Cinco Cantina & Tequila Bar's agave-savvy staff pours artisan tequilas at a bar softly lit by punched-tin lanterns. Duos or quartets of tasters sample three shots of blanco, anejo, and reposado tequilas crafted in small batches by respected distillers such as Don Julio and Tres Generaciones. Spiced chips surf creamy waves of classic guacamole between sips as patrons strain to overhear salsa-themed knock-knock jokes whispered by brightly colored masks on the walls.
Pasha's Healthy Mediterranean Cuisine has expanded to seven locations throughout the Miami area, each characterized by eye-catching, contemporary decor. Bright-blue umbrellas and swaying palm trees pop up in sunny outdoor patios while soothing music filters through dining rooms of arched columns and white-leather seats. The elegant surroundings provide a suitable backdrop for fine Mediterranean dishes—fresh, wholesome wraps, kebabs, and spreads that won accolades from an abundance of newspaper and magazine publications. Backed by a team of fitness specialists and nutritionists, Pasha chefs take healthy approaches to cooking, using fresh produce, measuring proper portion sizes, and lecturing all their cows on the importance of routine exercise.
Chef Zé Carlos Jiménez's whole career is a balancing act. As a child growing up in Cuautia Morelos, Mexico, he spent his afternoons in a de facto apprenticeship in his grandmother's kitchen. He watched her roll handmade tortillas and tinker with spices before finding just the right blend to balance out her homespun dinners. As an adult, Chef Zé Carlos treats his own kitchen as a playground, paying homage to his grandmother's family recipes while fusing traditional Mexican street food and fine dining—a style he calls New Mexican Gourmet Cuisine.
The menu—complete with a touching epigraph to Meche, his grandmother—is a compendium of his attempts to blend the two worlds. On the haute end of the spectrum are dishes like the Nopales salad, brimming with pickled cactus and his own housemade vinagrette. Fish-and-shrimp tacos sprinkled with fresh cilantro hold down the street-food side of the culinary fort. Where the menu shines, though, is somewhere in the middle, with dishes such as the molcajetes—Spanish for "stone mortar." The upscale take on Mexican comfort food blends beef or shrimp in the eponymous stone dish along with the tastebud-tingling flavors of nopales, chorizo, and roasted tomato-tomatillo sauce.
Custom Mexican feasts bursting with fresh ingredients populate Salsa Fiesta’s lengthy menu, which teams up with seven house-made salsas to swathe palates in authentic south-of-the-border flavors. After selecting a protein-packed filling such as spice-spiked carnitas and seasoned fish, diners can top their burritos or tacos with fixings that include hot-tamale salsa and roasted corn. Pico de gallo and guacamole flank sizzling chicken and roasted peppers in the fiesta-fajita specialty, and the tostones fiesta bowl wakes taste buds from siesta naps by tossing them into a thick pool filled with crispy tostones, beans, pico de gallo, and sour cream. Swollen with velvety chocolate, whipped cream, and swirls of dulce de leche, a crunchy mayan roll prophesies an imminent doomsday for dessert cravings.
When Latin House Burger & Taco Bar originated more than 20 years ago, it wasn’t even a house. Instead, Chef M and his wife, Bella, served their fusion of American and Latin cuisine from the window of one of Miami’s first food trucks, easily eclipsing the still-fledgling industry's typical fried fuzzy dice and mud-flap sandwiches. Nowadays, they've traded their wheels in for chairs, on which patrons sit before savoring plates of tacos, burritos, and tostadas with fillings ranging from cilantro-lime chicken to calamari. As a testament to the eatery's dual cultural influences, Latin House's burgers—usually cooked to a juicy medium-rare—dwell under taco-style toppings such as crema and avocado as well as traditional American accouterments such as bacon and cheese.
You're immersed in the lively flavors and atmosphere of Mexico the minute you walk into Frida Mexican Restaurant. The bright pink walls—adorned with a painting of Frida Kahlo herself—mirror the spicy ingredients chefs use to season succulent cuts of carnitas, spit-roasted al pastor pork, and savory fish tacos. Chefs layer these meats atop tortillas for the house tacos, as well as on slices of fried masa huarache to create a hearty dish similar to a flatbread. For drinks, however, staff veer away from these spicy flavors in favor of cooling glasses of beer, thirst-quenching bottles of Jarritos, and beer cocktails. These can incorporate anything from a splash of lime juice and salt to a blend of hot sauces and shrimp reminiscent of a bloody mary.