Mineira Cuisine in Mariana: Rancho Restaurante

Rancho Restarante 
Praca Gomes Freire, 108 – Centro
Mariana, Minas Gerais

brazilThough our first post from Ouro Preto was about a decidedly non-traditional pizza place in Ouro Preto, our second meal in Minas Gerais was much more traditional. Throughout its history, Minas Gerais was home to many gold/diamond mining booms (the name means “General Mines”), so it occupies a similar place in Brazilian lore as the “Wild West” does in the USA. However, unlike the chuckwagons on the Wild West, people are really into Mineira food in Brazil, and it is considered the classic kind of Brazilian “home cooking.” We were very curious to try some down-home Minerira food, so we were happy when we stumbled upon Rancho Restaurante (“The Ranch”) in Mariana – a small town outside of Ouro Preto.

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Rancho is done up in a sort of faux pioneering style – and it serves heaps of Mineira food in an all you can eat buffet (R$ 18 person). Mineira food is often traditionally cooked and served in stone vessels – and we were pleased to see the wood-burning buffet area full of stone pots of food. All of the Mineira favorites were on display: chicken and quiabo (okra), couve mineira (kale), tutu de feijão (bean and meat stew), roast pork, roast pumpkin, veggie omelettes, a variety of soups, sausage and rice, fish croquettes, farofa and spicy spaghetti with dende oilThere was also a small salad bar off to the side, though most of the offerings were slathered in mayo – save for a nice carrot salad. However, we have one major knock against the restaurant: no pão de queijo. Come on, this is unforgivable!

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We filled our plates twice with all of the food from the buffet, trying to sample as much as we could. Of our picks, the chicken and okra was a standout, it turned out to be one of our favorite preparations of okra, a veggie we usually find to be too gooey. The couve mineira (garlic-spiked kale) and stewed pumpkin were also delicious. The meal was a pretty stick-to-your ribs simple affair, something which characterizes Mineria cuisine, and it seemed to be a favorite among locals. After we arrived, Rancho gradually filled up with families and office workers on lunch break, and there was constantly a line for the buffet. Rancho was a great place for hearty Mineira cuisine with no frills, and gives you a taste of typical local fare with no touristy concessions.

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