Barely six months after Industrial Donut started cranking out fresh treats, its neighbor El Rancho Grande II is now open and ready for business. Yet another Mexican restaurant in a community already saturated with them, El Rancho Grande II certainly had a lot to prove to me when I walked through their doors. Thankfully, my first impressions were good ones, as staff greeted me immediately and then guided me to a seat. While scanning the roughly ten-page menu, I took in the atmosphere of the place. With the high ceilings, ample lighting, and plenty of space between tables, I liked what I saw.

Even before I placed my order, staff supplied me with chips and salsa. Although the chips aren’t anything to write home about, the salsa was great. Notably thick without being chunky, I had no trouble at all keeping the salsa on my chips as I scooped it all up. For those who typically steer away from spicy sauces, the salsa at El Rancho Grande II has some heat, yet nothing that lasted past a drink or two of water.

After scraping the last drop of salsa out of its bowl, my food arrived. A tried and true favorite of mine at other restaurants, I started with a chicken quesadilla ($5.50). At once I noticed the amount of chicken in the quesadilla was so great that it was already spilling out of the tortilla before I’d even picked it up. I was glad most of the chicken stayed inside as I ate. While simply made with cheese and chicken, I was not disappointed by my choice, although the cheese dripped a surprising amount of grease. For those who have children with difficult to please palates, this large quesadilla should do the trick.

I moved onto my next chicken dish because I was surprised to see it on the menu. It isn’t often one sees boneless chicken wings ($6.50 for six wings) on the menu at a Mexican restaurant. Since I enjoy a little sweetness on my chicken, I picked the barbecue sauce instead of the Buffalo sauce. After taking my first bite, I was shocked at the juiciness of the chicken inside. I’ve had boneless wings in the past that were barely saved by the sauce I dipped them in, but these stood out above the rest. If the barbecue sauce was spread just a little lighter on these wings, they’d have suited me perfectly. Call for a full order of these for an appetizer to share.

Wanting to take advantage of their lunch deals, I’d also picked out lunch Acapulco ($9.50) for my main dish. I couldn’t decide what I wanted, so I figured something with rice, an enchilada, chicken, beef, shrimp, and vegetables was the solution. Like the quesadilla, this lunch special was much larger than I anticipated. Thanks to the sauce used to cover the enchilada, the rest of the dish was kept from drying out. Although I wasn’t short on food to eat with the lunch Acapulco, I wanted a little more spice, as the seasoning used was inserted too sparingly.

Not willing to leave without something to satisfy my sweet tooth, I finished with fried ice cream ($4.50). Much to my surprise, El Rancho Grande II serves just one scoop of vanilla ice cream, but that scoop is mighty hefty. Taking a suitably large bite, I did my best to fit ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and the boat shell all on my spoon. Barely succeeding, I took my first bite and was pleased, but also a bit confused. I tasted the crunchy boat shell, creamy toppings, and the smooth ice cream core, yet something chewy snuck into the mix. As it turned out, I’d missed the corn flakes covering the ball of ice cream on my first pass of the dessert. The startling intrusion of soft corn flakes into the fried ice cream held back my enjoyment, but not totally.

Extremely full, I left El Rancho Grande II thinking about my visit. No dish I ordered was exactly what I expected, which is a big positive in my eyes. Variety and surprise go a long way with me. When I visit again, I think I’ll look at the dinner area of the menu that I glanced through while ordering, as it looked a bit different than everything else. Who knows what I’ll stumble upon and enjoy next time?

El Rancho Grande II
505 Commerce Drive
Savoy
M-Th 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Su 11 a.m. to  9 p.m.

Photos by Matthew Macomber