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Bhan Thai, Ola Juice Bar, El Ranchito

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Bhan Thai

Bhan Thai

4431 Centennial Blvd., 266-1309,

I've never been blown away by Bhan Thai's offerings, but they're entirely serviceable as the usual suspects at a reasonable price, and the spot generally hits fast service times. Refer to the Pad Thai Glass Noodles or Panang Curry (each $7.50) for examples: both mild to medium in spice when ordered hot, but bright enough with respective savory and semi-sweet notes, and plenty fulfilling as protein infusions engulfed in starch.

Less typical to local Thai menus — in fact feeling more like a Chinese dish with Japanese saucing — is the Crystal Shrimp ($8.50) plate, featuring thick-battered, deep-fried prawns over shredded lettuce, with a drizzle of sappy "prepared creamy sweeten milky sauce" (read: sushi-style mayo flecked with sesame seeds). They make a better shared app than entrée, in my opinion, but an accompanying heap of white rice will fill your belly. — Matthew Schniper

Ola Juice Bar

Ola Juice Bar

27 E. Kiowa St., 440-4198,

Where else locally are you going to find fermented beets and dulse (chewy sea vegetable), or pickled carrots and daikon (Asian winter radish) as optional ingredients for build-your-own items like rice bowls, burritos and salads? Tangy, nutrient-rich, Korean-style elements aside, Ola's mix of all-vegan and nearly-all-gluten-free-and-organic goodies makes it much more than just a juice bar. Still, the Green Mojito ($6.50/16 ounces) ranks as reason enough to drop in: Pineapple and lime provide the citric tang while cucumber and apple smooth it out, and spinach and mint take it further into the garden and Cuban territory.

The BYO Quinoa Bowl ($7.75) places the great grain with your choice of five items and a sauce. I went with spicy cilantro citrus dressing, mixed greens, arugula, pine nuts, artichoke hearts and the fermented beets and dulse. Luckily, its taste matched its overt healthfulness. — Matthew Schniper

El Ranchito Carniceria y Fruiteria

El Ranchito Carniceria y Fruiteria

3970 Airport Road, 550-9270

At El Ranchito, a tiny grocery store just to the east of South Academy Boulevard where it really doesn't hurt if you can speak a spot of Spanish, you can find prepped masa for $6.79, a slab of pork carnitas for $5.99, and a pound of queso fresco for $3.99. There are shelves of Latin American goods — plus, awesomely, shelves of Takis — display cases full of pre-seasoned meats, and even a few tables in front of an open grill that periodically belches smoke and steam into the rest of the store.

It's here you can order mojarra frita, a whole, fried white fish ($9.99), as well as an expansive range of tacos at $1.49 each. And as gross as boiled and fried small intestines may sound, tripas — those crispy, fatty bites — are the only sensible option. With an naranja Fanta, they deliver the magic. As for the fish, its salty, succulent flesh was perfect, though you'll be wise to watch out for bones. — Bryce Crawford

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