Just as Thomas Edison stumbled through useless prototypes of light bulbs and movie cameras before perfecting the phonograph, the alchemists at Qdoba Mexican Grill took 47 attempts before landing on the franchise's signature blend of three cheeses, known simply as queso. That attention to detail still pervades every aspect of the menu, as employees spend hours each day chopping, dicing, and simmering the fresh ingredients that find their way into burritos, taco salads, and grilled quesadillas. Beyond the marinated bites of chicken, beef, and pork and hand-crafted tortillas, cooks protect their ripe, fragile avocados from harm by smashing them into batches of fluffy guacamole.
The chefs at Flying Burrito cultivate a spicy menu of mouth-watering Southwestern cuisine. The freighter of rolled cuisine, known as the flying burrito, swoops onto tables with a cargo-load of hand-pulled beef, pinto beans, salsa, melted cheese, sour cream, green onions, lettuce, and tomato ($7). Juan's avocado ensalada leads leafy compatriots to victory with fresh ahi tuna or shrimp, and avocado, red peppers, tomato, green onions, queso fresco, and mixed greens served in a flour tortilla shell with lemon-cilantro vinaigrette or jalapeño ranch dressing ($9). The crispy fried-fish tacos accommodate two flour or corn tortillas slathered in yucatan slaw, habanero mayo, lettuce, and tomato ($7), and the Azteca enchiladas sing a vegetarian ballad of broccoli, zucchini, squash, carrots, melted cheese, black beans, mashed sweet potatoes, and a choice of red mole or spicy vegetarian green chili ($8). Stodgy palates receive a wakeup call when confronted with the sweet burrito⎯-a fried, cheesecake-filled tortilla topped with cinnamon, sugar, chocolate syrup, and two scoops of vanilla ice cream ($5).
El Cuscatleco's chief cuisiners shepherd taste buds through the diverse flavorscape of Mexico and El Salvador with a menu brimming with authentic Latin American cuisine. Commence rounds of chew-infused chats with a traditional starter of fried plantains ($3.50)—cousins to the banana served alongside sour cream and flame-licked beans—before tongue diving into a hearty entree, such as the chicken-centric pollo con crema ($9.50) or the camarones a la diabla, which fuses plump shrimp and hot sauce for a bold culinary combination more savory than oatmeal-flavored Jell-O ($11.95). Savants of shelled spreads can find solace in the range of taco, burrito, and chimichanga enswathements. Or sample the distinctive tastes of El Salvador without having to suckle on a travel book with the plato tipico, a dish boasting yucca, plantains, and a chicken tamale swapping fashion tips with a fried stuffed tortilla ($9.95). Conclude chow-downs with a sacchariferous grand finale of flan ($2.50).
Voted Best New and Mexican/Latin American Restaurant in Durham County by Indy Week readers in 2010, Dos Perros uses locally farmed ingredients to achieve the authenticity of traditional Mexican taquerias. Chicharrón chasers can start by diving into a sweet potato empanada with chipotle fig sauce ($6-$7) and cheese-and-jalapeno-stuffed plantain fritters with Oaxacan cream and salsa ($6-$7). From the lunch menu, the carnitas tacos ($2.50 per taco) beckon beaks with twice-cooked pork, chipotle, and tasty tomatillos, while the dinner menu unveils a tequila-and-lime-marinated hanger steak ($18) accompanied with potato-poblano gratin, greens, and habanero relish, or vegetarian chile relleno with black bean puree ($12). Proving that jack-o-lanterns are indeed insufficient disguises for winged animals, the duck enchiladas ($15) boast tender bites of bird slathered in pumpkin seed sauce and served with heirloom shell beans and rice.