Recently opened near the intersection of Interstate 40 and the Raleigh Beltline, Salsarita's speedily prepares all its taqueria-style Mexican meals fresh to order before customers' eyes before garnishing them with 16 saliva-stimulating condiments, such as jalapeños, cheese, two types of beans, and three kinds of salsas. Lunchers who are sick of flashing fake IDs to score free sloppy joes at the local middle school can instead savor a Salsarita's shrimp quesadilla ($5.19–$6.59), a steak burrito ($5.19–$6.59), or a zesty taco salad ($6.59) with a flurry of toppings atop a thick bed of beef. Salsarita's also caters to vegetarians with animal-absent versions of all its entrees. And for $1.99, patrons can upgrade lonely dishes to combo status, surrounding them with edible friends like a fountain drink, salsa, and stone-ground corn chips.
Bright serapes, a tile-covered bar, and Aztec-style hangings immerse Sol Azteca Mexican Restaurant's diners in an infectiously festive atmosphere. Greg Cox of the News & Observer praised the sprawling menu of authentic Mexican standards enlivened by "pleasant surprises," drawing special attention to the chiles poblanos' "swirl of creamy, complex spicy flavors." Chefs adorn tender beef, chicken, pork, and shrimp with avocado and jalapeños while stuffing vegetarian combos with black beans, spinach, and potatoes. When the weather permits, a spacious patio opens up onto a scenic stand of trees, whose leaves wave enviously at their brethren basking in the taco salad's guacamole and crispy shell.
Bartenders pour and mix more than 30 tequilas as chefs craft elegant Tex-Mex dishes that follow Yucatán traditions. Upscale entrees range from pan-seared duck breast with roasted poblano-mashed potatoes to marinated steak swathed in pasilla and ancho chilies in hefty quesadillas. A sea of crystals cascades down a spiral-shaped chandelier that dangles above the fully stocked bar, where Cazadores and Patrón liquors head up an extensive tequila cache. Bartenders also craft numerous specialty margaritas, enhancing sips with such ingredients as fresh lime mixers and agave nectar. Patrons can feast eyes on multiple flat-screen TVs in the dining area, or venture to an outdoor patio to construct a canopy of tortilla chips that will guard against inclement weather.
Creating every ingredient in-house, Baja Burrito constructs burritos and tacos California–style, which typically means cooking on a soundstage, but in this case means using fresh ingredients and coastal recipes. Fish tacos and burritos dot the menu, lined with ingredients such as homemade chipotle-cream sauce, as well as fresh-made salsa sided by housemade chips.
Chef David Peraza of Cantina South seasons a menu of authentic Mexican cuisine mixed with modern flavors, delighting visitors with zesty, flavorful enchiladas, roasted chicken, and grilled steaks in a contemporary dining room. While dipping chips into tableside guacamole, diners browse dinner fare such as arrachera con camarones, a plate of grilled steak and jumbo shrimp basking in roasted tomato-chipotle sauce. Swaddled in banana leaves, pork tenderloin pibil lounges on a futon of black beans and rice, sprinkled with achiote, orange, and garlic crumbs. Enchiladas come filled with lump crab or duck and unexpected ingredients such as chayote, sweet-potato flan, and love. Couples can share a classic flan or pastel de tres leches to seal meals with a romantic cymbal roll.
La Cocina Mexican Restaurant's extensive menu unites diners with an authentic array of Mexican morsels arranged on hunger-busting platters. Lively music and décor accentuates edible adventures and provides a steady beat to chew along on specialties such as the beef-, chicken-, and shrimp-laden fajitas Texanas ($12.50). The chopped rib-eye steak with bacon platter keeps taste buds as curious as a private investigator's cat ($11.75), and the chili verde dinner accessorizes fried pork with rice, beans, and a sultry drizzle of green sauce ($11.25). In addition to steak, seafood, and chicken dishes, the restaurant's ingredient wizards also craft spinach burritos with chili poblano ($7.50) and spinach quesadillas with guacamole and sour cream ($7.50) to provide vegetarians with a well-deserved break from tracking and hunting wild produce.
A lunch-only sister establishment to Café Capistrano in Cary, Screaming Coyote Café dishes out spicy, succulent, and healthy California-style Mexican cuisine. Temp tongues with spicy and savory starters such as lime-and-cilantro-kissed tortilla soup ($4.95/bowl). Indulge in a plate of green and spicy enchilada verdes with seasoned sour cream, three cheeses, choice of meat, and a signature sauce made from jalapeño, Anaheim, and Oakland peppers ($7.95–$9.95). The fiery food fiends at Screaming Coyote Café also serve up meaty quesadillas ($6.95–$8.95), tacos ($6.95–$8.95), and Mexican salads ($6.95–$8.95) chock-full of your choice of beef, pork, chicken, or mahi-mahi, as well as its signature burrito, dubbed el Jefe for its commanding culinary presence and poncho-sized neck bib ($7.95).