After a recent book meeting, Art Meyer and I decided to hit up Mi Ranchito II, at the end of Manchaca Road, where it runs into FM 1626; he had a hankering for a good bowl of soup and I was hungry for a burger. Disparate demands, for sure, but perfectly met by Ranchito Dos.
This place has a fantastic salsa bar, and the array pictured here is, as labeled at the bar, from L to R: "Hot Tomatillo", "Hot Green" (emulsified with avocado, with serrano and poblano), number three top is "Medium Red", and bottom is "Hot Red" (which has an exuberant zippiness but an even better smoky quality), and of course, a chile-laden pico de gallo. Not show is "Mild Green" which is an avocado-emulsified poblano sauce, and Mild Red, which is a fresh casera style. All of the salsas are excellent.
Art opted for an order of their guacamole, which we had never tried before. It comes out in a big cup, loaded with chunks of fresh avocado, diced green chiles, onion, a little tomato, and lime juice, topped with some shredded cheese. The unit in the middle sits on a huge platter, surrounded with thin, crispy totopos. We will definitely order this again.
I started with one of their tamales, this one stuffed with Mexican white cheese and jalapeño chiles. The masa in their tamales is light-as-air, but rich in flavor, an indication of succulent lard that has been whipped into the masa dough prior to slathering onto the corn husks. I love the tamales here, and if you ever need a fix for the holidays and are too lazy to host your own tamalada, or don't have a secret source, this is the place to go. Flavors include: pork, beef, chicken, cheese and jalapeño, bean and cheese, pineapple, and one other fruit version whose species eludes me at the moment.
Art went for their boat-sized bowl of caldo de res, beef soup with onions, garlic, carrot, squash, green beans, cabbage, and potato, all in a very rich beef broth with meltingly tender meat. It comes with a stack of hot tortillas (not house-made, but very high quality) and a cup of their excellent rice. He went for a side taco of carnitas, rich shredded pork cooked in pork fat; top notch here at Ranchito Dos.
I swooned when my Mexican Burger arrived, a nice hefty patty smoky from the grill, topped with Mexican white cheese, griddled and browned chorizo, and a griddled slice of ham. They lay on the normal fixings, but I opted for a schmear of refried beans on the bottom bun; I had to explain what a "schmear" was to the fellow working the counter. The burger comes with a big side of crispy fries (probably frozen, but high quality and done well), perfect when dipped into a mixture of the smoky hot salsa blended with a little ketchup. I had a little bun breakage to deal with, but it had a lot to contain. The burgers here are first-rate.
This meal reminded me why I've described this place as a go-to restaurant. Once again, Mi Ranchito II was presented with a difficult task: satisfy the demand for a great bowl of soup and a high class burger, both at reasonable prices. And once again, they came through like the champions they are.
Mi Ranchito II
1105 FM 1626, Manchaca, 512/292-8107
Copyright © 2014 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.