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April 27, 2009 at 12:24 PM

Rancho Bravo: Wallingford, Capitol Hill, Greenwood and more!

Freddy Rivas is totally jazzed about his first — and so-far only — “bricks and mortar” version of Rancho Bravo Tacos, open just over a month in a former KFC on Capitol Hill. It’s a spin-off of his popular trailer-and-tent set-up, tucked away in the parking lot off 45th Street in Wallingford adjacent to Winchell’s Donut House:

Unlike the single picnic bench at Winchell’s, Rancho Bravo’s new location at 10th and Pine has plenty of seats for patrons looking for an actual roof and four walls to protect them from the elements — while they’re knocking back the same great tacos and tortas they’ve been lining up for the past two years in Wallingford:

“We’re doing great, fabulous, the neighborhood has been very, very welcoming,” said Freddy when I called to chat about his new restaurant in advance of my upcoming Mexican-food roundup (read it in Ticket on Friday).

“Here’s what we’re after with the Capitol Hill location,” he said, expounding upon his vision. “The back is old school, the front is new school — set up so people don’t have to wait, though they’re still getting `real food,’ made fresh every day. I want it to be fast food, and I want it to be professional-looking, but in the back you’ll see huge pots of things cooking, like any taqueria in Mexico. We can marinate the meat centrally and distribute to the other locations, where they’ll cook the meat — and things like the beans and rice — on-site.”

Which brings me to the rumors I’d heard — that Freddy’s expanding his empire of movable feasts elsewhere. True enough said Fred, explaining that the little Wallingford trailer will soon be burning rubber and heading north where he’ll set up a stand near 105th and Greenwood, “just down the street from the Rickshaw near the check-cashing place”:

But don’t cry into your Jarritos just yet, because the wee Wallingfordian trailer, parked only a minute from the I-5 exit, is set to be replaced by this big unit, presently parked behind the original, waiting for the health department’s final approval before the big switcheroo takes place. “Probably within a month,” says Freddy:

And if that’s not enough good news, how about this: Once the small trailer’s hooked up and cooking with gas in Greenwood, and the big trailer’s taken its place doing the same in Wallingford, Freddy’s importing another custom-built unit from California. He plans to park Rancho Bravo numero quatro in West Seattle. The spot? “It’s just over the West Seattle bridge, half a block up from Diva Espresso.” ETA: two months or so, he said.

Well Bravo for Freddy, a local boy-done-good whose entry into the business came several years ago — when he parked his first trailer in Bellevue and opened a taco-truck in Totem Lake — before decommissioning the truck and moving the trailer to Wallingford. He’s now casting his eye toward the Eastside once again. “There’s only one place I’d like to put a stand,” he said. And no, it’s not the Redmond campus of Microsoft (I asked): it’s in Bellevue, though he refused to say where, for now at least.

Freddy grew up in Renton, and before becoming a missionary of comida Mexicana he was a missionary in Venezuela, doing the Lord’s work in a university town before returning to the Northwest. “That was my first exposure to urban living,” he told me. “My parents had a phobia of the city, and I never knew Seattle till I was grown up.” In Venezuela Freddy was fascinated by the town center, “the restaurants, cafes, music, culture, all within walking distance,” he said, describing his urban awakening. “When I came back from there, I fell in love with Seattle.” And from the reception Rancho Bravo’s gotten from Seattle, the feeling is clearly mutual.

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