- SCOTT ELMQUIST
- At Café Pandulce, owner Miguel Morales shows off the carne asada and chicken tacos. His business intends to put a Latin spin on typical American counter service cafes.
I hear all sorts of excuses from both flanks of Richmond on why it is unnecessary to cross a bridge to visit the other end. South Siders are staying on their side and the West Enders are plenty happy in their haven. Well, West Enders, I have some food and drink options that may make you decide that 11 minutes is worth the ride.
Deep in the South Side of Richmond is some spectacular Hispanic eating and for the prices you are going to shell out, it makes the complaint of soaring gas prices almost nonexistent. Here are a few that make it worth the drive:
Café Pandulce: Tacos! This little place is perfect for a taco meal ($5.99 for three). My carne asada tacos were packed with so much meat and fresh cilantro I was only able to get through one and a half pieces of the corn-wrapped goodness. Other versions such as lengua (tongue) and carnitas are continually calling my name. Another score at this off-the-path eatery is banana-leaf tamales. But call ahead for availability.
2601 Turner Road
Mi Ranchito: I suggest the typical breakfast ($6.99). Plated up big are marvelous refried beans, a large scoop of seasoned fried eggs, sour cream, queso fresco — a fresh white unsalted cheese made on location — and a soft fried plantain. A forkful of sour cream, plantain and beans bears a slight spice and a pleasant mushiness that begs for a bite of tortilla. Wash it all down with a large glass of horchata ($2.70) — and enjoy a rice-based morning drink with cinnamon and almond aftertastes.
5700 Jefferson Davis Highway.
Don Pedros: A Salvadoran empanada (the same name is used for different foods depending on geography) is a thing of beauty and this rendition is right on the mark. I will venture to say this maybe one of the only places to find the sweet version (empanadas de platano, $2.50) — flattened, mashed plantain outside, pan-fried with a filling of luscious cream called poliada.
8700 Jefferson Davis Highway
El Ranchero: While the food is nothing to shake a stick at, I am all over the large Texas margarita ($8.50). With the addition of Grand Marnier, lime and other secrets, this huge beverage is a one-off, as in one is all you will need. Resist the temptation for a second even though it is that good.
11521 Midlothian Turnpike
El Rey Del Taco: If you are looking for quick and tasty, walk up to this stationary taco truck and try a huarache ($3.50-4). Shredded, red-peppered chicken and a bunch of lettuce and sour cream make a fantastic snack. Plop down on one of the benches and hope that the ice cream wagon (actually a two-wheeled cooler) is pulled by for a coconut-strawberry treat ($2).
El Rey Del Taco
5200 block of Hull Street Road