Using all-natural ingredients, the chef of El Pueblito and his family prepare dishes inspired by traditional Colombian recipes. In the morning, they're cooking up breakfast platters with red beans, corn cakes, steak, and fried plantains, and by lunch there are mini servings of carne asada and grilled chicken breast. In addition to classic dishes such as paella and chuleta de derdo apanada, the chef's dinner specialties include whole breaded mojarra with green plantains and grilled fare, such as barbecue ribs with yellow rice. These colorful meals match the restaurant's ambience?there are vibrant photos of Colombia hanging on orange walls, offset by crisp white linens that match the modern booths and your shirt, if it's white.
The chefs at Acapulcos Mexican Family Restaurant & Cantina aim to cook authentic Mexican dishes unaltered by any Tex-Mex influence. Their recipes reach back generations within the owners' family and several miles into their underground tortilla vaults. Spanish-speaking servers deliver simple combinations of protein or veggies, topped with vibrant sauces: carne asada steak dressed in green pepper and guacamole, tender pork loin in tomatillo sauce, chicken in chocolate mole. The chefs' adherence to tradition doesn't preclude experimentation. Case in point: the dessert burrito, a lightly fried tortilla wrapped around apple-cinnamon or creamy cheesecake filling.
Both the menu and the decor change slightly from location to location?a painting of Mexico here, a tiled mosaic there. Each one, however, has a full bar where bartenders mix margaritas and flat-screen TVs broadcasting sports overhead.
Helmed by Prasad Chirnomula—accomplished owner and executive chef of multiple area restaurants—Oaxaca Kitchen celebrates the nuanced flavors of Mexico. The same flair that Prasad brings to his acclaimed Indian recipes ignites his mole sauces, whose red and yellow variants spice up chicken breast and market-fresh fish, respectively. These sauces are painstakingly traditional, but other meals dabble in experimentation. The ceviche Veracruz, for example, was praised by the New York Times for its touch of sorbet, which "brightened and chilled the seafood" in the tangy starter.
Alternatively, guests can dig into hanger steak one of two ways—marinated and grilled with jalapeño pan juices or cooked with avocado and maguey leaves—before tippling tequilas from a sizable drink menu. Huevos rancheros and bloody marias make appearances at brunch, and live music crops up on Friday nights.
Though Cactus Rose Restaurant & Tequila Bar is only a teenager in dog years, owners Maria and Katerina Pertesis are no strangers to the restaurant business with more than 40 years experience. The upscale eatery’s cuisine is best summed up as contemporary Southwestern, thanks to Executive Chef Norberto Lucero’s skillful incorporation of Spanish, Mexican, and Southwestern flavors.
A Mexican native, Lucero has fun with his food. One peek at the menu reveals the usual aspects of Latin cuisine: fish tacos, paella dotted with prawns, little-neck clams, mussels, and black-iron skillet fajitas—sizzling with caramelized onions and bell peppers. Yet, for every expected entree, Lucero offers a surprise in the form of baby back ribs in an orange barbecue glaze, skirt steak with an orange chipotle mojo, and tequila chicken—a free-range, chicken stuffed with chorizo and manchego cheese. Like the chicken, all of Lucero’s meats are quality; he serves only wild-caught organic seafood, grass-fed beef, and free-range chicken.
While the menu impresses, it’s only half of Cactus Rose’s appeal. The tequila bar is also a contender, as it’s stocked with 50 varieties of tequila, and bartenders dispense freshly concocted margaritas mulled from fresh squeezed lime juice and fruits. Cactus Rose delivers an inviting atmosphere with rustic wood furnishings and cowhide chairs surrounded by red, orange, and a yellow hand-carved stained-glass mosaic. A warm large outdoor fireplace on the patio keeps patrons toasty during the winter months, and an outdoor patio—bumping with live music—convinces them to temporarily forget their fear of birds’ nests and dine al fresco during the summer.