Authentic, spicy dishes and crisp beverages await diners at Xochimilco Authentic Mexican Restaurant. Boasting two different menus for day and night, Xochimilco's kitchens cater to light eaters with smaller dishes such as taco salads or cactus-stuffed quesadillas, and hearty appetites with salsa-drenched platters at dinner. Chunky guacamole full of onion and garlic set the stage for a flavorful meal ahead, which might include grilled fish tacos or sizzling fajitas served with hand-made flour tortillas.
A piping hot pocket of corn dough stuffed with tender pork and slathered with verde sauce and cheese. This is the homemade pork tamale at Felipe's Mexican Restaurant, and what a sight it is to behold. The dishes on Felipe's menu have stayed the same for the most part in its 30 years of existence. Since Paul and Adela Lee—who met while working there—took over as owners in 1988, they have updated the menu but only slightly. They also moved the original restaurant to its current location and opened another in Folsom. One thing hasn't changed, however. Crowds still come from all over to try Felipe's famous tamales and chimichangas.
In 1962, Alberto Heredia and his wife, Carmen, flung open the doors of Carmelita's Restaurant, introducing a menu of tried and true family recipes from Puebla, Mexico. Now, a third generation of the Heredia family helps simmer carnitas and blend avocados into guacamole at two Carmelita's locations. The dining rooms, which are bedecked in vibrant knickknacks and paintings, let diners bask in bright colors without getting yelled at by a judge for bringing a kaleidoscope to court. Against the electrically hued backdrop, mariachi bands play on special occasions, their trumpets rising in warm spirals above fiddles and guitars.
A small menu of healthfully prepared favorites is accented by mouthwatering daily specials at Palenque, where fresh ingredients flourish and home-style recipes are always en vogue. The enchiladas verdes come filled with either chicken or cheese and are adorned with homemade tomatillo sauce, offering a flavorful throne for cheese, onions, and sour cream ($9.50). Lead-footed drivers on the burrito superhighway can cruise into tasty tunnels of beans, cheese, rice, and salsa, with their choice of al pastor, asada, carnitas, or chicken in the coveted passenger seat ($5.10). Refresh with a Mexican beer ($3.25) or two as you chat with friends, or venture out to converse with one of Palenque's affable staffers and potentially find your long-lost giggle twin.
On Friday nights, a mariachi band fills Kico's Mexican Food with the trills of a guitarrista. But Friday nights aren't the only time the restaurant strikes a festive mood. Terra cotta colored walls, glittering ornaments, and pastoral paintings add a touch of brightness every day of the week—a pleasing backdrop for the menu of authentic dishes that the kitchen has honed for more than 30 years. The food draws diners from all over the area who come for classic items, such as homemade tamales and carnitas, made according to family recipes as opposed to instructions on the back of an old comic book.
Baja Fresh's grilled tortillas add a slight crunch to hefty burritos and tacos overflowing with succulent steak, seafood, and avocado. At the free salsa bar, diners can amp up meals to their preferred spiciness or keep some sauce off to the side to add piquant flavor to complimentary chips. Baja Fresh adds new items and options every month, constantly shaking things up in order to maintain the menu's freshness and prevent a predictable, boring romance between pinto beans and cheddar cheese.