La Rancherita offers a fresh take on Mexican food and cocktails

The Agave-Chipotle Chicken Tacos (two for lunch and three for dinner) are served with rice and black beans at Greenville's new La Rancherita Grill & Tequila Bar. (252Buzz photo by Bill Hudson)

By Jane Welborn Hudson

La Rancherita Grill & Tequila Bar

3130 Evans St. in the Lynncroft Shopping Center 252-756-7702 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.Mondays--Thursdays, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m-9 p.m Sundays.

Greenville's new La Rancherita Grill & Tequila Bar offers a creative twist on Mexican and Tex-Mex specialties for lunch and dinner.

It's a new concept for the space previously occupied by Totopos Street Food and Tequila.

The La Rancherita restaurants are owned by the Ibarra family, operators of a number of eateries in the Raleigh area including El Rodeo Mexican Restaurant, The Cortez Seafood & Cocktail, and Jose and Sons. One of the Ibarra sons was a partner in the now-shuttered Greenville location of Totopos Street Food and Tequila.

The La Rancherita menu utilizes fresh ingredients -- locally sourced when possible -- in modern preparations of traditional Latin fare.

Take the tacos, for example. Selections include:

* Scallops and Bacon, with red cabbage, fresh pineapple, sesame seeds and house-made crema mexicana;

* Agave-Chipotle Chicken featuring grilled chicken marinated in sweet agave nectar and chipotle topped with fresh corn, cheese, house-made pico de gallo and crema mexicana;

* Crispy Calamares, with fried calamari, lettuce, pineapple, pico de gallo and sweet agave-chipotle sauce;

* Diablos, with fire-grilled premium steak slices, caramelized onion, smoky sauce, house-made guacamole and queso fresco; and

* Vegetarian, featuring grilled veggies, house-made chipotle-agave sauce, cheese, corn, guacamole and sesame seeds.

La Rancherita's unique taco selections include Bacon and Scallops with fresh pineapple and red cabbage. (252Buzz photo by Bill Hudson)

An executive chef develops the dishes served at all six La Rancherita locations: Greenville, Raleigh (Crabtree and North Raleigh), Apex, Wilson, and Tarboro.

The menu includes lots of gluten-free and vegetarian options.

Appetizers include corn on the cob prepared in the Mexican street-food manner with mayonnaise, queso fresco and chili powder; Chicken Rolls made with a flour tortilla, shredded chicken, pico de gallo, cheese, lettuce and creamy chipotle dip; and Carne Asada Fries, french fries topped with grilled steak, spicy sauce, black beans, pico de gallo, crema mexicana, cheese and guacamole.

Salads include Mexican Chopped Salad with Chimichurri dressing, and Cocktail de Camaron with chilled broiled shrimp, house-made cocktail sauce, pico de gallo and avocado.

Start a meal at La Rancherita with complimentary chips and house-made fresh salsa, and add on some fresh guacamole. (252Buzz photo by Bill Hudson)

Among the soup selections are Chicken Soup and Pozole, made with hominy, pork bits, chile guajillo broth, cabbage and radishes.

Dinner entrees include:

* Platano Relleno ($13.99), a dish with plantain, steak, cheese, black beans, crema mexicana, agave syrup and guacamole served with a choice of soup or salad;

* Camarones de Coco ($14.99), featuring sauteed shrimp, house-made coconut sauce, crema mexicana, bacon, onion, rice and pepper served with a house salad;

* Cochinita Pibil ($13.99), a dish with banana-leaf roasted pulled pork, sour orange, pickled red onion, salsa roja, crema mexicana, guacamole, rice, black beans, and tortillas to make your own tacos;

* Cali-Style Burrito ($11.49 for veggie or grilled chicken, $11.99 for steak), with black beans, rice, lettuce, cheese, pico de gallo and chipotle cream in a honey wheat tortilla, with slaw or fries on the side; and

* Parilla Meat Platter ($17.99 for one and $28.99 for two), including pork, chicken, premium steak chorizo, shrimp, bacon, sausages, onion, hot peppers, corn on the cob, rice, refried beans and tortillas.

Fajitas, enchiladas, quesadillas and chimichangas also are available.

A kids' menu for children ages 10 and under includes grilled chicken, cheese quesadilla, chicken tenders, grilled steak, grilled shrimp, Arroz con Pollo Junior, enchilada, and burrito, for $4.99-$6.99.

La Rancherita's Flan de Coco is topped with whipped cream and coconut flakes.. (252Buzz photo by Bill Hudson)

Desserts include Fried Ice Cream (made with Cookies and Cream ice cream coated in coconut and corn chips) and Tres Leches Cake (butter cake soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream).

La Rancherita's cantina specializes in tequilas, with a wide variety of options in a large range of prices.

La Rancherita's hand-crafted margaritas include Strawberry Basil and Pineapple-Jalapeno . (Photo courtesy of La Rancherita)

Hand-crafted margaritas made with fresh squeezed juices boast fresh garnishes and are served in colorful swirl glasses made in Mexico. Selections include strawberry basil, mango, peach, passion fruit, guava, blood orange, and pineapple-jalapeno. The Diabla Margarita is made with Vida Mezcal, cucumber, jalapeno pepper and fresh-squeezed lime juice.

Shaker Margaritas, served in a shaker glass, include varieties flavored with mango puree and strawberry, coconut and lime juice, blackberry, and pomegranate juice.

Other Mexican cocktails include pina coladas and a variety of rum-based mojitos. The Oaxaca Mule is made with mezcal, lime, passion fruit and ginger.

Red and white wines, beer and hand-crafted sangrias also are offered.

The restaurant has been redesigned simply, with painted walls and minimal decoration. The bar area now boasts a back wall covered with patterned black and white tiles. There also is a large outdoor patio for dining.

During a recent late lunch at La Rancherita, Bill and I chatted with Greenville general manager Ruben Mundo in La Rancherita's cantina area.

Lunch prices range from $5.99-$8.99.

Fresh salsa, made in house, was delivered to our table with a wire cone of warm salted tortilla chips. We also ordered some house-made classic guacamole, a lunch treat for $4.99.

Although Bill drank sweet tea, I ordered a White Peach Sangria, made with white wine, passion fruit, brandy, agave nectar and diced peaches.

We ordered the Agave-Chipotle Chicken Tacos and the Bacon and Scallop Tacos, each accompanied by rice and black beans.

We also tried one of the most popular lunch items, La Ranch Quesadilla. We ordered it with grilled chicken, cheese, chipotle cream, pico de gallo and cilantro; it's cut into four pieces and served with a wire basket of steak fries.

We ended our lunch with Flan de Coco, rich vanilla custard covered in golden custard and coconut flakes.

Jane Welborn Hudson, a native of Greenville, wrote The Daily Reflector's Hot Dish restaurant column for 12 years and the Greensboro News & Record's Short Orders restaurant column for 8 years. Email her at