Moctezuma’s first came to life in 1978, when Arturo Garcia decided to share his culture, love of cooking, and knowledge of the correct spelling of “Montezuma” with Northwest diners. To this day, diners can expect excellent service and a tasty menu of authentic, home-style Mexican cuisine prepared from the finest ingredients. Focus the palate with some fiesta queso dip ($5.99) or some chorizo bean dip ($5.99), then use your mouth mowers to shred a carne-asada salad ($11.99) with homemade chipotle-ranch dressing. Discriminating diners can find out what it takes to win Weekly Volcano's brutal, no-holds-barred Tournament of Tacos by trying a serving of Mexico City tacos ($12.99) stuffed with carne asada, marinated chicken, or pork carnitas. Final Fantasy fans, meanwhile, will get a kick out of watching the waiter cast Firaga on a plate of steak, chicken, or shrimp fajitas ($16.49) using a little gold tequila and a flamethrower. And if a cheddar-, guacamole-, and sour-cream-topped chimichanga ($11.99) doesn't make one sufficiently nostalgic for one's former life as a mermaid, enjoy a plate of camarones a la diabla ($14.99) with rice and sautéed vegetables, or happily consume a Cabo shrimp cocktail ($12.99) and then wash away the evidence with a refreshing Jalapeño Margarita, with house-made jalapeño-infused tequila, triple sec and fresh-squeezed citrus juices, hand-shaken and served in a 20 oz. shaker ($7.95).
Since Frank Tonkin Sr. opened his first Taco Time in 1962, each location has hand-chopped its own vegetables and concocted pots of fresh-cooked pinto beans every morning. Try the classic beef crisp burrito ($2.79) or its meat-free cousin, the veggie soft taco ($4.69), with a side of spherical, seasoned Mexi-fries ($1.69 for a regular). Watch your figure through southwest chop-salad-colored glasses, with black bean and corn salsa, pico de gallo, and mixed veggies ($5.59). Or opt for a cup of white chicken chili, another of many healthy options at just 139 calories ($1.99).
Chevys serves up Mexican fare in Texas-sized portions, with salsa and tortillas made from scratch daily. Begin by ordering a bowl of guacamole to witness a server capture, skin, and gut a live avocado right at your table before hand-mashing it into fresh guacamole. From there, let your taste buds tango across tender tamales of real masa (wrapped by hand each morning), or play mad scientist and suture together an electrified monster plate from enchiladas, tacos, tamales, flautas, and chile rellenos ($11.99 for any two, $13.29 for any three, $14.49 for any four). Seafarers, meanwhile, will want to try the seafood enchilada ($13.69)—a mélange of shrimp and blue crab sautéed in white wine and garlic that's folded into corn tortillas with veggies and Jack cheese, then topped with spicy habanero-pesto cream sauce. To keep the hot peppers and piquant salsas from singing the sinuses, douse your mouth-flames periodically with a prickly pear or blue agave margarita ($6.95) mixed with top-shelf plata, reposado, or añejo tequila.
At Casa Durango, chefs whip up a smorgasbord of Mexican eats, with a spread of tortas, tacos, salads, and burritos paired with frosty tropical cocktails and margaritas. Like a computer manual written by Stephen King, the menu is as lengthy as it is appetizing. It presents dozens of different steaks, enchiladas, seafood, and chicken dishes ladled with zesty sauces and complemented by sides of savory rice and beans. The dishes run the gamut from traditional, homey plates of marinated lamb shank and slow-simmered pork to group-pleasing dishes of nachos and taquitos. And when it comes to entertaining groups, the restaurant also hosts karaoke performances that lighten the mood on weekends.
A self-described example of the American dream, Jose “Pepe" Ramos came to the United States and through hard work achieved great professional success. He left his home in central Mexico back in 1973, shortly after the death of his father, in search of financial support for his mothers and brothers. He didn’t speak any English, but within two years ascended from dishwasher to cook to chef and, finally, to restaurateur, opening a small 24-seat eatery, Azteca Mexican Restaurant, in Burien.
Some four decades later—with help from his three brothers and his mother, Camerina—Jose is now at the helm of a 35-restaurant franchise, with locations sprinkled from the Pacific Northwest to Florida. Decadent Mexican feasts—such as enchiladas verdes, shrimp fajitas, and carne asada—are the bread and butter of his success, thanks to Camerina’s family recipes. Yet, the Ramos family doesn’t hesitate to introduce new-to-the-family favorites either; for instance, they marinate and bake seasoned lamb shanks to create Borrego Azteca, and conjure bowls of molcajete from sautéed chicken and beef. Best of all, the Ramos relieve thirsty gullets with signature margaritas muddled together from housemade citrus juices and the sap of fresh-squeezed tequila trees.
A tortilla makes a handy mouse pad, an acceptable patch for stiff denim jeans, and, if you draw a face on it, an ideal companion on fishing trips. But there are many other uses for it, as today's Groupon proves: for $20, you get $40 worth of creative cocktails and contemporary Mexican cuisine at Barrio’s elegant Capitol Hill and Bellevue eateries.