El Ranchero, 8697 19th St. (at Carnelian), Rancho Cucamonga
Every week I try at least one new restaurant, usually on my lunch hour, and usually on Monday. This week, delaying my foray until Wednesday, I hit El Ranchero at 19th and Carnelian, in the upper reaches of Rancho Cucamonga. It’s in a standalone building in a small shopping center and, based on the sign out front reading “El Ranchero Fast Food Mexican Restaurant,” my hopes weren’t high.
Inside, though, the place had colorful tile and a mural on one wall. Bright and cheery! At the counter I ordered three carne asada soft tacos and a horchata. They came in the traditional way, small tacos with onions and cilantro, and weren’t bad at all. The booths were full up even at 1 p.m., so it’s a popular place. There’s also a generously sized patio. All in all, it’s one of those restaurants that, like the Transformers, is more than meets the eye.
* Update: I returned in January 2014 for a huarache ($6, below) and horchata — very good — and to take photos. The place, thankfully, hasn’t changed.