Sierra Grille proffers sizzling, savory southwestern cuisine made quick to order, forgoing canned and frozen foods and MSG for fresh fixings such as skinless chicken breast, lean steaks, fresh grilled fish, and primo produce. Peruse the menu and opt for a mexican pizza, piling a chosen meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato atop a crispy flour tortilla that spent a semester studying abroad in Italy (grilled chicken, $6.69; charbroiled steak, $7.29; shrimp, $7.29). The grilled-steak-and-crumbled-gorgonzola salad shuns carbs ($7.99), and the chicken fajita-burrita wraps up grilled fowl, guacamole, peppers, onions, and pico de gallo salsa into a flavorful yet functional paperweight ($6.39). Personal-size platters quell voracious individual cravings with steak, salmon, shrimp, or sea scallops sidekicked by rice, seasoned beans, and a small salad ($8.29).
A bar of house-made sauces and salsas offers flavorful blends crafted from fresh ingredients that add surprise and spice to tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. The roster of fresh veggies, spiced meat, and organic house-made refried beans that form the base of all Picante! feasts are delivered daily, with unusual touches such as shredded cabbage and pickled onions providing unexpected twists in tacos more safely than hiding a brick under a tortilla. Soy cheese and whole-wheat tortillas add additional healthy touches to the lineup of vegetarian, low-carb, and low-fat options, and house-made tortilla chips deftly dip in and out of fresh guacamole and queso.
Lola's Mexican Kitchen serves upscale Mexican cuisine in a sleek setting with brick walls and rustic wood accents. Cooks prepare south-of-the-border specialties such as steak tacos and Mexican-style paella, plus inventive dishes such as blue-corn-crusted calamari with honey-chipotle dipping sauce. Bartenders pour beer, wine, tropical cocktails, and eight types of potent margaritas.
At Los Cabos Mexican Restaurant, everything from the cheese-infused guacamole whipped up tableside to the tender charbroiled carne asada is made from scratch every day. Each dish draws on three generations of family recipes perfected by cofounders Jose and Sergio in 25 years of combined culinary experience. The extensive menu pairs dozens of Mexican staples with more than 20 flavors of margarita, including jalapeño lime, mango, and cucumber, and recent renovations have updated Los Cabos’s interior to include an in-house tortilla station and an expanded bar area capable of hosting the entire Vienna Boys Choir
As Lou Solis—owner of Don Carmelo's Mexican Grill—sees it, going out to a Mexican restaurant is a two-part experience. The first part is the food, which he bases on authentic Mexican family recipes and whispers from aging cacti. The second component is the air of festivity. “I loved the Mexican atmosphere,” Solis says. “It’s a party. It’s a destination. It’s not just to get something to eat quickly.” And the food is easy to savor––Solis sources his ingredients from Mexican distributors and fresh deliveries of local produce and meat every day.
Though Cactus Rose Restaurant & Tequila Bar is only a teenager in dog years, owners Maria and Katerina Pertesis are no strangers to the restaurant business with more than 40 years experience. The upscale eatery’s cuisine is best summed up as contemporary Southwestern, thanks to Executive Chef Norberto Lucero’s skillful incorporation of Spanish, Mexican, and Southwestern flavors.
A Mexican native, Lucero has fun with his food. One peek at the menu reveals the usual aspects of Latin cuisine: fish tacos, paella dotted with prawns, little-neck clams, mussels, and black-iron skillet fajitas—sizzling with caramelized onions and bell peppers. Yet, for every expected entree, Lucero offers a surprise in the form of baby back ribs in an orange barbecue glaze, skirt steak with an orange chipotle mojo, and tequila chicken—a free-range, chicken stuffed with chorizo and manchego cheese. Like the chicken, all of Lucero’s meats are quality; he serves only wild-caught organic seafood, grass-fed beef, and free-range chicken.
While the menu impresses, it’s only half of Cactus Rose’s appeal. The tequila bar is also a contender, as it’s stocked with 50 varieties of tequila, and bartenders dispense freshly concocted margaritas mulled from fresh squeezed lime juice and fruits. Cactus Rose delivers an inviting atmosphere with rustic wood furnishings and cowhide chairs surrounded by red, orange, and a yellow hand-carved stained-glass mosaic. A warm large outdoor fireplace on the patio keeps patrons toasty during the winter months, and an outdoor patio—bumping with live music—convinces them to temporarily forget their fear of birds’ nests and dine al fresco during the summer.