You might've assumed our moods were tethered to the weather on a grim, chilly and gloomy Friday night. As rain splintered the windshield, the darkly lit car interior was filled with bitter talk of flus, hunger, and how nothing fancy and no place familiar sounded particularly good for dinner.

You might've assumed our moods were tethered to the weather on a grim, chilly and gloomy Friday night. As rain splintered the windshield, the darkly lit car interior was filled with bitter talk of flus, hunger, and how nothing fancy and no place familiar sounded particularly good for dinner.

No, we needed someplace slightly off our beaten path, that was cheery in a kind of bright and goofy way, and that could deliver zesty food that was reliable, soothing, filling and cheap. Feeling tired and emotionally brittle, we also needed to go to a place where nobody knew our names. In short, we needed Rancho Alegre.

Situated on the Grandview side of town in a converted Tee Jaye's, Alegre is a colorful and clean Mexican place that's like an El Vaquero only better. So Alegre has one of those stunners of a rambling on and on menu, with dozens of combo platters and multiple iterations of the same ingredients.

They execute most of the dishes on their numbingly huge food document well, and do a few items especially well. And one of those, the tortilla soup, was just the dreary-day palliative we needed.

But first there would be margaritas. Wait, make that a margarita, because the one we had in mind was ludicrously large (the Grande Texas margarita, $12). I'm talking comedy-prop proportions, as in bigger than a bird bath.

It tastes only above average, but it makes up for that in sheer Alice in Wonderland-like entertainment value - and with its intoxicating ability. But you'll need to share it with someone whose oral germs you're already well acquainted with.

Ditto for the excellent bowl of tortilla soup ($5.50) - and in fact the rest of this "bonding-back-together" cheering-up meal.

The colorful, multidimensional and homey soup is just like your abuelita used to make, and it's a great cure for the common cold-shoulder-giving bad mood. It's soothing with globules of chicken fat and avocado, but balanced by and brightened with lime, jalapeno, onion, tomato and cilantro. Plus it has the carbo-comforting agents of rice and copious crispy strips of corny fried tortilla.

We consummated our shared dinner with Alegre's carnitas ($11) - huge and plentiful pieces of almost bacon-tasting stewed and crisply charred pork shoulder. As we wiped the shiny pig fat from our faces, we realized they were now wearing big, silly smiles - thanks, Alegre.