Staple foods such as chili peppers, corn, and fresh cheese might seem ordinary, but the cooks at Geelaageessa Restaurant & Cantina transform these everyday ingredients into memorable Oaxacan specialties. Drawing on the rich culinary traditions of the Mexican state, they simmer chilies, nuts, and chocolate for a rich mole sauce to be ladled over chicken breasts. Diners can also savor traditional dishes such as tlayudas—fried tortillas spread with asiento and black bean paste, queso fresco, chorizo, and other savory ingredients—or expand culinary horizons with the chapulines, a dish of fried grasshoppers. Horchata topped with cantaloupe, chopped nuts, and cactus fruit rounds out meals with sweet, fruity notes.
At Mauricio's Grill and Cantina, a festive atmosphere is just as important as a commitment to culinary tradition. Surrounded by palm trees, both brightly colored locations serve simple Mexican dishes ranging from classics to original house interpretations. Quesadillas and enchiladas are stuffed with ground beef or marinated chicken and then grilled. The aroma of shrimp sautéed with vegetables mingle with that of new york strip steak tossed in ranchero sauce. The kitchen also prepares a range of vegetarian dishes. At the cantina-style bar, servers blend margaritas and other tropical house cocktails.
To craft their signature dish?The New York Sizzle? the chefs of Steak & Grape Restaurant hand carve a choice cut of Angus steak. They sizzle up the meat in a special broiler until it's juicy and tender, and then serve it on a 600-degree plate with a decadent garlic butter. Servers bear the premium cuts out into the airy, rustic dining room, along with plates of handmade specialty burgers, fine pastas, and fresh seafood. Bartenders bustle about behind the sleek wood bar, uncorking bottles of fine wines beneath the glow of flat-screen TVs.
Mikey V's owner, Mike Vejar, is a master of casual, cafe-style Mexican cuisine. Often found helming the grill, Vejar cooks up breakfast, lunch, and dinner at his cozy and well-maintained little restaurant. The Tex-Mex style fare includes favorites such as sizzling fajitas, shrimp tacos, and tender carne asada.
“Good food and cheerful service,” as described by the Ventura Country Star, combine with vibrant mustard-yellow walls at La Herradura Mexican Grill, where a menu of mouthwatering Jalisco dishes transports taste buds to new epicurean shores. Mole sauce marks tender chicken with a scarlet "A" for "awesome" in the mole poblano con pollo ($8), and a dozen types of burrito ($5.50) swaddle succulent fillings in their savory cylinders. Despite its size, the al pastor taco refuses to skimp on flavor, serving up saucy, barbecued pork within a crunchy, crackly shell ($1.50). Diners can treat lips to regional sips of horchata or tamarind tea as they await the tableside delivery of crispy churros, whose deep-fried shell conceals sweet pleasures and rough drafts of the Constitution penned in chocolate syrup ($5.50). Owners Fernando and Virginia Duarte play a hands-on role in the operation of their restaurant, sourcing the ingredients themselves and occasionally serving it to gaggles of hungry fans.
Fresh frozen yogurt swirls into cups as guests look on with hungry stares. The fruit experts at Fruitland Fresh also satiate sweet cravings with smoothies with or without tapioca pearls in them, in a variety of flavors such as green apple or taro.