Flaming foods: Rancho Alegre

  • Jodi Miller photo
From the 07/29/2009 edition

Molcajete ($15)

Firestarter: Rancho Alegre

Torch yellow and burnt orange outside and big and roomy and ultra-clean inside, Rancho Alegre is a newer Grandview-area Tex-Mex-er offering that popular, oversized combo-platter-weighted menu everybody expects these days. But Rancho Alegre is a cut above your basic burrito-and-monster-margarita hawker.

The heat is on ...: A big black bowl and tripod jobbie made out of thick volcanic rock and called a molcajete. See, this meal is named after the vessel in which it's served. Mortar-and-pestle-like molcajetes (which have pre-Columbian origins) were traditionally used to grind spices and make salsas and guacamoles and such.

Hot! Hot! Hot!: This crackling, attention-hogging meal comes to the table looking as if it's sending off smoke signals to someone - it's quite a puffing presentation. Smoldering inside the basalt bowl is a fajita-like mix of shrimp, so-so beef and tender chicken strips vibrating above a swamp of gurgling meat juices, tomatoes, onions and peppers.

As a stratum of rich cheese melts above all that, it forms a salty and irresistibly peppery gravy. Built for at least two, it comes with rice, beans, "guacamole salad" and tortillas.