Writing food reviews has, to the surprise of no one, made me a touch snobbish. Chasing down new and trendy restaurants and then picking apart every item is all well and good, but sometimes you’re not necessarily looking for that. Sometimes you just want a simple, tasty meal that won’t break the bank.
Thinking on it, there is no better representative of that than Mi Rancho.
Located across from Yeager’s Sporting Goods on Northwest Avenue, Mi Rancho has been in operation for eight years. Originally just a neighborhood Latin American/Mexican grocer with a robust butcher case, they’ve slowly morphed into a taqueria, with a twist: One. Dollar. Tacos.
Yes, you read that right. One dollar. It’s not a gimmick where the cilantro and onion cost extra — the entire thing is $1. At the time of writing this, the year-over-year inflation rate is sitting at 8.5%, but the Mi Rancho taco remains steadfast.
I’m only partially joking when I say the current buying power of the U.S. dollar is being propped up by this deal.
Completely nondescript from the outside, Mi Rancho (the restaurant side) is equally nondescript on the inside. It screams “family Mexican restaurant” at you — almost like a stock photo.
Taking an available seat at the counter on the back wall during a recent visit, a simple menu was efficiently handed over, but I didn’t bother looking at it.
I placed my usual order: a taco combo, at $7.49, consisting of three tacos, beans and rice. I added on a few extra tacos so I could get one of each meat — asada, adobada, pollo, carnitas, and for fun, buche (pork stomach, for you mildly adventurous eaters). At a premium ($2.99 each), you can also get lengua (beef tongue) or cabeza (beef cheek). I also ordered a draft Modelo Negra, because nothing washes down a plate of tacos better than a frosty cerveza.
Again, I remind you that I got five tacos, rice and beans for $9.49. During my research for this review, I didn’t manage to find a single cheaper option in Whatcom County. The scalability of this deal is the incredible part — I had five tacos, but I could have ordered seven, or 10, or 15 tacos total and kept the price under 20 bucks.
A couple of minutes after ordering, a platter of fresh-fried tortilla chips and bowl of salsa verde and salsa roja were sitting in front of me. In terms of quantity, it was about as much as I’d have expected from any of the other (substantially more expensive) Mexican restaurants in Bellingham, and just as tasty in its simplicity. Less than five minutes after chips and salsa arrived, I had a steaming plate loaded high with tacos.
Five tacos, a portion of beans and rice, a wedge of lime and two slices of roast jalapeño are a beautiful sight at any time, but doubly so knowing it only cost 65% of an hour’s pay at Washington state minimum wage. I dug in with a fury, pausing only to drizzle excess salsa onto a taco or fold spilled fillings into my beans and rice.
The adobada, always my favorite, was followed by asada and carnitas. The little bit of crunchiness from the spicy marinade being seared into the pork is one of life’s simple pleasures.
Alongside their famously affordable tacos, Mi Rancho has a whole menu of classics — monstrously sized burritos, quesadillas and a few really good salad options. An adobada burrito without the cheese is my go-to takeout order from Mi Rancho, and one I try every time I’m in the area.
If I seem cagey about how any of it actually tasted, it’s not due to any desire to cause suspense or cast doubt on the quality — these tacos are absolutely as good or better than any of the ones you can get at any of the 30-plus taco trucks or hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants dotting Bellingham. The meats are well-seasoned and tender, the tortillas are fresh and the portions generous.
What stands out about Mi Rancho comes back to the price point. At the risk of sounding dramatic, it’s comforting to have the reliability of a plate of Mi Rancho tacos, knowing that figuring out your price is as easy as counting on your fingers.
With rent, home prices, groceries, restaurant tabs and gas all climbing in double time, it’s easy to understand how Mi Rancho keeps getting busier. Noon on a weekday was the setting of my reviewed meal, and I was happy, but not surprised, to see the diversity of clientele present, a proper slice of the strata of Bellingham.
Crews of construction workers bedecked in high-visibility safety wear pass through regularly, at the end of a shift or leaving with bags carrying a dozen or more burritos. Families sit next to nurses, high-schoolers and suit-wearing folks on break from their suit-wearing jobs.
We can all appreciate a cheap lunch out, and at Mi Rancho, it’s not just cheap — it’s really good, too.
Mi Rancho is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 3092 Northwest Ave. Info: miranchomeatmarket.com.