Every day at all of El Nopal’s locations, cooks whip up fresh batches of salsa, chips, and beans. The sauces and sides accent chicken or beef chimichangas, handmade tamales, and nachos smothered in cheese. All El Nopal locations offer complimentary chips and salsa with every meal, and some locations have outdoor seating areas. Performances by live bands at select locations serve as a pleasant distraction from meals, unlike a judge with highfalutin ideas about not eating in court.
Chef Ramiro Gandaras literally attached his name to Ramiro’s Cantina, and he figuratively posts his family recipes all over the walls of his restaurant's kitchen. Referencing these recipes, his team dishes up a string of Mexican cuisine staples, such as burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, alongside a few Tex-Mex hybrids, such as guacamole burgers, enchilada casseroles, and homemade chili. In the cantina—which is Spanish for “proof that gravity exists”—bartenders pour tequila into margaritas and draft beer into tall glasses.
At Sol Aztecas Mexican Restaurant, culinary craftsmen forge authentic Mexican feasts from homemade ingredients, marinated meats, and fresh seafood. Specialties range from the extra meaty chicken-and-chorizo burrito to the seafood fajitas with shrimp, crab, and scallops. The full bar lubricates esophagi with Mexican beers, daiquiris, and five fruity flavors of margarita, including classic lime and tropical mango. Monthly mariachi-band performances invigorate the venue, and karaoke Sundays allow diners to share heavy-metal anthems that evoke their favorite periodic-table entries.
An array of picnic tables graces the outdoor patio at Lolita's Tacos Inc., allowing patrons to soak in fresh air over plates of tacos, taquitos, and tamales crafted from fresh ingredients. Inside, wall-hung sombreros and casual booths provide a quiet setting for patrons to argue the merits of Lolita's 14 different specialty burritos. Large portion sizes cater to big appetites and small T. rexes, and a small array of American fare, including nacho-cheese fries and corn dogs, complements pairings of flavored ice, soft drinks, and beer.
The dining room at El Mariachi Mexican Restaurant is a kaleidoscope of colors, its vibrant orange and red walls a fitting backdrop for its multicolored margaritas and flavorful Mexican dishes. Sizzling dishes crackle as they emerge from the kitchen, with strokes of red and green salsas sweeping across burritos, tacos, fajitas, and an abundance of traditional meat, seafood, and vegetable specialties. Thirty combo meals group complementary offerings—such as a grouping of chili relleno, enchilada, and chalupa—that fight for throat space with towering margaritas and mugs of beer. Leafy vines dangle from arched doorways, and art pieces speckle the walls, from ornamental suns to impressionist pieces made entirely from hot sauces of different colors.
The flavors found in El Chico’s enchiladas and fajitas are a tasty testament to what the Mexican eatery does best: cultivating a menu that bustles with authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. Fajitas provide a savory meal for two, with flour tortillas embracing veggies and chicken, beef, or a combination of the two with the gusto of a bear giving a bear hug. Or opt to reward tongues with enchiladas, which accentuate a variety of proteins with slick coats of cheese and sauce. The spicy beef of Mama’s Favorite enchiladas plays nicely with the fiery nature of chili con carne, and the Top Shelf fajita enchiladas capture rare glimpses of grilled fajita steak and ranchera sauce frolicking on the plate. Avocado enchiladas are also on hand for sets of vegetarian cravings.