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Best Campus Blackout Restaurants: Columbia

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Columbia, Missouri is the home of new SEC Member Mizzou, as well as Mizzou Greek alumni Ian Kinsler, Brad Pitt and TFM’s very own Bacon. While Texas A&M has brought its own traditions and blackout cuisine to the SEC, Mizzou brings traditions and drunk cuisine just as strong. Mizzou is known for one of the best journalism programs in the country as well as a well-rounded athletic program. To the Tigers, though, there is one late-night stop that is a crucial part to the collegiate experience. That place is none other than El Rancho.

So what is El Rancho? Located in a prime spot on Broadway in downtown Columbia, it is easily within walking distance from all the major bars. Right across the street from Fieldhouse and Willie’s, two of the town’s more popular drinking establishments, El Rancho offers quality blackout Mexican food at dirt cheap prices. The highlights on the menu include nachos and gigantic burritos, which you can have filled with steak, chicken, shredded pork, ground beef, chorizo or plain rice and beans. Like all classic Mexican diners, El Rancho also serves up a legendary, homemade queso. One of the most popular items is the “Taco Loco,” a crispy flour tortilla shell filled with lettuce, cheese dip, and topped with grilled chicken breast or steak, sour cream, shredded cheese and tomatoes for a very reasonable $5.95.

Because of its prime location, it is the go-to food for any drunken student attending or visiting Mizzou. According to Bacon, “I’ve honestly eaten it sober once or twice, and it was like a painful, flaming punch to the stomach. But it’s the best feeling in the world to devour some queso after all-night boozing. Although you’ll pay more for it the next day than you did at the register the night before. I don’t care, though. I always go back… drunk. Only drunk.”

For less than ten dollars, anyone can get a fulfilling meal. El Rancho makes all of their menu items from scratch. The homemade queso, chicken fajita nachos, and quesadillas have not only drawn herds of Tigers, but tons of coverage from local newspapers. El Rancho was named the winner of “Best of Columbia 2009” and “Best of Columbia 2012,” “Talk of the Town 2010,” and “Talk of the Town 2011” for Mexican fare. On top of delicious food, El Rancho is open until 3:00am on weekends and serves cheap booze in case anyone wants to keep the party going. Margaritas at El Rancho run less than $3.50, Mexican beers are available for $2.75, and domestic beers are also available for $2.25.

Real, random reviews of El Rancho:

“Great hangover food. The cheese dip for the chicken fajita nachos is like crack!”

“Best Mexican food ever without going to California. Seriously, everything here is awesome, the service and food. A must too and I eat here at least once a week.”

“Hands down the best place downtown for late-night drunk food.”

El Rancho is so vital to the Columbia experience that chaos erupted when it temporarily closed for repairs in August of 2011. From the Columbia Daily Tribune: “It’s a sad Saturday night in Columbia when those of our population with the after-the-bars-close-cravings for copious amounts of Mexican food can’t sober up in famed late-night eatery El Rancho….”

Owner Faustino Vazquez was also quoted, saying “I’m worried for my customers that are so used to being in El Rancho…some of them say Columbia is not the same without El Rancho.”

Fortunately for all, El Rancho is open and its food is once again being mauled by the late-night crowd. Without El Rancho, the students of Mizzou were left fighting post-bar munchies with a few other decent options, but nothing truly as satisfying as the Mexican eatery. The next time you find yourself in Columbia, whether as an SEC fan exploring the town for the first time or on a tour of the Midwest, El Rancho is the go to spot for your drunken food cravings.

To see your campus’ favorite blackout restaurant appear in this series, nominate it in the comments.

Follow me on Twitter @JimDugganTFM

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