Another more recent addition to the Athens restaurant lineup, Gran Ranchero opened in February 2010 as the second franchise of a restaurant based in Parkerberg, West Virginia. Owner Emanuel Morales, one of five owners of the chain, told reporters he opened his second restaurant in Athens after so many people drove from there to Parkersburg just for the food. I’m convinced this place has attracted quite a following, but I’m not sure I’m about to join the flock.
There’s a bar in the back corner of the restaurant, I suppose this is to allow Gran Ranchero to cater to a younger group. While the margaritas did look good, I didn’t personally try them. I would suggest not coming to this place expecting to watch a game or just to have drinks — the bar is kind of in its own area and didn’t look very good.
- Chips and Salsa: The appetizer chips were outstanding. I went in hungry and almost spoiled myself on them. Crispy, tasty and accompanied with a delicious, tangy salsa. I actually want to take them home to snack on. They could be a meal in themselves.
- Chimichanga: It didn’t come particularly quickly but it was good when it got to me, crispy and tasty. With ample amounts of queso cheese, the chimichanga itself was well cooked. The remainder of the dish wasn’t as good though; the rice and re-fried beans were bland and I felt like they were just background garnish for the main course. I’ve definitely tasted better at other places.
- Carne asada: This thicker steak is served up topped with onions and avocado. Simple spices on top. A sturdy meal.
- Combo 6: A taco, an enchalada and a burrito. A nice mix of meat, tortilla, and cheese for when you’re looking for something lighter here.
The service was decent. The servers were fast to get me my first drink but this service got much slower as more people showed up. I suspect the restaurant may have been caught by surprise by the quantity of people that showed up at once, but it was lunch hour. One way or another, an extra waiter might help things run more smoothly. All in all, Gran Ranchero had some good food items, but it just needs something more to stand out from the other tex-mex places around town.
- Check up on the specials regularly on Gran Ranchero’s Facebook page. You’ll be surprised at the deals you may find.
- The appetizer chips are incredible. Don’t spoil your appetite on them though, they’re just appetizers.
- A few drinks are available, but the bar is sort of tucked away in a corner. This place seems more geared toward families and groups.