El Rancho Supermarket Nuevo Supermarket has stood on the corner of 44th and 5th since before I moved to the neighborhood, brightly lit and somewhat generic. Absolutely nothing set it apart, and produce was bought further south on 5th Avenue. The taco truck parked in front of the same name gave the same feeling, and nothing ever was convincing enough to warrant trying.
Then all of the sudden they randomly won the Vendy Cup earlier this year. The Vendy experience does not quite line up with the experiences written about here, but it was finally enough that an order seemed appropriate.
Browsing their Facebook page (which might be gone), there seemed to be many pictures of homemade carnitas, big bubbling vats of pork parts being slowly cooked to perfection. This of course made it a necessary first order, and after a half dozen visits, the beautiful meat has always made the cut. It is EXCELLENT. It should not be missed, and New York City definitely has a carnitas champion here.
Tacos come in two sizes, small for $1.75 and large for $2.25. The pequeños are regular D.F. style, while the grandes are just as good and possibly about double the size. Very good value.
Pequeños tacos lined up together.
Above are two carnitas (left) and two lengua (right) tacos. Their tongue chunks are generous, spilling out of the tortillas. Care is also obvious here, the meat is delicious and the perfect softness. A grilled onion, a staple of street taco orders, is unfortunately never part of the equation at El Rancho.
Besides the carnitas, a street food crawl in Sunset Park should include an order of the tacos dorados ($5, below, order of 4). These are available in cheese or chicken, and fried to order so prepare on an extra few minutes. They pair (but most things do here) well with the truck's red salsa.
If you stand here enough times, you will notice the quesadilla is a top seller. With one of several varieties of meat that all cost $7, the big tortillas used are handmade, and it's evident from their divine texture. Like the tacos dorados, they put on a bit too much iceberg lettuce, but this is all give and take if you want less.
The quesadilla below is again filled with carnitas. The style they use here is carnitas buche, using a lot of the stomach of the pig, removing the fat before cooking, and simmering a good portion of the day.
It is not on the menu board, but the quesadilla that seems to have won them the Vendy award is flor de calabaza (below), which costs an extra dollar. This flower is squash blossom, popular in Mexican food, especially quesadillas. The version I received was more squash than squash blossom, and compared to the meats, just did not stand up from a taste aspect. It remains a good options for vegetarians who want more than just cheese.
Despite this, I am happy the judges at the Vendys were pleased, as the truck now is in heavy rotation. Carnitas lovers rejoice!