and 5.

  • Folks, he’s just a pathetic old man in dirty clothes tapping on a stolen PC in an old rusted singlewide in deep rural Arkansas. Virtually everything he writes is a fabrication, the rest if just blather.

    Why he has decided to disrupt this board (and dozens of other food-related blogs and websites) with his unwanted presence is a mystery, particularly since he has no interest or investment in the topics discussed here.

    One is left to believe that he is here merely for the enjoyment of harrassing and insulting people, for as long as Zach allows him to do so

  • Wow, that is some blatant hate. As a transplanted Texan, I do admit that there is a poor showing in BBQ and good mexican in New York. Tastes are usually more exotic and upscale than I would say down in Texas. But where they lack in those regional cuisines, they certainly make up in others. Considering the vast mix of different peoples in this city, you have a lot of variety. You definitely get the best sushi here outside of California. And where the lack of good mexican may get you down, you can definitely celebrate the fantastic Puerto Rican and Dominican restaurants in their own right. As for soul food, DocChuk is way off. For some good ole chicken and waffles, Harlem is the place to be. Collard greens and all the typical good loving. Heck, people all over the country use Sylvia’s mix and spices for their collard greens. Even those in Texas. So as one humble Texan (No honest red blooded Texan would ever call themselves “Southern”, cause we are just Texan)on behalf of a lot of transplants from the south, I enjoy what New York has to offer. And don’t pay attention to all the hate that DocChuk has to spew. We Texans are usually more laid back than to spew a lot of hate about a city that some don’t really even know about.

  • well, you have to keep keep in mind that DocChuck is just as much a Texan as he is wealthy, educated, intelligent, important, or loved – which is to say not at all. His claim of Texas lineage is just one more lie amidst a never-ending spew. So no need to defend his actions as a fellow Texan – he isn’t one.

  • 500lb hustonians.

    Makes me laugh…….500 lbs…..in a stetson….what fucking horse could carry them?

    Also…outside the larger cities……texas is a dusty shithole.

  • comment about the food people, seriously.

    the place looks gross but for $8 ($10 even with tax and tip?) why not? reminds me of the “mexican” buffet they used to have at certain Wendy’s.

    one thing though, you could definitely leave tamales steaming all day. duh.

  • avisualperson, thanks for being the only person on here who pointed out the obvious about the tamales.

  • @avp and steveroller… that’s true when the steamer basket is covered. but buffets steam tables are usually open, and these tamales were completely dried out… (just an fyi)

  • WHERE CAN I GET COCONUT CRABS IN NYC? Trying to cut through the irrelevant comments here kind of sucks, but there’s at least that little bit of hopefully good information.

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