Chef Ramiro Gandaras literally attached his name to Ramiro’s Cantina, and he figuratively posts his family recipes all over the walls of his restaurant's kitchen. Referencing these recipes, his team dishes up a string of Mexican cuisine staples, such as burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, alongside a few Tex-Mex hybrids, such as guacamole burgers, enchilada casseroles, and homemade chili. In the cantina—which is Spanish for “proof that gravity exists”—bartenders pour tequila into margaritas and draft beer into tall glasses.
At Sol Aztecas Mexican Restaurant, culinary craftsmen forge authentic Mexican feasts from homemade ingredients, marinated meats, and fresh seafood. Specialties range from the extra meaty chicken-and-chorizo burrito to the seafood fajitas with shrimp, crab, and scallops. The full bar lubricates esophagi with Mexican beers, daiquiris, and five fruity flavors of margarita, including classic lime and tropical mango. Monthly mariachi-band performances invigorate the venue, and karaoke Sundays allow diners to share heavy-metal anthems that evoke their favorite periodic-table entries.
An array of picnic tables graces the outdoor patio at Lolita's Tacos Inc., allowing patrons to soak in fresh air over plates of tacos, taquitos, and tamales crafted from fresh ingredients. Inside, wall-hung sombreros and casual booths provide a quiet setting for patrons to argue the merits of Lolita's 14 different specialty burritos. Large portion sizes cater to big appetites and small T. rexes, and a small array of American fare, including nacho-cheese fries and corn dogs, complements pairings of flavored ice, soft drinks, and beer.
Chefs at Sato's Zen Sushi & Sake strive to create entertaining cuisine. Their 26 varieties of specialty maki rolls—filled with ingredients such as fried soft crab, barbecue eel, and spicy salmon—bear whimsical names, such as Pink Floyd or the Flying Sea Monster. Covered in blazing Devil's Blood Sauce, the 6 Feet Under roll adds an element of competition to meals; patrons who successfully consume the extra-hot concoction get their roll for free.
Sato's chefs also surprise palates with fusion-style dishes such as the Jalapeño O-toro, which pairs sliced, fresh tuna belly with jalapeño and cilantro. The two-person zen fondue melds tempura-fried seafood and gooey melted cheese, hearkening back to the days when Japan and Sweden were connected by a naturally occurring cruise-line buffet. Myriad styles of sake, including peach and plum, accent the food.
The culinary crew at El Campesino grills up delectable Mexican favorites to create an extensive menu that caters to meat eaters and vegetarians alike. El Burro Grande’s oversized flour tortilla cradles grilled beef or chicken, heaps of onions and bell peppers, and drizzles of sour cream and enchilada sauce ($10.25). Not since Meat the Beatles has a medley of protein performed as well as the steak, chicken, and shrimp showcased in the combo fajitas ($15), and the quesadilla a la Mexicana ($10.99) sings with layers of cheese, chorizo, and chicken. Meat-freers rejoice upon tasting selections from the vegetarian menu, such as the chilis poblanos stuffed with mexican cheese and deep-fried in egg batter ($8.50), and carnivores sink all four rows of canines into the tacos de carnitas, three flour tortillas filled with morsels of pork and served alongside accouterments of rice, beans, and tomatillo sauce ($9.99).
Every day at all of El Nopal’s locations, cooks whip up fresh batches of salsa, chips, and beans. The sauces and sides accent chicken or beef chimichangas, handmade tamales, and nachos smothered in cheese. All El Nopal locations offer complimentary chips and salsa with every meal, and some locations have outdoor seating areas. Performances by live bands at select locations serve as a pleasant distraction from meals, unlike a judge with highfalutin ideas about not eating in court.