Basking steak, seafood, and vegetables in signature marinades, the cooks at Ay! Jalisco Restaurant enliven taste buds with an array of traditional Mexican dishes. Dining parties can explore the festive setting by smelling the savory aromas and feeling the heat rise off a sizzling fajita plate stacked with fillers, such as pork ribs with a barbecue spice rub or fresh vegetables sautéed in garlic-butter sauce. Perched atop the Ay! Jalisco platter, a surfeit of chicken, beef, and butterfly or brochette shrimp fajitas ends intra-belly yodeling contests with some help from beans, guacamole, and tortillas. Ladles accent bundled bites of burrito, chimichanga, and enchilada with a choice of ranchera, green tomatillo, or red enchilada sauce. Guests can sip from the house margarita's salted brim or save the salt to melt ice sheets off their snowman's sunglasses this winter.
Upon relocating to Maryland from Los Angeles, the owners of Tortacos immediately noticed one thing—the lack of quality tacos. They’ve done their best to right this wrong by crafting California-inspired tacos whose corn tortillas are piled with toppings such as pico de gallo, cilantro, radishes, lime, and house onion mix. Diners can get their tacos with fish, or with one of five other meats—including charbroiled steak and braised pork—that also lay the foundation for burritos, quesadillas, or sopes. Tortas, the other half of the eatery’s name, are Mexican-style sandwiches that layer meat, beans, and avocado between two slices of fluffy bread.
Following Baja Fresh?s ethos set in 1990 as a healthy take on fast food, never-frozen meats sizzle atop the grill before they're tucked into made-to-order tacos and burritos. Grilled corn and flour tortillas embrace fish, carnitas, chicken, and steak, and smoky queso fundido sidles onto nachos and into burritos. Between bites, chips scoop up salsa made from farm-fresh produce rather than poured out of a can or fabricated in a space-age replicator. A complimentary salsa bar ensures no mouthful goes unspiced, and guests can scoop up their favorites as they await their dine-in, takeout, or catering orders.
Chefs use grass-fed beef, cage-free chicken, and steroid-free pulled pork that hail from sustainable sources to craft a bounty of tortilla-wrapped treats that take their names from the likes of Caddyshack, Fletch, and Seinfeld. It's this dual mindset of serious food and irreverent attitude that tinges every one of the eatery's southwestern morsels, from the Art Vandalay burrito to the John Coctostan quesadilla. As the kitchen staff crafts their daily batch of guacamole to join the lineup of six zesty salsas, diners choose from a list of more than 20 ingredients to fill out the entree that will soon be conjured before their eyes. Because dishes are made to order, each finds easy customization for vegetarian, gluten free, and low-calorie diets, and the absence of microwaves, trans-fats, and MSG keep eats wholesome. Meanwhile, a complimentary accompaniment of chips and salsa turns portions into full meals faster than an industry-grade blow-up ray.
Perch on high-backed chairs to peruse the exhaustive menu of Latin-American flavors and start with a beefy app such as the taquitos ($8.95) or the Mexican pizza with melted cheese, guacamole, and shredded beef and chicken ($8.95). Vegetarians can advance directly to platanos con crema y frijoles ($6.95), an order of deep-fried sliced plantains sided with sour cream and beans for dipping. For heartier appetites, try an order of fajitas for two. The combo platter includes marinated steak, shrimp, chicken, and pork ribs, served with grilled veggies (tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers) and south-of-the-border toppers (guacamole and ranchera sauce), all for $31.95. For an authentic mouthful of El Salvador, stick your fork into a few pupusas ($1.75 each), cheese-stuffed corn tortillas with a choice of six fillings, served with pickled cabbage and carrots. Diners will also find a variety of burritos, chimichangas, enchiladas, and egg-centric entrees.
Samantha's Restaurant melds a variety of Latin American culinary traditions into a single menu rife with fresh seafood, sizzling fajitas, and stuffed poblano peppers. Washingtonian magazine highlighted the masitas de puerco, a traditional Havana dish of bitter orange-marinated pork, as well as the "peppy mariachi soundtrack" that fosters a lively atmosphere. As appetizers of citrus-and-ginger-infused ceviche disappear like a repossessed magic kit, diners can turn their focus to mesquite-grilled fish or a refreshing cocktail from the fully stocked bar.