Laura Limon worked for Taco Bell for eighteen years. Her sister-in-law, Rocio Limon-Galvan, had been a longtime bank worker. But a little more than a year ago, the pair quit their jobs, emptied their 401(k)s, and opened the drive-through Taqueria Mi Rancho on the unincorporated outskirts of Palestine. “We were tired of our jobs, and we just jumped into it together,” Rocio says.
Save for the signage near U.S. 84, the taco operation is nearly indistinguishable from the house that sits behind it. From the front, it looks like an extension of the home. The buildings have the same beige metal siding, installed by a construction company owned by Antonio Limon, Laura’s husband and Rocio’s brother. A closer look at one of the buildings shows a sliding window with a wooden sign bearing the words “Taqueria Mi Rancho” and a miniature serape for a pop of color. Everything is under an awning in the center of a semicircular driveway.
My dining partner and I didn’t drive through in our car. Instead, we parked near the large carport that doubles as a covered dining area with picnic tables and walked to the window, where we met Rocio. As cars whooshed past the building on the highway, we discussed the menu. According to Rocio, Taqueria Mi Rancho is the first taqueria in the Palestine area to offer birria tacos. So, of course, we ordered them.
They were better than the average birria tacos, although the tortillas, sourced from a local distributor, were soaked in an unnaturally pinkish liquid. The beef and cheese filling, however, was salty and comforting, especially when dunked in the full-flavored broth swinging with cilantro and onions. Birria de res was also available in mulitas (two corn tortillas sandwiching cheese and beef) and with ramen noodles. But I was more interested in the taqueria’s specialties.
Limon-Galvan pointed out what’s written on the menu as “posito.” The word is derived from “pozo” (Spanish for hole or well), the earthen pit in which barbacoa is traditionally prepared. At Taqueria Mi Rancho, the posito takes the form of a frilly taco-salad shell approximately the size of an adult’s palm. The fried (but not greasy) vessel is packed with refried beans, fluffy rice, sour cream, nacho cheese, and choice of meat. We went with bistec. It’s a happy mess to eat and, frankly, this posito deserves a place in the Texas Mexican culinary pantheon as one of the best taco salads anywhere.
Although Taqueria Mi Rancho’s posito is an original creation, it’s reminiscent of the signature tacos from Manuel’s Crispy Tacos in Odessa. Established in 1953 but closed in summer 2022, the restaurant had tacos that were similarly shaped and filled with beef. The protein was obscured by the Tex-Mex trinity of chopped tomato, crisp lettuce, and shredded yellow cheese. The taco was a throwback to the early days of Tex-Mex, when Mexican American restaurant owners and cooks created regional Mexican cuisine with the ingredients available to them. All the while, they tried to hew as closely to tradition as possible. Manuel’s Crispy Tacos used nixtamalized tortillas from its sibling business, Manuel’s Tortilla & Tamale Factory, the city’s first tortilleria, according to the Odessa American. This was innovation—like tacos al pastor—not the bastardization of Mexican food for an Anglo audience, as some characterize Tex-Mex.
Laura, Mi Rancho’s taquera, wasn’t aware of the iconic Odessa taco, but that history gave her a sense of pride and wonder that was visible on her face. Both food businesses were established on home cooking, or comida casera, and the love and care it requires. Those emotions imbue everything at Taqueria Mi Rancho. Laura, a native of San Luis Potosí, Mexico, makes sure of it. When asked how a certain dish is made or what spices are used, she offers the same answer: “I love to cook. I make everything with love.”
Take the tacos al pastor, for example. Laura’s love is evident in the twists of deeply marinated pork, which are studded with chopped white onions and cilantro and finished with translucent grilled white onions. The love is also in the fatty, glossy barbacoa that gets brightened up with a squirt of lime and streaks of piquant salsa. Taqueria Mi Rancho’s barbacoa isn’t made in a pozo. Instead, it’s prepared in a pot, like most modern examples of the dish. But it hints at the home cooking that permeates the menu and goes on in the actual home attached to the restaurant.
Moreover, the name “Taqueria Mi Rancho” is a direct reference to the property the business sits on, Antonio and Laura’s ranch. The acreage behind the house holds a small herd of cows, chickens, a rooster, and a catfish-stocked pond (but there are no catfish tacos). Laura describes her cooking more accurately as “rancho,” a rustic version of comida casera that involves using fresher ingredients.
While Antonio built the taqueria, his involvement doesn’t end there. Taqueria Mi Rancho is a family affair. “The other day I couldn’t come to work, so my brother stepped in,” Rocio says. Perhaps one day Antonio will build Rocio and Laura’s dream restaurant. “People are already asking when we’re going to open a proper, full-service, sit-down place,” Rocio explains. “But [Laura and I] have to stop ourselves from getting too excited. There’s cooking to be done.”