After a short break for the holidays, being sick and traveling (the trifecta), it’s time to get back to work! This evening I checked out Ancho Mexican Grill for dinner. I know little about this place other than it opened following a bit of controversy with the closing of Baja Fresh in the same location. I don’t think I had ever even been to the Baja Fresh while it was there.
I popped in over the weekend while I was passing by to take a look around and grab a menu. I was pretty surprised by how big the place was. I was expecting something closer to the I Love Teriyaki next door which is considerably smaller. The food appeared to be very Chipotle-like, offering burritos, bowls, tacos and salads with an assembly-line situation going on. Strangely, burgers are an option as well. They also serve breakfast in the form of omelettes, breakfast bowls/burritos and egg combos. One other location can be found out in Downtown Sacramento.
Returning tonight at about 5:30pm there was just one other customer in at the time, and he was on his way out as soon as I got my food. The large dining room was mostly clean, just a couple tables showed signs of previous customers. I approached the counter and started to take a look at the menu. Just then a woman emerged from the office to the right and greeted me. I told her I’d need a moment, so she tidied some things up while I decided. I figured I’d go with something similar to what I get at Chipotle, but that plan immediately fell apart because they oddly didn’t have pork. (This makes me think it’s the same owner as the late Baja Fresh since removing pork from their menu was what caused all the hubbub).
I went ahead with my plan anyway, going with chicken instead. This was a burrito bowl. I chose cilantro rice (option of Spanish rice), pinto beans (option of black beans), grilled onions & green peppers, spicy chicken (option of non-spicy chicken), cheese, guacamole (+ $1.59) and sour cream. There are a handful of other toppings/fillings you could add. This looked good and was close to my typical Chipotle order. Sliding up to the register she asked if I wanted chips and/or a drink. I mentally shrugged and went for both. My total came to just over $10 with tax. After examining my receipt I discovered that I was not charged for the guac. The chicken bowl was $6.99, soda $1.99 and the chips $0.99.
I picked a seat in the now empty dining room, filled up my soda and stopped at the salsa bar. They have three to choose from here, pico de gallo, salsa verde and “6 chiles” salsa. I went with the 6 chiles which looked dark and possibly smokey.
Back to my seat and a quick photo-session later I was digging in. Based on appearance alone I had high hopes for both the guacamole and the spicy chicken. The guac looked fresh and actually made out of avocados, having chunks clearly visible (as opposed to the mystery green paste that some places have which doesn’t really even taste like avocados). Indeed, it was as excellent tasting as it looked. The chicken flat out looked spicy. It had a deep reddish-brown color and I could see little bits of peppers on each piece. It definitely packed a lot of flavor and a little bit of heat. It was surprisingly a bit on the fatty side which made it extremely tender, and probably even that much more flavorful, as a result.
All the other ingredients were on par with Chipotle, or even Freebirds World Burrito, fresh and tasty all around. The chips and salsa, however, were the least exciting part of my visit by a long shot. The 6 chiles salsa was just plain hot with not a lot of flavor. The heat was on the verge of overwhelming my tastebuds and ruining my enjoyment of the bowl. I only got a few chips in before I decided I wasn’t planning on eating any more. The chips were about the same as most boring chips at a taqueria. Nothing like Chipotle’s fantastic and salty chips. I suppose with guacamole they would be acceptable. Otherwise I just don’t see a point in ordering them again here.
Disappointing chips aside, Ancho Mexican Grill surprised the heck out of me. I don’t know why but I apparently went in with medium expectations and didn’t anticipate the flavorful chicken and quality ingredients at all. I’ll definitely return.