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El Rodeo's popularity grows in Frankfort

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FLAN: El Rodeo cook Rosalba Milla checks on the flan she was baking just after noon Monday.
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EL RODEO: Manager Paul Alanco fills a burrito bowl Monday afternoon at El Rodeo Bar and Grill in Frankfort.
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MADE-TO-ORDER: Those who come to eat at El Rodeo have to shortage of options.
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PRIDE: From left, Elvia Mora chops onions while Edgar mixes a drink Monday in El Rodeo's kitchen. Manager Paul Alanco says his employees take a lot of pride in their work.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

Since October 2017, El Rodeo Bar and Grill has offered fast, traditional Mexican food to those who have found one of Frankfort’s culinary hidden gems tucked away at 950 McKinley Avenue behind Munoz Auto Center.

Owned by local businessman and singer Benito Munoz, El Rodeo is best known for its burrito bowls and its $1 tacos deal each Thursday.

“We have been very accepted, especially lately,” El Rodeo manager Paul Alanco said. “We have been adding a lot of new things, so we have been interacting with our clients. People really like our food because it is fast and it is delicious.

“Our team is a very strong team,” Alanco added. “We all like each other. We are happy to work here. So, the result of that is everybody does their job to the best possible way. You can feel it. We are glad to talk to you, and we are glad to serve you. We are glad to cook for you, and it shows in our food. It is very traditional.”

Alanco says that his team at El Rodeo takes just as much pride in their ingredients as they do in their craft. Alanco uses El Rodeo’s flan – a type of egg custard that came to Latin America from Spain and dates back to ancient Rome – as an example of the extra quality and care he says El Rodeo puts into many of their menu items.

“It is $2 everywhere else. But, here, it is $4,” Alanco said. “Why? It is good. Sometimes I challenge people and say ‘If you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay for it. They try it, and they say ‘It is worth $4.’ The reason why it is so good is because nobody does it like that. We use traditional formulas, and we try to make it better with the best ingredients and the processes that take more time but make it better. You taste the difference. We don’t take shortcuts that can jeopardize the quality and the taste. Some of our processes take longer, but we do it because the quality matters.

“We do it with some of our meats,” he added. “Normally it can take two hours but, if you cook it slowly, it takes four to six hours. But the consistency of the meat is different. It is way better. We do what helps the food taste great.”

Priced at $2.50 any other day of the week, Alanco says that El Rodeo’s $1 tacos day on Thursday is a “killer deal.”

“Thursdays is our really big deal,” he said. “We also have the burrito bowls, which are very popular too because they are fast. All of this is cooked and prepared daily. As soon as you get here, you order your meal, and you are out in about five minutes. It takes longer for us to cook, but the setup we have is very fast. You see what you like, you point at it, and we’ve got it for you. And we are talking about a full meal, and we are talking about traditional Mexican food. This is not Tex-Mex, this is fully Mexican food.”

Alanco believes that one of the reasons Munoz, who also owns Munoz Auto Center, started El Rodeo is the influence his father’s cooking had on him.

“His father, Francisco Javier, is very good at cooking traditional plates (such as) goat stew – some people come all the way from Indy to get it – and then barbecue, shredded-beef style,” Alanco said. “It is very good. That is one of the reasons why he got started, and we still do it.”

Alanco says the restaurant is growing.

“Our team is expanding, so we are always hiring,” he said. “But, also, after this, we are opening another one in Lafayette with a different name but same setup.

“Our main thing is that we have very traditional, delicious food, and fast,” he added. “That is what we focus on every day. The service we have is fast. That is kind of out motto. We live in a very fast world. If people want to try something very traditional and fast, come to us.”