Aqueous hues of neon blue and purple wash over visitors to Agave Grill as they take a seat beneath a larger-than-life strip of sinuous camera film. This cinematic environ hosts cuisine blending traditional Mexican dishes with Spanish influence, mimicking the confluence of cultures in Latin America. In addition to steaming enchiladas and burritos, chefs create entrees of tender marinated carnitas or steak picado covered in cayenne-pepper sauce. Schools of seafood populate the kitchen's specialty roster, from fresh-fish tacos to paella—in which simmering saffron rice is surrounded by sausage, scallops, prawns, and other morsels. Beneath bas-reliefs of Aztec and Mayan-style masks, the staff serves libations from a lengthy library of tequila and mescal, neat or spun into margaritas.
Agave also boasts an attached nightclub, where spiraling lights surround the revelers within. DJs spin tunes in two different rooms, one devoted to salsa and Latin rock and the other thrumming with R&B and house music—which is not when furnace and faucet sounds sync up to the tune of “Born in the U.S.A.”
For generations, Ivalina and Adelio’s family have jotted down guidelines for crafting dishes in the tradition of Zacatecas, a north-central region of Mexico. Today, the father-daughter duo reap the rewards of their ancestors’ ingenuity and excellent penmanship at Memo's Mexican Cuisine, an eatery spotlighted by Check, Please! for its exceptional eats. Its chefs intertwine fresh ingredients, many hailing from local farmers' markets, and house-made sauces into dishes made fresh every day. Nicknamed The Royal Dish, chicken pipian is a signature dish and a traditional wedding-day entree, which showcases a chicken breast coated with an original sauce containing pumpkin seed, nine chilies, and 12 different herbs. At the bar, a wide selection of quality tequilas tempt shot glasses or find their way into margaritas. Catering services offer the same libations and fare without the restaurant's saffron and blue walls, which are partially obscured behind Mexican artwork.
Salsa Verde's culinary researchers memorize a library of Mexican recipes to give diners a menu laden with traditional Central American dishes. An array of tortilla-swathed favorites warm up empty hands with burritos built around fillings such as steak, chile rellenos, or shrimp ($5.49–$7.25) and meat-filled Mexico City–style tacos ($1.25) outfitted with an exotic ensemble of cilantro, onions, mild salsa, and a poster from the 1968 Summer Olympics. Selfish diners chomp away on the carnitas chipotle-barbecue torta, doused with coleslaw and sweet barbecue sauce ($5.75), and pairs divvy up the molcajete mixture of grilled chicken, steak, and chorizo cooked in salsa and oaxaca cheese ($16.99). The bistec ranchero coats a tender grilled steak with lime and olive oil before topping it with grilled onions, tomatoes, and mild serrano peppers ($9.25), and enchiladas filled with shredded chicken or seasoned beef swim in a choice of savory red sauce or the restaurant's signature salsa verde ($7.95). Pair south-of-the-border fare with a choice of fountain drinks or icy Corona beers to extinguish mouths set on fire by spicy foods or spiteful wisdom teeth still mad about being kicked out of the jaw.
Los Panchos crafts delicious Mexican cuisine from fresh ingredients and traditional recipes, filling its menu with more than 75 south-of-the-border standouts. Rather than calming grumbling tummies by taking a nap in a life raft as it gently sways away from the shore, guests may stuff them with burritos brimming with refried beans, guacamole, and a choice of chicken, beef, or pork ($8.50). Juicy pork carnitas can fill soft tacos ($3.25 each), enchiladas ($3.50 each), or deep-fried chimichangas ($5.75), or erupt from cheesy mountains of nachos ($8.50). Like a traffic light, chili verde’s sauce comes in a choice of green or red ($9.25), letting diners barrel into spiciness or pause to savor a mild chili flavor with each meaty bite.
When Jim Knudson bit into his first taco during dinner at a friend's house in 1949, he knew he had tasted something special. He added the item—which many diners were pronouncing "tay-co"—to the menu at his restaurant in Grass Valley, California. Determined to introduce the food to as many people as possible, Jim and his wife, Margaret, converted a 16-foot trailer into a kitchen on wheels. They adopted the nickname Jim had earned from one of his longtime customers and drove up to Lake Tahoe, where Jimboy's Tacos found its first permanent home.
Locals, tourists, and even members of the Rat Pack flocked to the tiny taco stand for the uniquely seasoned, parmesan-dusted ground-beef taco, the anchor of a growing menu. The family eventually relocated to Roseville, California, where they set up a small taco stand and began branching out to other locations in and around Sacramento.
Today, Jim Knudson’s daughter Karen, the current president of the company, carries on the legacy of taco obsession at more than 40 locations in northern California and Nevada. Guests who arrive early for breakfast might glimpse the cooks slowly simmering beans, mashing avocados into guacamole, and preparing their signature ground beef with trans-fat-free oil. In addition to classic corn-tortilla tacos, the menu holds the mega-size flour-tortilla El Gordo, golden-fried taquitos, and even a taco burger that fuses Mexican and American culinary traditions.
Una Mas Mexican Grill entices customers with high-quality, traditional Mexican cooking delivered with a modern flair and appetizing attitude. Incline your eyes to the menu and try a small bowl of tortilla soup with marinated chicken, avocado, cheese, and broth-soaked tortilla shreddings ($2.79 for a small). Margarita salad tantalizes teeth with fresh Romaine lettuce, jicama, cabbage in reds and greens, carrots, radishes, pinto beans, and mexican cheese, all flicked by the flavory fingers of salsa fresca and lime vinaigrette ($6.29). Volunteer your mouth for the task of dismantling a foghead burrito, which wraps chicken in a chili-tomato tortilla and accessorizes with cheese, guacamole, rice, black beans, sour cream, roasted pasilla, corn salsa, and barbecue sauce ($6.59).