You go to this popular North Oak Cliff restaurant for two things—the cabrito and the kitsch—and neither disappoint. Owner Laura Sanchez packs this ode to her Northern Mexican heritage with as much homespun eye candy as possible. There’s even a nightly strolling mariachi band. To outsiders, El Ranchito veers dangerously close to theme park territory. But for the Hispanic community that packs this 30-year-old institution night after night, El Ranchito is both vibrant and homey. Happily, the restaurant is all business when it comes to its delicious Monterrey-inspired cuisine. The aforementioned cabrito (grilled baby goat) is served two ways: family style over an open flame or a normal entrée-size portion braised in a bright, tomato-based sauce. We wrapped the tender meat in freshly made corn tortillas and greedily devoured them. Other highlights included chile ancho-marinated pork loin, guiso picoso (a spicy beef stew), and a whole fried catfish. That last one wasn’t a surprise. Sanchez also owns both La Calle Doce locations, serving some of the city’s finest Mexican seafood dishes. Granted, there were a few missteps. Mollejas (sweetbreads) tasted of old grease. Chicken enchiladas were far too mushy. And margaritas were either watery (on the rocks) or flavorless (a frozen mango version). Still, El Ranchito’s good times were contagious, making it easy to overlook the occasional mistake. Even better, the food—much like the restaurant itself—felt like home, full of life.

For more information about El Ranchito visit our online restaurant guide.

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