Best Mexican-Restaurant Ambiance - 2000
Tienda El Ranchito
Most Mexican restaurants, including many that serve delicious food, look like little theme parks of Mexican culture. Hey, a few miniature sombreros and corny clay pots never hurt the mole sauce, so who cares, really? But if you want a genuinely Mexican environment as you eat your ceviche or lingua taco, washed down with horchata, then cross the river and visit Tienda El Ranchito in Fairmont City, a few miles down the road from Cahokia Mounds. You will find a down-home Mexican market staffed by folks of Mexican descent, frequented almost solely by same, with kids running around underfoot. There are nice selections of pi?atas, salsas and Mexican music, some of which will be blaring agreeably from the overhead speakers. Back in the restaurant space, yes, there is a wall painting of a matador, but it is so naively executed that no wannabe restaurant would dare display it. If you are the real thing, you don't have to dress the part (not that you won't find the odd table of Mexican cowboys totally dressed the part, in splendid boots and hats, drinking Coca-Cola bottled south of the border). Every wall could use a coat of paint, sure, but that never hurt the chile relleno, either. And if it gets that paint, you know it won't come in any carefully themed Mexican rainbow. Nope -- just slap it on and get back to the real deal, honest food and life.