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Dining out: El Rancho Grande

Published: Friday, Dec. 8 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

DRAPER — El Rancho Grande was open for business on Draper's 12300 South long before the bumper crop of restaurants that now line the street. To me, that means the place must have something going for it.

However, on the recent weekend night that we stopped by for a family dinner of decent but average Mexican food, the main thing I could think of that El Rancho Grande has going for it is simply consistency and being there. Based on our experience, you're not going to get a spectacular or creative dinner, and some of the courtesies and flourishes that bump up a restaurant in my opinion were missing.

On the other hand, if you want a reliable meal of Mexican-style favorites, you could do worse — especially if you order the fajitas.

El Rancho Grande is a warm-colored space with just enough south-of-the-border touches to liven the decor. On the evening we visited, crowds were sparse until we were almost finished with our meal, when the place really filled up.

We were seated promptly at a table that was missing all but a couple of place settings, and it stayed that way until we asked our server about it. She was quick to bring a basket of bagged chips and a couple of bowls of tangy, picante-style dipping sauce that burned vividly going down.

For appetizers, we ordered the jalapeno poppers and taquitos. The poppers, though likely pre-made, were tasty and just mildly spicy, with a nice crunchy breading. I liked them with the accompanying mild pepper jam. The taquitos were the star of the course, crispy fresh rolls stuffed with seasoned pulled beef. Though we all liked them, it was hard to pass them around to the kids because we never got appetizer plates.

My husband had the chicken chimichanga, which seemed more like a taco or burrito to me, as it was soft rather than crisp. The chicken filling was serviceable, with lean meat and cheese, and the chimi was topped with red sauce, olives, onions and sour cream.

My meal, the chicken-and-beef fajitas, was the best thing we had at El Rancho Grande. If you're a fajita fan, you know the drill: sizzling platter of dark-seared chicken and steak with sweet caramelized onions and grilled peppers. This dish, with its marinated, grilled meats, tricolor peppers and multitude of toppings, had all the flair and attention to detail that much of the rest of our meal lacked. My only quibble with it was that, though I finished the three warm flour tortillas provided well before the meat was gone, our server never brought any more.

The kids ate basic, no-frills child food: a soft, folded-over cheese quesadilla, hamburger beef enchilada and bean burrito. All of our meals came with refried beans and Spanish rice.

For dessert, we had the fried ice cream, a ball of vanilla rolled in nutty, crunchy topping and sitting in a puddle of chocolate sauce, with a squirt of non-dairy topping on top. We also had a decent flan, not housemade but livened up with fruity caramel and chopped pecans.

Appetizers $4.75-$8, salads $6.95-$8.50, platters and combos $6.75-$10.95, American plates $5.45-$8.15, desserts $3.75-$4.75, sides and single dishes 75 cents-$7.25, kids' meals $3.95, desserts $3.75-$4.75.

Rating: **

Where: 372 E. 12300 South, Draper (other location in Kearns)

Hours: 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday-Thursday

10:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday

Closed Sunday

Payment: Major credit cards accepted

Phone: 495-2655

Wheelchair access: Easy


Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: skratz@desnews.com

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