Ranchito del Agave Does a Decent Lunch Special

Brush with the law aside, it’s been a while since we checked in on the 9th Ave Mexican stalwart Ranchito del Agave. Last mentioned food-wise for a lunch buffet, they’ve got a menu full of stuff. $7.95 lunch specials alongside some proper-looking burritos? Worth a shot, doubly so if they’ve got mole poblano and pipian on the menu. If nothing else, something’s gotta offset the Chipotle-centric burrito domination of Midtown Southwest.

The front area is tiny.

As is the kitchen. It faces into a pretty big bar/restaurant area. I was the only non-Mexican person present – this is a very good sign.

This is $11 worth of food before tax and tips: two tacos with Azteca soup (a $7.95 lunch special), and a raja tamale (sliced jalapenos and cheese, a $3 appetizer). I ordered the tamale in case the soup and tacos wasn’t enough.

Given how tiny these tacos are, I thought I might have made the right choice in ordering extra. The chorizo taco was maybe one modest sausage’s worth of meat (that’s what SHE said) but it was only the crumblings, no skin here. I really like this over the sausage form of chorizo as far as fillings are concerned; it expands to fill space.

Despite the chorizo filling being thusly classified above as having the properties of a gas, this was all crispy and AMAZING chorizo. I don’t know where Ranchito del Agave gets their chorizo meat but I want in on it, and I want in on it BAD. It cooked up nice and crunchy, with just enough fat left behind to give a reddish glimmer to the taco. There was a very prominent smokiness to it. Make no mistake, this is among the better chorizo I’ve had in Manhattan thus far. Also it was perfect with the smoky red and spicy green salsa which came with the food. The also-included thimble of guacamole was good but didn’t add too much to the chorizo.

The pork follows in the same vein as the chorizo: f’n awesome. It was well roasted and juicy, so juicy throughout and FLAVORFUL as anything. There was a really nice limey mojo-ish marinade to it, with plenty of garlic. It’s just that… well… look at how little is there! That includes toppings. I think there were no more than four diced onion pieces and 1/4th a cilantro leaf in each taco. Plus it looks like a tiny tube of pork. Tasty as it was, the pork taco definitely needed an extra tortilla to help with the grease leakage coming through.

The Azteca soup struck me as more interesting in concept than execution. It looked and smelled like a chicken soup that was heavy, VERY heavy on the chicken (that’s all shredded white AND dark meat chicken in there!) with a nice spicy nose to it. Sadly, it tasted like a regular old chicken noodle soup with a bit of tomato to the broth. Don’t get me wrong, there was a huge amount of chicken for what I got, but I wish it was a little more different. I’m sticking to the rice & beans as a side dish next time (you can choose between rice/beans, a salad, black bean soup, or Azteca for your lunch special).

The tamal was one hell of a performer, but way overpriced. It’s about 5″ of tamale for $3 – I dunno, it strikes me as on the pricey side. Correct me if I’m wrong in my estimates but it seems like it’s a nice big profit margin for what it is. Still, it was a nicely balanced accompaniment. After the two tacos and the Azteca, I’m glad I had a co-worker to share this with. My earlier under-ordering fears were happily unfounded. I was pretty satisfied with the lunch special items alone, but I felt STUFFED with those + half a tamale. The peppers were nice and piquant, the cheese mellow.

If you’re under 21 and looking for a hookup on a drink, Ranchito del Agave is now less likely to be helpful to you. It’s worth a shot for lunch, though – they deliver and are on Seamless, so you can work it into a busy day if a visit to La Montanita or Rinconcito Mexicano is out of the question. Granted, it is not without its very obvious flaws – poor taco construction and barely sufficient toppings – it has its merits in its variety within ML price points and options galore for it. It’s gonna be hard to juggle the Midtown Southwest lunch options where Mexican is concerned now that we have these three awesome places, but this is the kind of combo that we like as much as two decent tacos with rice and beans.

The +s (What the conquistadores de comida would say):

  • Mexican food where Mexicans go to eat can’t go wrong.
  • Some of the best damn chorizo and pork out there – they are getting it right!
  • Decent variety and value on the lunch menu.

The -s (What the Midtown South underage drinking po-pos would say):

  • The Azteca soup isn’t spicy – shouldn’t it be?
  • The tacos require some serious structural reinforcement – would another tortilla kill you?
  • These are also tiny-ass tacos. Not too appealing to the eye.

Ranchito del Agave, 476 9th Ave. (Between 36th and 37th.)

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