Historic Downtown Wheaton embraces many of the boutique gift stores, chic spas, and diverse culinary offerings that populate the historical storefronts of the western suburb’s walkable central shopping district. Before embarking on a day of checking off gift lists or simply sightseeing, slip under the colorful awnings at Front and Hale Streets to sneak a breakfast bite at the Egg Harbor Café, where The Handler sandwich tucks egg, bacon, and cheese onto a gourmet pretzel roll ($8.95). Eco-friendly gift shop It’s Our Earth's “buy recycled” philosophy unfolds space for ample creativity in the form of Snack Journals ($7 each)—fun notebooks reimagined from SpongeBob and Spiderman snack boxes that make the dog eating one's homework a slightly likelier excuse.
Burrito Parrilla Mexicana treats tummies to tantalizing south-of-the-border cuisine served with a modern aesthetic. Mexican favorites mingle on a menu, such as burritos and tacos made with a choice of six meats that include beef picadillo, chorizo, and marinated al pastor pork that regularly defies physics by cooking on a vertical grill and refusing to proofread Isaac Newton’s autobiography. The restaurant’s dinner plates, such as chicken or steak fajitas, arrive at chartreuse booths inside sizzling skillets and accompanied by an elegantly plated assortment of guacamole, pico de gallo, black beans, and rice.
Fonda Isabel's vibrant modern Mexican dishes take mouths on a zesty tour of the of the country's mainstays tinged with contemporary touches. Each item on the extensive menu arrives at tables hot and made from scratch. Commence the culinary carnival by splashing a gullible chip into a dunking booth of the flavorful guacamole poblano ($7.95) and celebrate by licking a steak lollipop ($4.95). A loyal cheese enchilada stands by the side of the carne a la Tampiqueña, or grilled skirt steak ($16.95), and the pork carnitas schmooze with a fawning crowd of guacamole, grilled onions, rice, jalapeños, and beans ($13.95). Nautical noshers can noodle for the savory fish tacos ($13.95) or sail through chef specialties, such as the skewered meats of the brochetas ($19.95).
The beats of lean cuts of meat sizzling on the grill and ladles clanking against trays of zesty vegetables fill Qdoba Mexican Grill during construction of made-to-order Mexican fare. As healthy-eating devotees, Qdoba's staff stocks its kitchen with nutritious ingredients, seasonal flavors, and 100% cotton candy–free tortillas.
At Amada's Cafe, a sprawling menu of authentic Mexican and Cuban dishes keeps palates satisfied into the late hours. Tacos arrive inside corn or flour tortillas carrying flavorful bounties of carne asada, chorizo, chili rellenos, or pirate gold. Guests can pair seafood dishes such as breaded shrimp or whole red snapper grilled in butter and garlic with refreshing glasses of horchata. The slate of Cuban dishes ranges from classic cuban sandwiches topped with roasted pork, ham, and pickles to ropa vieja, tender pieces of shredded beef bathed in a Cuban-style tomato sauce.
The lengua burritos, Jarritos, and red and green sauces that smother enchiladas aren't the only authentic south-of-the-border touches at Changarro Cocina. Its drink list also brings some traditional flavor. The granite bar area, part of the new owner's renovations, hosts more than 70 different tequilas and margaritas made fresh without any mixers. Patrons sip these beverages while nibbling ceviche, huaraches, and tortas and cheering on soccer matches, baseball games, and ice-fishing tournaments broadcast on TVs throughout the restaurant.