Remember El Rancho Grande? That quasi-stereotypical Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurant hidden just off Lincoln Road behind SushiSamba? About a year and a half ago, as the restaurant neared its 20th year in business, owner Jose Ortiz had to shutter it because "the rent went crazy."
Declining to give numbers, he adds, "There was a huge difference between what we were paying and what we were asked. That's what's happening on Lincoln Road -- all the restaurants that made it what it was were priced out. But that's all right."
The search for a new location in South Beach landed him in the Sunset Harbour Shoppes, which has recently become the darling dining destination of Miami-Dade. The restaurant was renamed Tequiztlan Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar. Terra cotta tiles were traded for exposed ducts, and the old location's small, unimpressive bar was swapped for a booze behemoth with more than 70 kinds of tequilas.
"That number is increasing every week," says the Mexico City native, who moved to MIami 30 years ago. "I like to taste tequilas to collect rare ones."
Cochinita pibil ($13) is slow-roasted pork leg with pickled onion, refried beans, and rice.
The menu remains similar to the original at El Rancho Grande and is equally affordable. Mix and match three tacos with chicken, steak, carnitas, or roast pork with pineapple (pastor) for $11. Tortas, a Mexican sandwich stacking meat, refried beans, and jalapeños in spicy escabeche, can be had for $10. They unfortunately bought into the tableside guacamole gimmick that comes with a $12 price tag.
We feel the same rush of joy when mixing guacamole.
Ortiz says he hopes to run weekly specials featuring authentic Mexican items. That means tacos de lengua (tongue) or the blood-red soup called posole that takes its color from the annatto seed and is ground into a paste called achiote. The soup usually contains large kernels of hominy corn and braised pork leg and can include anything from shredded cabbage to sliced avocado.
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If you're hankering for the original, there's still an El Rancho Grande on Collins Avenue at 72nd Street owned by Ortiz's son, as well as a third on Kendall Drive at SW 127th Avenue.
For more, follow Zach on Twitter @ZachIsWeird.