Arturo and Tina Vargas have a unique way of celebrating their family's central Mexican roots. They make an annual journey to different locales south of the border, ending each trip with a visit to their hometown of Cuernavaca. But these aren't average vacations. Instead, Arturo and Tina use the opportunity to discover new ingredients or recipes that they can bring back to Cristina's Fine Mexican Restaurant, their flavorful franchise of Texas eateries. Their culinary findings appear throughout the menu of Tex-Mex cooking.
The staff at each of the Vargas' venues wholeheartedly embraces those deep roots, making flour tortillas in-house, hand-rolling enchiladas, and preparing orders of guacamole directly beside diners' tables. But that's not to say the dishes are expected?salmon with pineapple butter and fried chicken breast with white wine-cream sauce demonstrate some of the kitchens' more experimental inclinations. Flavored margaritas and mojitos can add spirited refreshment to meals, as can any of the beers that the restaurants import from Mexico via man with a very strong throwing arm.
The flavors of Mexico City get an inventive reboot at Cantina Laredo, which has specialized in modern Mexican cuisine since 1984. Over the decades, Catina Laredo locations have spread to numerous states, countries, and at least two planes of reality. Classic dishes fill the menu, including guacamole prepared tableside and hand-rolled enchiladas stuffed with everything from Angus beef to avocado and artichokes. At the same time, the chefs elevate and refine traditional flavors by creating chicken fajitas with bacon, mushrooms, and chipotle-wine sauce and filling tortas with slow-roasted pork, apricot spread, goat cheese, and fried egg.
As for drink pairings, the Casa Rita?Cantina Laredo's signature margarita?is versatile, its classic version including silver tequila with Cointreau and fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juice. Diners can customize their drink by adding flavors such as mango or tamarind into the mix.
A joint venture between a professional boxer and a team of successful kickboxing-equipment tycoons, Title Boxing Club maintains a network of dozens of studios spread across 19 different states, winning over a devoted clientele with its invigorating and engaging boxing- and kickboxing-themed classes. Each workout uses the heart-healthy exercise of cardio training to satisfy people’s innate desire to punch and kick something other than a broken jukebox. Participants build lithe, strong muscle tissue by delivering powerful blows to punching bags, and build flexibility and agility by practicing roundhouse kicks and hooks. Students can build their core strength and endurance with medicine balls and burpees, enlist a qualified personal trainer to practice their newfound skills in the ring, or just torch calories during intense full-body Power Hour workouts.
At Los Jalapenos Mexican Restaurant, the staff knows how to make each diner feel welcome. This means they serve with kind attention, but not too much, so diners can focus on having a conversation with their companions or the face they've painted on their plate with salsa. Owners Esteban and Leticia sate appetites with a menu of traditional Mexican fare culled from generations-old recipes, including classics such as fajitas, tacos, and grilled chicken smothered in mole. Between bites at the Carrollton location, diners can also catch a live musical act, including an Elvis impersonator who unfurls his cape one Friday a month.
The centerpiece of Abuelo's menu is its paella ($13.50 per person; serves 2¬–4), Spain's most iconic, ubiquitous, and hard-to-make-right rice dish. Abuelo's makes its own version with basmati rice and serves it up either Valencia Clásica (saffron, a melody of seafood, beef sausage, chicken, and fresh vegetables) or Roja Caliente (spicy tomatoes, risotto rice, seafood, and fresh vegetables). Paella is naturally made for group dining, as are tapas plates of batata brava (spicy potatoes), carne con escalivada (tender beef with roasted eggplant, Italian squash, and fresh herbs), and Abuelo's plato con queso (a variety of Mediterranean cheeses, grapes, strawberries, apples, walnuts, almonds, and olives). Abuelo's also offers Lebanese mezes such as fried falafel, hummus, and dolmah yalangy (stuffed vine leaves with rice, herbs, tomatoes, and lemon). Tapas are $6.50 each, and you can get five tapas for two people for $19.50 per person.
Led by pillar of the Plano community Fortino Trujillo, the quick-handed team at Tino's Too simmers and sizzles a menu of hand-rolled enchiladas, all-day weekend breakfast, and menudo and caldo every day. The Tino's Special ($10.25) leaves no cornerstone of quick Mexican cuisine unturned with a beef enchilada, deluxe taco, tamale, and a host of fixings, whereas the chimichanga's deep-fried flour tortilla bursts with beef or chicken topped with sour cream and veggies ($8.10). Tender chicken works together with onions and peppers to provide a protective layer between eager tongues and the sizzling skillet that hosts the fajitas ($12.25).