A Chico tradition
What Ricardo’s lacks in taste it makes up for in service
Ricardo’s Mexican Restaurant2365 Esplanade
Chico, CA 95926
I’ve been to every Mexican restaurant in this town at least once. Certain ones I frequent more than others, depending on a taquito here or a chimichanga there. When I’m in the mood for large plates of rich Mexican food, and a generous side of super friendly service, I go to Ricardo’s. Comfort food on a rainy day can’t be beat, and being treated like a favorite customer, valued and appreciated, can make anyone feel good.
The first rain of the season brought on one of those moods, and as quick as my Wellies could take me, I ran to Ricardo’s for nachos and chile rellenos. Ricardo’s isn’t the best Mexican food in town, but it fills a niche.
Ricardo’s has great service, hands down. This doesn’t go unnoticed. The food is consistent and not overpriced. Last but not least, the food is made with love, that’s for sure, and a plate of cheese-stuffed Anaheim chiles surrounded by fried egg batter is delicious, filling and at $6.95, well worth it.
My rainy-day visit called for a plate of them chiles, some cheese-covered nachos ($6.95) and a Special Tostada ($9.95) I thought I’d share with a friend. The Special Tostada, a vegetarian bean tostada topped with a tossed salad and garlic dressing, cheese, pico de gallo and sliced avocado is quite good, and the house dressing complements it nicely. We enjoyed the chile relleno with corn tortillas and rice, guacamole and sour cream. And we both agreed that they were delicious—perhaps not the best in all of California, as advertised by the hostess—but very good nonetheless.
I returned with a friend for a late-afternoon feast, determined to try something on the menu that wowed me. We sampled the shrimp fajitas ($12.95), shrimp sautéed with green and red peppers and onions. The menu says they come with black beans, but they don’t. The shrimp had seen better days, and despite ample seasoning, were tough and unpalatable. We also tried the steak picado dinner ($10.95), a Mexican stew of beef chunks and potatoes. The menu specified spicy slow-cooked strips of beef, and while the dinner was good, it wasn’t spicy, it wasn’t strips and the beef didn’t have that fall-apart quality it should when it’s been slow-cooked in a stew for hours.
The margaritas are good, but small. Perhaps in this town of sombrero-sized margarita glasses we’ve all been a bit spoiled, but I felt the need to order two. Overall, I was satisfied with our meal, but not overly impressed.
I’ve had some really good dinners at Ricardo’s in the past, and am a big fan of the chile verde. That said, I would like to suggest updating the menu after consulting the kitchen staff. Menu discrepancies aren’t a big deal if your customer base is made up of regulars familiar with your food. But if a restaurant describes a meal a certain way, and it comes out of the kitchen quite differently, newer patrons may be confused.
This shouldn’t be a big deal, because the staff genuinely seem to care that the customer is happy. They pay attention to details like wrapping the cold and hot ingredients of a to-go order separately so the taste of the dish isn’t affected by the time you get home.
Ricardo’s is somewhat of a Chico tradition, and I can see why. Tasty, American-Mexican food, covered in cheese and sour cream is everywhere in this town, but instead of handing you your foil-wrapped burrito and sending you on your way, Ricardo’s sits you down, asks you how you’re doing and serves you warm tortilla chips and fresh salsa while you wait for your huge servings of comfort food.