I must have walked by this place a million times in the past month and a half since it opened (it’s on the same street as Rangole & Cafe Cello) but I’ve never eaten there. Take one look, and it’s not hard to figure out why… Look at the sign. Bright yellow, with some weird semi-chicken looking thing for a logo. Nothing appealing at all and certainly nothing about it that says, “Hey, there’s good food in here”. PLUS, there’s my fear of gigantic chickens- especially ones who hand out cooked pieces of themselves for free. Very strange.
Then of course there’s the fact that it shares a space with City Cafe. I don’t know what that is, or what their affiliation is with the other million places in Midtown with “City” or “Cafe” in their title, but if you do decide to check this place out you’ll be able to tell which part is the “City Cafe” by the generic salad bar and paninis behind the glass counter. Go directly past that counter, the Ranch 1 part is in the back…
In a weird role reversal, the guy who sits next to me at work actually knew about Ranch 1 (this is the same guy who thought a chicken sandwich from Cosi, was a falafel)… but seemed fairly unimpressed. It seems to me, that many who have eaten at Ranch 1 in the past think it’s fine but don’t necessarily consider it worthy of mention. Well, lucky for me, my wife and her co-workers were not discouraged by the sign (or the big chicken). They went, and highly recommended it to me- and I’m here to say- give it another shot! Or, if you’ve never been, try it for the first time. Never having been to any of the other locations (it’s a chain that started 16 years ago next to the Late Show w/ David Letterman theater), I can only vouch for the newest location, opened last month on 46th street btw. 5th & 6th.
What I ate, the pictures and the +/- after the jump…
Ranch 1 serves a variety of different chicken products… most of them in sandwich form. I only tried one, but it’s clearly the standard bearer for the place, and named as such: The Ranch Classic. Described as “Flame-grilled chicken, dressed with gourmet greens, toasted almonds and our signature red pepper sauce”. For $6.25 the sandwich comes with fries and a soda. On this occasion, there weren’t a ton of almonds, and my bread was not the freshest ever- but overall it was really delicious. Not convinced by the description and price? Well here’s what makes it so good:
1. The chicken. It’s real. You can never underestimate the goodness of real chicken (unless you’re every other fast food place in Midtown). And when I say real, I mean it starts off as raw chicken, and is pounded thin, then grilled right behind the counter before they serve it to you. You can actually see it cooking. Real chicken at a fast food place… who knew!?!
2. It’s healthy. I can’t vouch for the other sandwich options, but the Ranch Classic has 370 calories, and 5 grams of fat. If you’re not into the healthy thing- you can always order the fries, or the fried chicken sandwich (or both).
3. The french fries. For a fast food place, these fries are pretty good. They’re not thin enough to be considered shoestrings (like a McDonalds), but they’re not too fat either. My best comparison would be to say they’re like Wendy’s french fries, except they appear to come from actual potatos.
4. The dipping sauces. Man were these surprisingly good. Especially the BBQ sauce. I’m normally not a big fan of BBQ dipping sauce from fast food places, but this one had a really nice smoky flavor (and just sweet enough). The Honey Mustard was pretty damn good as well. I couldn’t really taste the roasted pepper vinaigrette that supposedly was on the sandwich, so my recommendation is to dunk your sandwich in sauces, homeboy. WARNING: This bold move is only sanctioned for professionals. Not recommended for novice eaters.
That’s not to say there aren’t some negatives. The place is not particularly well run, and sometimes they get backed up at peak times. You also have to curb your expectations. Part of the reason I loved this place so much was because I didn’t expect it to be that good. Going in expecting the “Greatest Chicken Sandwich in the World” might be asking too much (even though it is their motto). Go in expecting a pretty damn good lunch for only $6.25, and you won’t be disappointed. Don’t trust me? Stop by and ask the chicken… he’ll be happy to let you sample the goods.
- The chicken is real, and grilled right behind the counter in plain view.
- The fries are great (seems like real potatoes)
- You can’t beat the price
- It’s still fast food. Despite the Ranch Classic being healthy, there are plenty of other options that could potentially make your lunch un-healthy (i.e. Fries, Crispy Chicken or the Chicken Philly)
- At peak times you might have to wait awhile. It’s a small counter, and they can only handle so much volume.
- I can’t vouch for the other locations… only the new one on 46th.
Ranch 1, 5 W. 46th St. (btw. 5+6th Ave.), 212-391-9200
I’m not sure about other locations, because the Ranch 1 website has an incomplete list. I have seen mentions of other locations, including the original one on Broadway next to the Letterman Show, and another on 42nd st. btw. 5th & Madison. If you can confirm the existence and/or quality of these or any other Ranch 1’s please post as comments. Thanks!