As cheery and festive as any Mexican joint around town, Rancheros Mexican Grille & Cantina is the kind of family-friendly, date-friendly place people can't get enough of. After all, who doesn't appreciate a classic, Chihuahua-filled quesadilla (ours was tucked with onions, jalapenos and chicken, heaped with pico de gallo, guac and a generous dollop of sour cream).
Besides, it's an inviting place all around. Located at 523 Fairway Drive in Naperville, the exposed brick, luminous metal chandeliers, arching windows and wood barrel decor set the tone. Naturally, the large menu hits all the familiar notes, making it a group-friendly destination as well.
Rancheros Mexican Grille and Cantina523 Fairway Drive, Naperville, (630) 355-1100, rancherosnaperville.com
Setting: Exposed brick hacienda and cantina
Entrees: $7.95 to $19.95
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday
To start, go with the ubiquitous, lime-y Mexican shrimp cocktail: zingy, sweet-tinged cocktail sauce mingling with fresh avocado, onions and flecks of cilantro. Alternately, you can consider nachos with chicken or steak, queso fundito or lime-blasted shrimp ceviche.
There's a good-sounding house salad, too, with lettuce, corn, tomatoes, avocados, slivers of tortillas and black beans in peppercorn ranch dressing.
Moving onto entrees, it's again familiar territory. And there's nothing to squawk about when it comes to the oversized ground beef burrito, filled with classic accoutrements -- lettuce, cheese, refried beans -- topped with red sauce, with a mound of Mexican rice. Finishing it is challenging.
When faced with enchiladas and tacos, we opted for the latter. Admittedly the al pastor -- achiote-tinged pork -- with cilantro, onions and avocado were not the best we've ever had (Chicago's small taquerias ruin a person for that), but they certainly weren't bad. Skirt steak, chicken, grilled shrimp and ground beef are alternatives. Flour tortillas are homemade, and fajitas -- both singular chicken, steak or shrimp and combo versions -- are on offer as well.
As for dinner platters, the meat is wood-roasted, so expect half a chicken with singed pineapple, poblanos and jalapenos and the like. Say you're dining with someone impossible to please: There are classic and Tex-Mex-style burgers as well as ubiquitous chicken sandwiches, too.
If you've saved room for dessert, get the fried ice cream for sure. Crispy on the outside and still frozen within, it's good sharing fodder for the table if nothing else.
In the drinks department, fruit smoothies are an option, but margaritas are obviously the way to go. They're plenty boozy, mind you. That said, I'm a sucker for a good michelada. This clamato-based beer cocktail is a winner with its salted rim.
Service is efficient and friendly. Honestly, it's the kind of place where you know what to expect, and that's exactly what you receive. And there's something to be said for that.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.