It's not every day that an aroma can pose a question. Upon stepping into Plaza Garcia Family Mexican Restaurant, the smell of baking tortillas instantly compels diners to ask themselves: do I want to fill those steamy flour blankets with char-grilled beef, marinated chicken, or lime-infused shrimp? Wood-carved booths and colorful murals of adobe villages create an ideal backdrop for mulling over this important decision as diners snack on homemade chips and chunky pico de gallo. Once their gaze tapers off the lively décor and settles onto the menu, an overwhelming choice of enchiladas, fajitas, and other traditional entrees springs forth to lend a choice of beef, chicken, or seafood centerpieces. Meanwhile, margaritas splashed with racy tequilas mingle with other libations to give customers the courage to croon tortilla-themed love ballads during karaoke, which occurs every Saturday night at the Woodinville location.
When Andrés Cárdenas Guitrón emigrated to the United States from Mexico, he landed his first job as a dishwasher. He worked his way up the ranks to a food preparer, a cook’s assistant, and a chef before finally opening up his own restaurant. At Mazatlan, he dishes out family recipes that include grilled chimichangas, crab enchiladas, and steak picado christened in a Spanish sauce.
Radiant blue light glows through towering tequila bottles lining the bar at Blue Tequila as servers unveil an array of authentic Mexican dishes. Copiloted feast flights take off with appetizers such as beef bits or deluxe nachos piled high with fresh guacamole, sliced tomatoes, melted cheese, and a meaty base of chicken, beef, or picadillo. Tablemates then strap in for substantially portioned entrees, ranging from steaming steak fajitas to the vegetarian-friendly black bean quesadilla. After forks and knives clink victoriously against empty plates, diners qualify for one shareable serving of deep-fried ice cream, banana wraps, or Paradise chimichangas, providing sweetness only previously attainable by wrestling a pixy stick to the ground.
Since Frank Tonkin Sr. opened his first Taco Time in 1962, each location has hand-chopped its own vegetables and concocted pots of fresh-cooked pinto beans every morning. Try the classic beef crisp burrito ($2.79) or its meat-free cousin, the veggie soft taco ($4.69), with a side of spherical, seasoned Mexi-fries ($1.69 for a regular). Watch your figure through southwest chop-salad-colored glasses, with black bean and corn salsa, pico de gallo, and mixed veggies ($5.59). Or opt for a cup of white chicken chili, another of many healthy options at just 139 calories ($1.99).
A tortilla makes a handy mouse pad, an acceptable patch for stiff denim jeans, and, if you draw a face on it, an ideal companion on fishing trips. But there are many other uses for it, as today's Groupon proves: for $20, you get $40 worth of creative cocktails and contemporary Mexican cuisine at Barrio’s elegant Capitol Hill and Bellevue eateries.