Although originally a Mexican restaurant, these days, Senor Big Ed is more like a trip to Puerto Rico, from the cuisine to the flags on display. And, as Miles Clements writes for the Los Angeles Times, “past those patriotic goods are wispy white curtains and sun-bleached walls…light and bright enough to recall a breezy beach scene despite its landlocked location on Lincoln Avenue.” If the decor alone doesn’t transport diners, the food will: helpings of mofongo (plantains, pork rinds, and garlic), plus roasted leg of pork and stewed beef impart signature Puerto Rican flavor, not unlike a bite of the fortress walls surrounding Old San Juan.
Chefs at La Cocina pick fresh ingredients sourced from the surrounding area to build Mexican and Cuban plates as colorful as the eatery's bright orange walls or a firework-filled piñata. After rounds of fresh ceviche or ham croquetas, rustic wooden tabletops fill with made-to-order rice dishes such as the palomilla empanizada—thin-pounded top sirloin steak breaded and pan-fried—or stone mortars known as molcajete filled with chorizo or seafood and fresh cheese. For dessert, chefs hand-craft creamy flan or natural shakes made with mango or tropical mamey fruit. A tiled chair rail runs along the restaurant's tangerine walls, which are studded with Mexican-style art and framed photographs of famous burritos that have visited the restaurant.
Though Cafe Del Sol’s chefs largely stick closely to the restaurant’s Mexican theme, they’re not afraid to throw in a few American favorites, either. Chefs are equally skilled at grilling carne asada and artfully preparing shrimp fajitas as they are at creating tiered club sandwiches and sizzling double cheeseburgers. The sunny restaurant is the perfect place to sample all the cuisine’s varied dishes or rank tortillas by their taste, texture, and which one doesn’t remind you of the napkin that ruined your last date by being so tasty.
From 14-hour days during the beginnings of their first restaurant in Long Beach more than 37 years ago, Super Mex founders Manuel and Socorro Orozco built franchises across Southern California. Inspired by the local cuisine of the village he was born in—Villa Jimenez, Michoacan, Mexico—Manuel brought his passion for traditional Mexican food to California, where the business grew with a dedicated following of college students. Striving to craft dishes that taste homemade, Super Mex offers Mexican classics such as burritos, tostadas, and flautas.
In drawing from a long tradition of Mexican recipes, particularly street food, the chefs at Cabo Taco Baja Grill frequently find creative ways to change their menus. They may wrap corn or flour tortillas around five types of burritos or a quartet of tacos, each stuffed with piquant sauces and fillings such as chicken, carnitas, shrimp, and vegetables. They also craft their own interpretations of street-style tacos, stuffed with ingredients such as pork tossed in mango puree, Caribbean jerk-style chicken, or carne asada with grilled onions and balsamic reduction. The eatery also boasts more than 40 rotating craft beers.
Steven Paperno, raised in the kitchen of his parents' delicatessen, has been working with food all his life. By the age of 18, he already owned a food manufacturing company, a job that took him all over the Americas. While in Central and South America, he sampled some of the cuisine and found himself dreaming of bringing those small-village flavors to America. So, he sold his company in order to start a new one, one dedicated to infusing organic, local ingredients with the flavors he tasted abroad. He called the new joint Sharky's Woodfired Mexican Grill.
Inside any Sharky's location, the chefs use certified-organic beans and rice to fill out every dish they make. Hormone-free chicken and drug-free beef simmer in the open kitchen's hot pans, where guests can observe cooks adding a light dusting of chipotle spices. The fish arrives fresh from the market each morning, hand-selected for quality and chosen according to the recommendations of the West Coast Seafood Watch, which aims to prevent overfishing by encouraging restaurateurs to buy sustainably caught seafood. Imported mesquite grills and stone-fire ovens lend their kiss to each dish on the menu, bringing the authentic smoky flavor that Steven so wished to re-create without the hassles of a trashcan fire.