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Judging by the number of folks charged with driving under influence I am guessing the penalty is rather light. Of...

La Rancherita Grill & Tequila Bar now open in Greenville

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By Christina Ruo­tolo
The Daily Re­flec­tor

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

For the last twelve years, North Carolina has been home to an authentic restaurant blending American and Mexican food as well as serving a variety of delicious tequilas. Located in Raleigh, Wilson, Tarboro and Apex, La Rancherita Grill & Tequila Bar now has found a home in Greenville at 3130 Evans St. in the shopping center near Best Buy and Ulta. Whether you want to meet some friends for chips and salsa and enjoy a few rounds of drinks or gather the family for a colorful and tasty Tex-Mex meal, you should check out La Rancherita and flex your culinary muscles. Serving authentic Mexican food we know and love including burritos, fajitas, tacos and quesadillas, they have re-imagined and created dishes with pizazz and flavor to make those taste buds sing.

Partner Ruben Alfaro heads up the Greenville location and wants customers to come into the newly designed space and grab a seat to enjoy not only great food but also “the spirit of Mexican hospitality,” which is their signature tagline. 

“We take pride in serving fare made with the freshest ingredients available. Remarkable Mexican calls for salsas made fresh throughout the day, fajitas marinated in our own special marinades to ensure the boldest flavors and margaritas crafted with real citrus juices and a whole lotta love,” Alfaro said. I loved the vibrant feel I got when I walked in, hearing the upbeat Mexican music playing right off the bat. The staff is friendly and will help you navigate the menu and answer any questions that you may have, helping you choose a meal the whole family will love. I’m getting hungry, so let’s eat!

I started my Mexican food tour with two of my favorite food items: coconut and shrimp in the Camarones al Coco. This gluten-free item features sautéed shrimp nestled in a coconut sauce, crema Mexicana, bacon and onion served with seasoned rice and a house salad. It was a combination of sweet from the coconut and onions, smokey from the bacon and cool from the Mexican cheese which was like heavenly snow on top. It was savory, seductive and divine in every bite.

Next I tried the Pastor Quesadilla, which is two tortillas stuffed with adobo-marinated pork, layers of oozy cheese and pico de gallo, then drizzled with habanero glaze and fresh chopped pineapple. The quesadilla is cut into four pieces, stacked like a burger and served with a mini basket of thick cut french fries. Mix cheese and perfectly seasoned pork with the heat from the habanero, which will make your lips burn, but the fresh and sweet pineapple topper will immediately cool you off. It is a perfect choice for those who love pork, heat and cheese. It was a winner, winner, quesadilla dinner!

I ended my Tex-Mex food tour with a slam dunk, the Rancherita Chicken and Scallops, which was beautifully presented on a plantain leaf. Start with two thin slices of grilled chicken topped with seasoned baby scallops, pineapple and pico de gallo. It is bathed in a luscious chipotle cream and drizzled with agave syrup. This is served with a side of fried plantain. The chicken was juicy and the sauce was sweet, creamy and savory all at the same time. And if you never have tried a plantain, it is flavorful and soft and tastes like a sweeter version of a banana. It was an addictive and perfect ending to my Mexican food tour.

Now that we have some delicious food, let’s talk about the tequila part of the restaurant. Here is what I initially knew about tequila other than a few names like Jose Cuervo, Patrón and Don Julio. I first tried tequila in college — I may have had a few too many at a party and then quickly swore off tequila for the rest of my life. Now that I am of a certain age, I slowly have ventured back into the world of tequila and I have been pleased. The Mexican spirit has been around for over 3,000 years and is made from the agave, a native plant of Mexico. The inside of the mature plant (around 12 years old) is extracted and fermented to create tequila. La Rancherita has over 80 tequilas on-hand to choose from.

La Rancherita serves a variety of tequila, starting with high-end blanco (white/​silver) tequilas, which usually are not aged but put in stainless steel or natural oak barrels for several months. Don Julio, Patrón, Lunazul, Herradura and Exotico are a few of the blanco tequilas on-hand. They also have reposado (rested) tequilas which have been aged up to twelve months in oak barrels. Options include Roca Patrón, Cabo Wabo or Hornitos, just to name a few. Other tequilas include anejos (aged), which are aged between one and three years and include options like Gran Centenario or Casamigos. Finally, they have extra anejo (extra aged) tequilas, which is a new category that has been aged for longer than three years. One extra anejo choice is the Milagro Select Barrel.

The most popular tequila at La Rancherita is the Altos, which brings smooth flavor to any drink it is added to. They also serve mezcals, which is comparable to tequila but made from any type of agave with a smoky personality. For those who enjoy their wine tastings, you can come and enjoy a tequila flight, enjoying a range of tequilas of your choice from light to dark. The flight contains three shots with prices ranging from $15-$17. The Raleigh location currently offers tailored tequila tastings with education and tequila that go hand-in-hand.

Now that you know how tequila got started, let’s have a few drinks. I started with a mixed tequila drink, the margarita, which first was invented in 1936. In Spanish, margarita means “daisy.” I tried the 18-ounce. La Perfecta Margarita made with Herradura tequila, Patrón Citron, Gran Gala (orange liquor) and hand-made citrus juice, served to you in your very own shaker. All of the mixers and juices used in their drinks are handmade so you get authentic taste in every drink. They do not use anything from a can, bottle or pre-made mix. The drink was smooth and intense at the same time with the perfect amount of citrus kick to wind its way through. You can feel the tequila warm your throat as it goes down, but it was a good smooth burn.

For those who may not care for tequila, they offer a wide array of other mixed drinks, cocktails and wines to wet your alcoholic palate. The last drink I sampled was one of my favorite mixed drinks, the Original Mojito made with Bacardi rum, fresh lime juice, homemade simple syrup and mint. This one was refreshing with its cool citrus wave of lime juice and sweet syrup ending with a mint burst. You can taste the fresh handmade mixers with the first sip. Delicious! And for those who do not drink at all, you are in luck too. La Rancherita offers bottled Mexican sodas and flavored waters to wet your whistle.

No matter if you are coming to have a few drinks or for a full meal, you will enjoy the warm, inviting hospitality and delicious food that is served at La Rancherita Grill & Tequila Bar. They are open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. They offer a limited lunch menu from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day as well. For more information, check out their website at ​www.rancheritamex.com or call 252-256-7702.

Tid Bits

Villa Verde restaurant in Greenville is offering free meals to federal employees living in Pitt County who are affected by the government shutdown. To get a free meal every individual should bring valid identification to verify federal employment. This offer expires on Jan. 26.

Famiglia Restaurant is hosting a Valentine’s Eve dinner benefiting Cancer Services of Eastern North Carolina. There will be two available seatings on Wednesday evening, Feb. 13, at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Reservations are required. The cost is $100 per couple. For more information contact Cancer Services of Eastern North Carolina at 252-561-5351 or visit their website at cancerservicesofeasternnc.org.

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