CPM Fall 2019 - 27
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While I'll enjoy and appreciate just about anything I eat while
out, I don't get the great pleasure at fast food and chain family
restaurants that I do at fine dining establishments. On the other
hand, casual dining is awesome when it's well made, when it's
different than what we're used to and when it's generous and
reasonably priced. El Rancho Restaurante & Pupuseria is all that
and then some, bringing the tastes of Guatemala, El Salvador and
Mexico to downtown Harrisburg.
Recently opening across from the Capitol, near Strawberry
Square and next to the Mary Sachs Building, Guatemalan Manuel
Ambrocio serves up the cuisine of his homeland and nearby El
Salvador along with his wife, Maria Ramirez, from Michoacán,
Mexico. After jobs managing local restaurants, they decided to
go out on their own to serve up unique food from home. Spices,
such as imported pepper and bay leaf, are roasted to bring out
their full flavor. The tortilla wrappings of many of the dishes are
a bit different from Mexican, made of corn maseca that's gluten
free, and mildly lighter and more buttery than the Mexican
tortillas many of us are used to. The menu has plenty of "USA"
choices like salads and burgers...you can get these anywhere, so
leave the gringo side of you at home.
Drinks include fountain drinks and iced tea, but consider a
huge mug of mildly sweet Horchata Guatemalteca (rice water,
milk, and ground roasted pumpkin and sesame seeds). Mexican
Jarritos sodas come in tropical flavors with real cane sugar instead
of corn syrup.
Our meal started with a complimentary dish of tortilla chips
with bean dip and queso fresco. If you'd still like to start with
an appetizer, options include Yuca y Chicharron (similar to a
potato, with pork, cabbage and salsa), empanadas, a Mexican
shrimp cocktail and ceviche.
Popular in El Salvador, pupusas are light tortillas wrapped around
a choice of 7 fillings (including frijol/refried beans, chicharron/
shredded pork, chorizo/sausage, and calabazo/zucchini), then
grilled and served with a tangy salsa and curtido (a faintly pickled
cabbage). I went vegetarian with loroco, a Guatemalan flower bud.
The mouthfeel of pupusas is more like a ravioli than a soft-shelled
tortilla and was delicious. A wide selection of Mexican dishes
includes tostadas (the De Tinga dish with pork was perfectly spicy),
tortillas and burritos.
Larger platter entrees include Pepian Guatemalteco, a hearty
stew with chicken, yuca and squash in a roasted tomato broth,
as well as Mojarra Frita, which is a crispy filet of tilapia plated
with Mexican fixings. Sopes and fajitas come in 3 meat selections.
Chicken Mole and Camarones a la Diabla (spicy shrimp) sound
like choices for a future trip.
Ms. Ramirez makes all desserts from scratch, including flan,
churros, fried ice cream, and Tres Leches Cake.
To enjoy the tastes of Central America, there's no longer a need
to travel to Lebanon or Maryland. It's now right here downtown.
EL RANCHO RESTAURANTE
210 N. Third Street, Harrisburg
Central PA Medicine Fall 2019 27
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