Authentic, no-frills Mexican food: If that is what you crave, look no further than Rancho Bravo Tacos in the Pike-Pine corridor of Capitol Hill. The grungy vibe of the restaurant, located in an old KFC building, makes it a good fit with the buzz and energy that light up the streets of the neighborhood. Lining up at the front, I order the nachos, quesadilla, and tacos. I also indulge in a large horchata because I can never resist the cinnamony, milky rice drink. The space inside is full so I find a seat on the sunny outdoor patio, decorated with strung lights and colorful umbrellas that provide protection from the ever-present Seattle mist during the winter months. Don’t be surprised to see graffiti covering the walls and tables; that’s what makes Rancho Bravo the gritty, hole-in-wall it is.
My order number is called and I retrieve my feast. Digging in, I attempt to find that perfect bite of my nachos, that perfect mix of ingredients. The crunch of the the tortilla chip is almost as satisfying as the mix of flavors that come from the black beans, fresh tomato and chunky guacamole. The portion size of the nachos is huge and finishing it completely is a daunting task. It would be a good dish to share among two or to order as a snack to split among friends. I move on to the chicken quesadilla, reveling in the cheesy, chicken-filled bite. It’s pretty difficult to mess up a quesadilla, and this one is no disappointment. The tomatoes are a nice touch and overall it is a very enjoyable, cheesy snack. Next, I sample each taco. I had ordered two, one fish and one carnitas. The grilled cod is topped with red cabbage slaw, its tangy flavors blending seamlessly for a delightful bite. My stomach is beginning to feel a bit full at this point, but I proceed on to the pork soft taco topped with onion and radish. The juiciness of the carnitas overwhelms the dish, but not in a bad way. The crunchy textures of the onion and radish contrast with the tender, slow-cooked meat to add another level of tasty. I dispose of my remains in compost and recycling bins — staples in every Seattle restaurant — and walk away knowing I will be back the next time I crave late night nachos and a sweet horchata.
Rancho Bravo opens at 10:30AM everyday, but varies in its closing times. On Friday and Saturday nights the restaurant will stay open until 3AM, but on other days the closing time is 10:30PM or midnight. Free one hour parking is available for customers in the parking lot behind the restaurant. A drive-thru recently opened around the back of the building, allowing for an easy take away option.