I woke up at 2 AM, awoken by the arrival of yet another snow dump. My alarm was set for 4 AM, for a United flight out of Ottawa which was originally scheduled at 6:25 but had already been delayed by half an hour the night before. I knew the heavy snow would cause further delays and my layover in O’Hare was impossibly short to begin with. Perhaps for that reason, I couldn’t get back to sleep. Or perhaps I was too much aware there was no other flight to Tucson out of O’Hare. I was already assuming that I’d spend the night in Chicago and my plan B was a deep dish pizza adventure and a visit to the United Center to see the Blackhawks play the Predators.
We landed late in O’Hare, but United had decided to hold the plane for the few of us who needed that connection! Even my checked bag made it! Long story short, I was really impressed with United. But not impressed enough to order their food.
After getting my bag, getting the rental car and checking in at the hotel, I had been awake for far too long while having only had a small bag of plane pretzels. It was well overdue to get some real food. I drove back towards downtown, having passed a whole bunch of restaurants along the way. I ignored the KFC, Arby’s and other McDonald’s and ended up at Tacos Del Rancho under the Arizona afternoon sun.
Tacos Del Rancho is a fairly new joint, located in one of the numerous small strip malls on Oracle road. Established in September 2021, it is 100% family-owned and operated. They say that their tex-mex menu is inspired by the Sonora desert. Points for making their own salsas and also their own fresh corn and flour tortillas. Bonus points for using certified Angus beef. On the menu, you’ll find Nachos, Asada Fries, Gordita, Burritos and of course, Tacos! The decor is minimalist, but polished with bright colours.
I relied on the staff’s advice before ordering. They told me that the most popular item on the menu was the Taco Del Rancho ($4.50). Frankly, if the dish is named after your restaurant, it HAS to be the best thing you offer. So I ordered it in a combo! Two tacos, served with beans, rice and a choice of side – I picked the Chile En Rajas – and a soda.
Once I ordered (at the counter), I grabbed my soda, made a pit stop at the salsa bar for some accountrements — tons of fresh options! — and made my way to the deserted patio to wait for my food. 22c is too cold for locals, I guess. Not that the restaurant was packed, mind you, as it was the middle of the afternoon.
The food arrived after a few minutes. The tacos looked really simple: Carne asada, melted cheese (well, gratiné I guess?), green chiles on a corn tortilla. The rest is up to you from the salsa bar. I added some guac salsa, cilantro and onions, and some of their salsa. The tacos were fairly big as far as tacos go. And there was healthy portions of beans and rice as well.
I garnished my tacos and dug in. The beef was grilled, which makes a big difference in terms of texture. It had a bit of mesquite flavour going. It was very good quality meat, deep flavour, very tender and juicy. Seasoning was great, too. The roasted poblanos were great, too. I wish the cheese had been more melty than crispy, however.
The regular sides were just that. Refried beans is refried beans. Not extraordinary but decent. The mexican rice was fine, if a little bland. But the true star was this side of Chile En Rajas.
Roasted poblano chiles, peeled and cut into strips, cooked with onions, corn and cream. Think of a mexican corn chowder. This had a ton of flavour and a bit of a kick to it. Truly delicious. I really have to replicate that soon. Hoping I won’t have too much trouble to find the right mix.
All in all, this was a pretty good first meal for this trip in Arizona. It most certainly hit the spot! If you are ever in Tucson, especially on your way to Oro Valley, and you need a quick lunch, this location would do the trick! Certainly, it was just what I needed.