While the El Vaquero in Columbus, Ohio offters the usual burritos and chimichangas, there is something different. If I had to pin it down, I’d say it’s the preperation and the spices they use in their sauces. Genuine Mexican owners and cooks make me feel it is “authentic” Mexican food though I’ve never been to Mexico so I couldn’t say. What I can say is that it is good and very different from the usual Mexican chain restaurants. The menu at the El Vaquero is huge. Any combination of the usual Mexican fare is offered. They also have some very spicey soups that I just love, of course I love spicey soup.
Locally, they are known for their margaritas. The recipe is a secret. Every so often they will bring out a big jug of margarita and put it into a dispenser. They don’t make them in front of you so they can keep the secret. They are wonderful.
A lot of their dishes come as items on a plate that are meant to be placed in a tortilla by you at the table. You’ll have some beef or chicken in a sauce, refried beans with cheese and Mexican rice. Their Mexican rice does not taste like the Mexican rice I am used to at other restaurants. I’m not fond of Mexican rice, but I like the rice at the El Vaquero.
As far as their sauces go, it’s the Ranchero sauce that I love. I look down through the menu looking for the various dishes that come with this sauce because it is excellent. There is a particular menu item that my wife and I love. When I’ve recommended this to others, they have been impressed 100% of the time and go back an order it again and again. It is the “#141” or what they call “Polo Ranchero.” Loosley translated this means “chicken in a Ranchero sauce.” It comes with refried beans, Mexican rice, and several tortillas to hold it all.
For desert, there’s the fried ice cream. Again, excellent.
The El Vaquero has become somewhat of a local legend and is very popular in the area. The original location is at 2195 Riverside Drive in Columbus. I still feel like this location is the best. It is a small restaurant and you have to go during off peak hours to get a seat. They close between 2 and 5 PM though for a “siesta” or really what I believe to be for cleaning and preparing for the dinner crowd. Due to their popularity, they have opened up other locations around town. I tried these other locations a few times but felt that the same spicey dishes I love at the original restaurant are not quite as good at the satellite locations. They’ve also opened a sister restaurant called the “La Vaquera” but I have not tried it as of yet.
You can see all their locations at this site…. http://www.elvaquerorestaurants.com/locations.html
Do yourself a favor… if you are in the Columbus area, go to 2195 Riverside Drive. Have a margarita and order the “Polo Ranchero.” Just ask for a “number 141 with extra tortillas.” You’ll be glad you did.