Better than Disneyland
Ricardo’s Mexican Restaurant2144 Greenbrae Dr.
Sparks, NV 89431
Every Christmas break, my family used to visit Disneyland. I reached unparalleled levels of giddiness for two things: giving the camera the bird on the final drop of Splash Mountain and my annual $5 churro. I still eat the things whenever possible. However, I’ve now seen them bested. At Ricardo’s Mexican Food and Cantina on a recent Saturday evening, I had my first sopapilla and will forever need to leave a little room at the end of Mexican dining ventures for dessert.
Ricardo’s is an inviting little place on the corner of Sullivan and Greenbrae. People are often very passionate about their Mexican restaurants, and a friend with impeccable taste endorsed the restaurant as both authentic and her numero uno. My wife, brother and I were seated in a corner on the edge of the dining area near the completely empty cantina. The bar is kind of cool and upscale with its flat screen TV and ambient lighting. It’s like downtown Mexico City compared to the rancho feel of the dining area, with all the wagon wheel chandeliers. The place is very laid back. Even the servers—who got everything right—most importantly the twice unprompted refill on chips and salsa—did so just a step behind pace.
We started with margaritas, Kat the blended strawberry ($6.50), Eric and I the blended lime ($6.50). While Kat’s contained a little slush, mine and Eric’s were total liquid. But what they lacked in iciness, they made up for in alcohol content. And truth be told, the most important thing I look for in a drink is punch. We sucked these down while devouring chips and salsa. The chips were great but could have been served a little warmer, and the salsa was a little sweet and devoid of any vegetable chunks. I upended an entire cup of the stuff over my Spanish rice, making that side fantastic.
For entrees, Eric ordered two tostadas with shredded beef ($8.95), Kat the tamale special ($8.95)—one beef tamale and one chicken enchilada—and I the chicken fajitas ($10.95). Eric liked the presentation of his meal, comparing it to an ice cream sundae. Instead of flat shells, Ricardo’s uses tortilla bowls, which they filled with the best shredded beef I’ve had in Reno. Its juiciness was only eclipsed by its tenderness. Kat’s tamale would have benefited from a higher mix of this delicious beef Instead, it was dominated by a thick masa layer.
My fajitas ruled the other entrees. Aside from the guacamole garnish, which didn’t taste altogether fresh, I enjoyed every bite. And sometimes a plate succeeds from what it doesn’t include—like chunky tomatoes, which I’ve never liked with fajitas. My chicken, peppers and onion came covered in a thick savory brown sauce. Like the beef, this is one of the best fajita sauces in town. The sauce kept the chicken moist, and the sheer quantity produced a delicious, dripping fajita.
Now, back to the sopapillas ($3.95). The plate consisted of two large, lightly fried and pillowy dough masses, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. They tasted like loaves of churro and triggered my hoarding impulse—I did not want to share. However, I did. No sooner did I give Kat a piece than I had to admonish her for coating the thing with butter. That’s like covering a doughnut with cake frosting.