FORT WALTON BEACH — Hungry for some south of the border cuisine? You’ll not be disappointed in Okaloosa County, home to many different Mexican-style restaurants. Choices run the gamut, from fast food and chain restaurants to budget-minded eateries and higher-end established.
Based on price, Los Rancheros in Fort Walton Beach sits in the middle of the pack. Most menu choices cost less than $16, and the restaurant offers lunch specials for $5.95 and $5.50 Thursday combination dinners for people mindful of their budgets.
From the recently made over exterior and interior, to the staff, Los Rancheros provides a viable Latin cuisine experience that won’t get you in trouble with your credit card provider.
I would not refer to online versions of the menu, which are either out of date or incomplete. The Quick Bites sidebar to this profile gives a more accurate picture of price ranges. The menu was extensive and could not be replicated in its entirety.
You may want to start at the Cantina, which offers a compliment of Latin-themed mixed drinks, domestic and imported beers, wine, soft drinks and coffee. As you might expect, the flagship of the mixed drink offerings is the margarita, which comes in various sizes, some that may require a team to finish.
Appetizers run the gamut from nachos and stuffed jalapenos, to selections that cater to a more north-of-the-border palate, like wings and chicken fingers. On one visit, I tried the chicken nachos, a heaping plate of crispy nacho chips topped with succulent chunks of chicken, melted cheese, jalapenos and lettuce, with sides of sour cream and salsa.
Main dishes and combo platters allow diners to sample different kinds of Latin dishes, or if your tastes are more specific, you can order single-item dinners like burritos and enchiladas. House entrees include quesadillas, mole poblano, tacos and chimichangas, to name a few.
On a separate visit, I tried the sampler platter. I should mention that as each table is seated, a basket of chips and salsa are produced that will satisfy any immediate hunger cravings. Just be careful – you want to leave room for the main event.
My platter came with a variety of items, including fried chicken strips, stuffed jalapenos, and quesadillas. The strips were crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The jalapenos were spicy but not overly hot, and the quesadillas were creamy and delicious, peppered with succulent chunks of chicken.
Partake of the Grill and you can choose between Carne Asada (shrimp is an option), chicken, and steak. Other menu offerings include fajitas, and seafood dishes like the Krab Meat Enchilada. Los Rancheros also offers several vegetarian plates.
End your meal with a dessert. Among the offerings are flan, an apple burrito and fried ice cream.
For the kids, there are hot dogs, fries, cheeseburgers, pizza and chicken fingers.
A separate lunch menu offers taco salads, chile relleno, tacos, tamales, tostados and enchiladas, all in the $5-$8 range.
See? The menu is extensive.
From both outside and inside, Los Rancheros looks like what you’d expect a Mexican restaurant to look like.
Lighting is muted and walls are faux stucco. While I’m no architect, I would describe the building and its interior as hacienda style.
Latin music plays on the sound system, and on one night we visited, a Maruichi band visited tables, playing for diners. I’m not a fan of tableside music, but if that’s your taste, you’ll be entertained.
When you enter the restaurant a server greets you at a welcome station and directs you to your table. Drink orders are taken and chips brought. Later, your orders are collected. I found the staff to be helpful and attentive, but not intrusive.
A final taste
Los Rancheros provides a comfortable venue and an extensive menu of Latin-themed cuisine at prices that will fit most any budget. Their lunch and combo meal specials are an attractive option for people watching their pocketbooks, and their location, at the corner of Eglin Parkway and South Avenue, makes them quickly accessible to people all over town.
Restaurant: Los Rancheros
Location: 300 Eglin Parkway, Fort Walton Beach
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday.
Handicap accessibility: good
Children’s menu: $4.29-$4.59
Reservations: not necessary
Main dishes: $7.99-$9.95
Combo platters: $8.59-$9.95
Specials of the House: $9.29-$13.59
El Grill: $10.99-$15.99
Payment: major credit cards