On a cloudy Sunday afternoon, I start making my way to the infamous drunchie Mexican cuisine of Columbia – El Rancho. This isn’t my first rodeo at the establishment, as I’ve eaten at El Rancho countless times. However, there’s a catch to my venture this time around; I’m going there sober as a gopher.
It’s not like what I’m doing is a pioneering act by any means. There’s plenty of people I know who enjoy the food at El Rancho without having a drop to drink or a puff of the devil’s lettuce. From what I can remember, every entrée I’ve had at El Rancho has tasted fantastic, even if it came back up at some point later into the night due to perpetuated drinking. I’m eating at El Rancho on this occasion for the experience, for means of comparing and contrasting.
12:21 p.m.: Upon walking in, I’m already caught off guard. The seats are noticeably empty. In fact, I’m the only person in the entire restaurant. It’s a stark difference compared to nights on the weekend, as the line is typically out the door and filled with hammered overflow from Fieldhouse, Roxy’s, and Piano looking to get their fix. It’s a strange scene, with echoes from the night before now distant memories lost in the sauce.
12:23 p.m.: I order my usual – a steak fajita quesadilla with hot salsa.
12:29 p.m.: Once served, the dish looks different, as it doesn’t fulfill its role as the Holy Grail; the salvation to end my hunger. Don’t get me wrong, it smells magnificent, with freshly cooked steak glistening under layers of flavorful cheese, but its alluring, gleaming aura is absent.
12:30 p.m.: The alcoholic in me says, “Quick! Order some Modelos to bring the feeling back! Who cares if it’s only 12:30? That paper you have to write when you get back can go blow itself. Sunday funday! Hair of the dog!”
No. This is a journey I need to make on my own, without the assistance of booze. I’ve come this far. I can’t turn back now.
12:31 p.m.: I take my first bite, and wow.
Like, this is pure excellence.
Like, it makes me want to yell from the non-existent mountaintops of Missouri that everyone needs to try this and actually remember what it tastes like.
Forget cigarettes, cold pizza, or Skittles. Everyone needs El Rancho in their lives after a good bang.
12:37 p.m.: My eyes are lit up in ecstasy. Every bite gets me closer to God. I can feel my soul leaving my body as I watch myself eat the last bit of quesadilla from above.
12:43 p.m.: I descend from self-actualization and return to a more conscious state of mind. It takes me a minute to adjust to my surroundings, but I’m unfortunately back to where I was before I started eating. I’m tempted to get up and order seconds, but the lack of dead presidents in my wallet prevent me from chasing the high again, at least for the time being.
12:44 p.m.: I get up to leave El Rancho, but not before doing one last thing. I walk over to the cook, look him in the eyes, and solemnly say:
I haven’t been the same since.
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