Plumstone: An evening at Taqueria El Rancho

In the hype and the buzz and the pop of development and new restaurants, there are still the regulars—still normal, still shuffling through Monday, wearing grease-slicked shoes, sweat beads on noses.

In back, in the kitchen is the chatter of a language I don’t understand, speedy and poised, muffled by the sliding Plexiglas and the bubbling hot oil and the patting of tortillas and the tending of blackened pots filled with day-long cooking. I encounter a small woman and a small man—he with a dark, clean moustache and she with curly hair, a one-sided smile and tiny restrained diamonds in her eyes—taking orders with kind, distinguishable voices and the same prompts I or anyone else hear when ordering. I order the only thing I know, or care to know-Three Corn Quesadillas- and attend a paint chipped booth filled with friends, awaiting number five.

We hear the window to the kitchen world roll open. From behind it, a faint, tired voice says, “Fife.”
In the dining room, cluttered with a birthday party and others, my friend and I go up to the tall window and look at eye-level upon the food on the counter like children peeking above the counter at an ice cream shop.

There is this condiment bar with faithful, few ingredients and plastic wares. Chopped white onions with fresh cilantro. Limes. Salsa—red and green. I heap on the onion mixture atop the rice and pile up quarters of limes for squeezing. We sit down together, doctor our dishes (I put the onions on the rice and squeeze on the red salsa and the limes and glop portions of the clean, tangy crema, saving some for dipping the miniature quesadillas), pray and eat. I spend the time between mouthfuls promoting the food and the dish and the restaurant to my friends—as though they were not eating on my left and across the table.

The three crisped, salty, greasy tortillas pocket mild, buttery cheese melted around pork (I think it was al pastor. One can choose between beef, chicken, or this pork. They are all good). Some of the cheese melts out and bubbles and turns to a brown crisp on the edges of the semi-circles. I order extra crema since I use it for dipping quesadillas and add it to the rice concoction where the cool cream balances the heat of the red salsa and the herby, sweet onion and cilantro mixture—a reverent, Honduran flavor symphony.

Here the food is consistent and humble and honest and uncompromisingly delicious and the service is kind and the food comes quick and it is inexpensive—a combination unmatched in our fair town.