El Rancho (Detroit, MI)

For this year’s “Death March” tradition of hiking approximately 20 miles through various urban areas, we chose Detroit. To start off the March, I decided we were going to rendezvous for breakfast in Detroit’s Mexican Town. Located on Bagley and Vernor Highway in western Detroit (just west of Corktown), Mexican Town has a tortilla factory, several bakeries, colorful murals, and a good dozen Mexican restaurants, and the area is one of Detroit’s ethnic neighborhoods that’s been able to maintain a solid cultural identity. Previously, I’ve had a few breakfasts at Taqueria Lupitas from 2011, but for this visit, I wanted to start a bit further west to see more of Mexican town, and also start on the early side. That lead us to El Rancho, which opens at 8am (most of the other Mexican places that offer breakfast open at 9am or even 10am).

Opening promptly at 8am, I could see why a lot of Mexican Town isn’t open at 8am for breakfast, since our group was one of three tables having breakfast that early, so obviously demand is light. But the service was friendly and efficient, seating us promptly at a large interior table. Like many of the places around Mexican Town, the interior at El Rancho is the basic “dark cantina” look: dark booths lining the walls and several tables in the middle of the restaurant. Menu-wise, El Rancho has got a solid breakfast menu: huevos con chorizo, huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, nopalitas (eggs scrambled with cactus, always a good choice), and even breakfast gorditas. And the prices are quite attractive, with most breakfast options under $6.

While being quite tempted by the breakfast gorditas, I’m always also a sucker for a good chilaquiles: corn tortillas leftovers scrambled with eggs, diced tomatoes, green pepper, onions and topped with cheese and salsa rojos, served up with some Mexican rice and refried beans. I was quite happy with El Rancho’s version: I always like chilaquiles when the tortilla bits are half crunchy-crispy, and half soggy from soaking up the salsa, encouraging you to eat it before it gets entirely soggy. The salsa rojos was a nice, bold and peppery but still tomato-tangy salsa, the perfect accompaniment to go with both the eggs and the refried beans. I’d happily get this again, although those gorditas are still calling to me.

Most of the other diners in our group opted for the huevos con chorizo, a nice basic scramble of eggs with chorizo, done up with a nice crisp on the chorizo, and they all were pleased with the result as well.

Overall, I liked El Rancho. Admittedly, unless looking for a breakfast on the early side, I might opt for another of Mexican Town’s restaurants just to mix it up, but El Rancho was pleasant, efficient, and one of the places that opens early each morning. I’d certainly want to give the huevos machacado or the gorditas a try.

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