Jose's Authentic Mexican Restaurant is a dream come true for the owner, Jose Luis Parra Vera, who wanted to put to use his own recipes for Mexican cuisine. The gregarious wait staff presents the dishes with appropriate panache, daubing celebrants' noses with whipped cream from birthday desserts and carrying five plates at a time. Bright-colored walls frame murals depicting beach scenes with brilliant-blue water and green palm trees bowing over multicolored hammocks recalling the beaches of Mexico. Beneath the paintings, corn or flour tortillas enfold morsels carnitas, a dish of shredded-pork tips traditionally slow cooked with green chilies and cumin. The chatter of silverware fills the outdoor patio when the weather is warm, and there aren’t carolers singing about the dangers of holiday lights outside.
Cilantro Bar and Grill’s Rick Bayless–trained chefs forge contemporary cuisine using fresh produce, locally sourced meats, and recipes culled from the families of owners Armando Cristobal and his sister and brother-in-law, Sylvia and Gonzalo de Santiago. The kitchen builds meals from scratch at brunch, lunch, and dinner, sating appetites after brisk strolls around the Capitol or romantic narwhal rides across Lake Mendota. Orange walls complement the colors of game hen en escabeche, whose mashed sweet potatoes balance the savory flavors of an achiote garlic marinade, whereas stained-glass fixtures mimic the vibrant hues of cabernet sangria, hibiscus iced tea, and mango-cilantro margaritas. Diners can sample the cuisine of four different regions of Mexico by ordering the tamales surtidos, a sampler of four cornhusks stuffed with steamed corn masa flour. Cilantro also serves seven types of Mexican beer for guests to sip or toss at supporting actors during rehearsals for upcoming daytime TV roles.
Carefully balancing starter platters stacked with housemade cornbread and frozen margaritas, the servers at Casa del Sol wind their way through the tables on the outdoor deck overlooking the water. As diners dig into burritos, the flavors of chicken or carnitas meld with garnishes of mango and pineapple or with ingredients from one of four other unique burritos. Meat dishes span many styles, from pork-loin medallions with garlic-adobo sauce to enchiladas verdes with a choice of meat or cheese filling. The inside dining area's bright yellow and purple walls adorned with paintings of whirling dancers complement the bright flavors of the dishes, often delicately evoked by cilantro, poblano chili pepper, or guacamole.
Taqueria El Indo's menu boasts a bevy of authentic Mexican palate-pleasers and newfound tastebud seducers, all prepared from scratch. Prime protein contenders, including steak, grilled chicken, chorizo-potato, and tongue, don lucha libre wrestling masks and duke it out for a coveted spot in a traditional onion-and-cilantro-adorned taco ($2), cheesy quesadilla ($6), or burrito ($7). Dinner specials include the Shrimp Empanizando, in which shrimp plied with chipotle beer batter are deep fried and laid down to recover on a bed of rice and beans ($12.95), or a plate of three enchiladas filled with chicken, beef, grilled veggies ($8.95), or shrimp for an additional $2. For proper meal punctuation, reward taste buds or break in new bibs with a dessert of Tres Leches Cake ($3.25), fried ice cream ($3.25), or sips of a domestic ($2.75) or imported ($3) beer.
At Hermanas Cafe, owners Mario and Cindy infuse home-cooked meals with traditional Mexican flavors and a generous helping of hospitality. To kick off dinner, guests can toast the day?s triumphs with one of 30 margarita options or a plate of nachos brimming with meat, tomatoes, and sour cream. Cooks pair steamed cornhusks with shredded meat to form tamales as tender as a teardrop?s first love poem. Tacos may be customized with hard or soft shells and hearty fillings such as beef, chicken, or beans. Vegetarian entrees teem with potatoes and onions, and desserts such as churros and fried ice cream swathe sweet flavors in crisp textures.
Before opening Habaneros Mexican Grill, Marco Bravo worked at several Mexican restaurants scattered around Southern California, placating the population’s notoriously discerning tastes for authentic burritos, tacos, and quesadillas. He’s imparted the skills he learned on the West Coast to his team of chefs, and together they’ve experimented with the fervor of a fourth-grade science fair finalist to create a menu of inventive Mexican dishes. For the Fry Hawaiian quesadillas, the staff stuffs tortillas with the standard helpings of cheese in addition to bacon, ham, pineapple, and turkey. They marinate steak in lime juice, and smother meaty burritos in Caribbean salsa and queso fresco, along with plating fusion specialties such as the Wisco burrito, packed with franks, sausage, and bacon. To visually complement the in-mouth festivities, giant jalapeño pepper cutouts adorn the eatery’s burnt-orange walls, and Hawaiian grass fringes dining alcoves.