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).
At Casa Durango, chefs whip up a smorgasbord of Mexican eats, with a spread of tortas, tacos, salads, and burritos paired with frosty tropical cocktails and margaritas. Like a computer manual written by Stephen King, the menu is as lengthy as it is appetizing. It presents dozens of different steaks, enchiladas, seafood, and chicken dishes ladled with zesty sauces and complemented by sides of savory rice and beans. The dishes run the gamut from traditional, homey plates of marinated lamb shank and slow-simmered pork to group-pleasing dishes of nachos and taquitos. And when it comes to entertaining groups, the restaurant also hosts karaoke performances that lighten the mood on weekends.
A self-described example of the American dream, Jose “Pepe" Ramos came to the United States and through hard work achieved great professional success. He left his home in central Mexico back in 1973, shortly after the death of his father, in search of financial support for his mothers and brothers. He didn’t speak any English, but within two years ascended from dishwasher to cook to chef and, finally, to restaurateur, opening a small 24-seat eatery, Azteca Mexican Restaurant, in Burien.
Some four decades later—with help from his three brothers and his mother, Camerina—Jose is now at the helm of a 35-restaurant franchise, with locations sprinkled from the Pacific Northwest to Florida. Decadent Mexican feasts—such as enchiladas verdes, shrimp fajitas, and carne asada—are the bread and butter of his success, thanks to Camerina’s family recipes. Yet, the Ramos family doesn’t hesitate to introduce new-to-the-family favorites either; for instance, they marinate and bake seasoned lamb shanks to create Borrego Azteca, and conjure bowls of molcajete from sautéed chicken and beef. Best of all, the Ramos relieve thirsty gullets with signature margaritas muddled together from housemade citrus juices and the sap of fresh-squeezed tequila trees.
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.
In 1997, Chef Muhammad Uddin took over a failing Indian eatery with dreams of turning it into something more. After closing to remodel the dining room and overhaul the menu, he threw open the doors of the new restaurant, which he renamed Bengal Tiger Cuisine of India. By 2009, it had grown such a large following that Chef Uddin moved to a bigger location with ample seating, a full bar, and space for servers to practice their plate-spinning acts on breaks.
Though the warm-colored decor and friendly service are a draw, the real key to Bengal Tiger's appeal is the food. Chef Uddin and his team rely on fresh spices and lean-cut meats to flavor recipes from across India—from the madras curry inspired by the city of Chennai to the vindaloo dish that originated in Goa. Though Bengal Tiger's menu is à la carte, servers spread out a smorgasbord of entrees during the Chef’s Special dinner buffet, which, like games in the world's least active football league, occurs on the last Sunday of every month.
For more than a quarter century, the Arias family has served a menu of classic Mexican cuisine at El Farol Mexican Restaurant. Plates full of enchiladas, fajitas, and burritos add their own colors to a space where bold and bright oranges, greens, and blues are splashed across the walls. A spicy shrimp dish, camarones a la diabla, leads a list of more upscale dinner feasts, including sirloin steak infused with cayenne pepper, and burgers, chimichangas, and tacos head the lunch menu. Patrons can quench their thirst with the usual suspects, such as beer, Jarritos, horchata, or a fire hydrant.