Tag Archives: Cheap food

El Ranchero

Before you all lose faith in my drinking abilities, I assure you I’ve just been lazy about writing reviews (yes, I have 2-3 other reviews currently in my back pocket for a rainy day).  This week, I ventured to El Ranchero with coworkers.  We attended for a Thursday happy hour, which was a nice change of pace from the extended Friday Happy Hour.  Arriving a little after 5:30pm, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and sat outside. They have a small part of the sidewalk in front of the restaurant dedicated for about six tables.  After we were quickly set up outside, our quirky waiter introduced us to the wonderful deals the establishment offered and took our order.  The deals we most certainly took advantage were $4 margaritas and $1 tacos.  These margaritas were quite tasty and our table got the full array (regular, strawberry and peach).  Personally, I spent the night sipping down peach margaritas, but sampled the others and can assure you of the overall quality.

After getting our initial round of drinks, our taco medley started to arrive.  These may not be gourmet tacos, but for $1 apiece, it’s really hard to complain.  The beef tacos were definitely better than the chicken or bean tacos…or maybe that was just the anticipation because we had a slightly longer wait for them.  To our misfortune, the beautiful weather faded, the clouds rolled in and so did the rain.  We were forced to continue inside.  The interior of the restaurant/bar was quaint.  El Ranchero has a distinct bar area and table area.  What started as us (a slightly loud/rambunctious group) entering a relatively quiet dining area, with time and more patrons, the area transformed to something more homogenous with our group’s attitude – drink and eat cheap tacos.  Now for the nitty-gritty, while I did enjoy this happy hour, the service was not the best.  El Ranchero let some things slip through the cracks – simple things like frequency of the waiter checking on potential refills, forgetting to bring us napkins, the assumption with the rain we would be leaving rather than moving inside, and then being slow with bringing the check.  Don’t get me wrong; I did like the laid-back atmosphere here.  However, if you or your friends are in a hurry (are impatient at all), you might want to reserve El Ranchero for another night.  Given El Ranchero’s proximity to my work, the nice outdoor seating and delicious (yet reasonably priced) margaritas, I would most certainly come back.

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McCormick & Schmick’s

Yes, yes this is a chain…but that doesn’t take away from the quality drinking experiences I’ve had at the various McCormick and Schmick’s in the DC-metro area.  The locations that I will speak to and the frequency to which I’ve attended each include– Farragut Square (twice), Metro Center (once), and Crystal City (once).  McCormick & Schmick’s is a very reliable chain.  The food and drink quality amongst the different chains is high.  Do not write off this place just because you want a “unique” bar experience.  Each location does have a slightly different feel.  The two locations in DC in particular have more of a classical bar atmosphere.  The Crystal City location feels slightly more open and modern in the bar area.

The first location I attended was Farragut Square.  Both times was for happy hour in which they had AMAZING food deals.  The best deal is the $4 cheeseburger (with fries).  This is a regular size portion.  All you have to do is abide by the $3.50 minimum beverage purchase per person.  I’ve also tried the chicken wings ($5), which are tasty, but for the portion size I would say just go for the burger. As usual, I alternated between my regular screwdrivers and vodka tonics ($5 each for Smirnoff drinks).  While the drinks specials aren’t the best in town, when you can get quality food along with the pleasant bar atmosphere it is hard to pass up this place.  The clientele can be slightly on the older side, but you certainly won’t be scoffed at for going in there with a group of friends and being under 30.

Two of the three places I’ve encountered extremely engaging bartenders/servers.  In particular, at the Metro Center location, there was one bartender who my friend insisted on calling Bob.  Bob, as we will call him because I have since forgotten his real name, was honest, patient, and very good with drink recommendations as the best bartenders should be.  He made me a delicious cucumber gimlet ($11 – off happy hours price), which I have since incorporated into my regular drink orders and ordered again the other night at the Crystal City location.  The consistency amongst the different locations is certainly something you can trust.  In terms of rating the locations, Crystal City wins the prize for most convenient to my current location, but the Metro Center location has the best atmosphere.  While the bar itself is on the smaller side, it feels cozier and still inviting despite being right in the middle of DC.

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