Food & Drink » Food Review

El Rinconcito


That's what an Internet translation Web site says the Spanish phrase painted on the wall above El Rinconcito's bar means. Positive vibes infuse the place on the western edge of downtown Nampa. Painted in the foyer is another sign, "We reserve the right to serve you," which is a positive way of putting it. You know the place is authentic from the smells, the décor and the attitude.

Dropping by just after the main lunch rush on a Friday afternoon we had a booth table wiped clean for us and sat down to a fresh basket of chips and some of the hottest salsa we've found. Muy bueno!

The drips on my forehead from the spicy salsa were welcome. I haven't had my scalp quiver from spicy Mexican salsa since my last visit to Texas. The chips weren't the light and crispy kind; they had a heavy corn weight to them.

My lunch companion and I ordered big. Based on recommendations from other staff members, we splurged on chile rellenos (relleno means "backfill" in Spanish), burrito Colorado (marinated chunks of beef in a chile sauce), a bowl of chile verde (green chile sauce with pork) and an enchilada ranchero. A flavorful cup of vegetable soup, full of more vegetables than the Saturday market downtown, started off my companion's meal, a welcome respite from the salsa. All the food came out piping hot and we slowly picked at the cooler edges before digging in.

The burrito Colorado was mild compared to the salsa, but the complex and subtle flavors from the gravy smothering the rice and beans were sublime. About that word "gravy:" I grew up in Texas and New Mexico, where the numerous sauces that stewed, simmered, smothered and sautéed my Mexican dishes were all referred to as gravy. So, despite some people's negative attitudes about anything called gravy, deeming it one step above grits on the white-trash scale, I use the term with respect. Anyone who elevates a good gravy by calling it a "sauce" is just putting a fancier label on it. (Now I'll hear from the professional chef's out there. I just know it.)

As the plates kept coming we feared we had ordered too much food. But with each delicious bite we knew we would finish the whole feast. The chile rellenos were lightly breaded and served simmered in a cheese sauce. Again, like the burrito Colorado the subtle flavors were delicious, once the tongue adjusted to the hot temperatures of the plate. Slowly but surely, we downed everything.

I usually reserve judgment on a place until a few days later, after contemplating how the meal sits and, most importantly, if I still want to go back once I am hungry again. I recall that I made sure I ate every last drop of gravy, every piece of rice, every last dollop of refried beans by using the remaining chips in the basket. That's a good sign. And later that afternoon, in my darkened office my brain fell into a nice trance and a nap ensued.

I want to drive over to Nampa right now and get a big plate of enchiladas. It's worth a trip out of the grid.

--Bingo Barnes likes to swap his ego for his id on Sundays.