Historic Downtown Wheaton embraces many of the boutique gift stores, chic spas, and diverse culinary offerings that populate the historical storefronts of the western suburb’s walkable central shopping district. Before embarking on a day of checking off gift lists or simply sightseeing, slip under the colorful awnings at Front and Hale Streets to sneak a breakfast bite at the Egg Harbor Café, where The Handler sandwich tucks egg, bacon, and cheese onto a gourmet pretzel roll ($8.95). Eco-friendly gift shop It’s Our Earth's “buy recycled” philosophy unfolds space for ample creativity in the form of Snack Journals ($7 each)—fun notebooks reimagined from SpongeBob and Spiderman snack boxes that make the dog eating one's homework a slightly likelier excuse.
The lengua burritos, Jarritos, and red and green sauces that smother enchiladas aren't the only authentic south-of-the-border touches at Changarro Cocina. Its drink list also brings some traditional flavor. The granite bar area, part of the new owner's renovations, hosts more than 70 different tequilas and margaritas made fresh without any mixers. Patrons sip these beverages while nibbling ceviche, huaraches, and tortas and cheering on soccer matches, baseball games, and ice-fishing tournaments broadcast on TVs throughout the restaurant.
“Best Mexican Restaurant I own!” Matt Waxler quips on his Facebook page, and it’s clear he really does enjoy the food he vends at North of the Border Mexican Restaurant. His menu diversifies burritos with more than the standard meat selections, stuffing in boneless chipotle seasoned wings, stir-fried shrimp, or steak with three kinds of jalapeños, a word which translates to English as “pepper of many guises.” American- and Mexican-style tacos vie for plate space, and strips of skirt steak simmer in a tomato and jalapeño sauce in the Bistek a la Mexicana, Mr. Waxler’s favorite dish.
When you get your first plate of Taqueria Los Comales’ signature Mexico-City-style tacos, you might be surprised by their size. Each double-wrapped taco is small enough to fit into your hand, a fact owner Camerino Gonzalez specifically had in mind when first making them in Chicago’s Little Village in 1973. Rather than have clients try just one of his signature meats, he wanted to allow guests to sample a wide variety of different options. Cooks stuff the soft tortillas with al pastor served in a secret marinade as well as more adventurous taqueria staples such as tongue or beef tripe. The restaurants’ homemade salsa and their own signature mix of pickled carrots, cauliflower, and jalapeños enhance these flavors, making meals as satisfying as the discovery that you’re tax exempt because of your cool haircut. Alongside the traditional tacos, chefs grill up meats for tortas, burritos, breakfast, and dinner platters, all of which can be paired with the shop’s glasses of creamy horchata or a range of Mexican and domestic beers.
At Amada's Cafe, a sprawling menu of authentic Mexican and Cuban dishes keeps palates satisfied into the late hours. Tacos arrive inside corn or flour tortillas carrying flavorful bounties of carne asada, chorizo, chili rellenos, or pirate gold. Guests can pair seafood dishes such as breaded shrimp or whole red snapper grilled in butter and garlic with refreshing glasses of horchata. The slate of Cuban dishes ranges from classic cuban sandwiches topped with roasted pork, ham, and pickles to ropa vieja, tender pieces of shredded beef bathed in a Cuban-style tomato sauce.
Brightly painted walls, vivid paintings of Mexican life, and flavorful margaritas lend Las Palmas' numerous locations a relaxed, distinctly "fiesta" vibe. As guests slowly unwind with friends, family, or Twister champions over ice-cold Mexican beers and cocktails, the chefs prepare fajitas, enchiladas, and tacos alongside plates of charbroiled meats and seafood. They also whip up vegetarian-friendly options, such as the signature guacamole and enchiladas banana, which they stuff with fried bananas and smother in mole sauce and melted cheese.