Right near where I live, there’s a major highway that has a bunch of gas stations. As someone who drives their partner to work, I’ve become well-acquainted with most of them. I know which one has the cheapest price, where I can get cigarettes, which has decent energy drink selections, and which one will take credit cards for air.
There was one which caught my attention more than the others, a small Mobil station that was tucked away. Unlike most gas stations that have a quick “mini mart,” this one had a mart and a restaurant. One day, I needed to get an energy drink, so I headed to the mini mart. When I stepped inside the building, the smell immediately hit me.
The smell of the food was heavenly. There were no other words to describe it. I could smell the savory steak sizzling on the grill, the juiciness of the tomatoes on the platters, the deliciousness of the fresh-made salsa, and even get hints of fresh tortilla chips in the fryer. It was irresistible. I wanted those damned tacos.
Now, as a food critic, ordering tacos at a gas station might not be very acceptable to most others. It was a very Spartan, hole-in-the-wall type of place. A couple of banners hung up on the counter. Three or four tables were nearby. The paint was plain and matched the mini mart. Most people would never expect me to try the food. Heck, even my husband gave me a look.
But, I needed to eat the food. It smelled so damn good.
Not before long, the food arrived in a nice little package. I started to sink my teeth into their tacos al pastor, and all I could think of was how phenomenal the food tasted. The beef was savory, dashed with fresh cilantro, and had an amazingly authentic Mexican flavor. Each taco was savory, tangy, and had just that perfect melty texture I’d kill for in a review.
These weren’t your average tacos. No, they were far better, and they were legitimately Mexican cuisine rather than the typical Tex-Mex you see peddled as “authentic” in the states. Honestly, My Ranch Taquiera beat out the majority of the more upscale Mexican restaurants I’ve been to. I had to know what was going on here, so I started to ask questions.
As it turns out, the Taquiera was run by someone who came to the United State from Mexico with the hope of creating his own business. He didn’t have much to work with in terms of funding, but he did have amazing talent. As he worked his way up, he invested in more equipment and was currently working his way to get a better venue for his restaurant.
Finding out about his story was humbling for both me and my husband. We often take for granted how well-funded restaurants can be when they start out. We forget what a struggle it is to get funding, and how difficult it is for people to even start up their own business. And, we regularly discriminate against restaurants for their humble beginnings.
My Ranch Taquiera gave us a stern reminder of how deceiving looks can be, and how important it is to give new restauranteurs a chance. The food’s phenomenal flavor, beautiful presentation, and authentic recipes told a story of a man with a dream, a passion for food, and a love of sharing his beautiful culture with his new neighbors.
If you’re ever up in North Jersey, by all means, fill up your gas tank and fill up your stomach at this venue. It’s a decision you’ll be glad you made.