A bar of house-made sauces and salsas offers flavorful blends crafted from fresh ingredients that add surprise and spice to tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. The roster of fresh veggies, spiced meat, and organic house-made refried beans that form the base of all Picante! feasts are delivered daily, with unusual touches such as shredded cabbage and pickled onions providing unexpected twists in tacos more safely than hiding a brick under a tortilla. Soy cheese and whole-wheat tortillas add additional healthy touches to the lineup of vegetarian, low-carb, and low-fat options, and house-made tortilla chips deftly dip in and out of fresh guacamole and queso.
Lola's Mexican Kitchen serves upscale Mexican cuisine in a sleek setting with brick walls and rustic wood accents. Cooks prepare south-of-the-border specialties such as steak tacos and Mexican-style paella, plus inventive dishes such as blue-corn-crusted calamari with honey-chipotle dipping sauce. Bartenders pour beer, wine, tropical cocktails, and eight types of potent margaritas.
Sierra Grille proffers sizzling, savory southwestern cuisine made quick to order, forgoing canned and frozen foods and MSG for fresh fixings such as skinless chicken breast, lean steaks, fresh grilled fish, and primo produce. Peruse the menu and opt for a mexican pizza, piling a chosen meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato atop a crispy flour tortilla that spent a semester studying abroad in Italy (grilled chicken, $6.69; charbroiled steak, $7.29; shrimp, $7.29). The grilled-steak-and-crumbled-gorgonzola salad shuns carbs ($7.99), and the chicken fajita-burrita wraps up grilled fowl, guacamole, peppers, onions, and pico de gallo salsa into a flavorful yet functional paperweight ($6.39). Personal-size platters quell voracious individual cravings with steak, salmon, shrimp, or sea scallops sidekicked by rice, seasoned beans, and a small salad ($8.29).
Carne asada, chiles rellenos, quesadillas—these dishes have become familiar sights on a Mexican restaurants menu. Gusano Loco's bill of cuisine lists these, as well as carefully crafted house specialties. For the carne arrachera, the kitchen crew marinates steak in a zesty house barbecue sauce, while for the seafood chiles, poblano peppers burst with sautéed shrimp and garlic. Meanwhile, waitstaff pours pitchers of the house sangria, made with wine and fresh fruit, which can make for a well-round meal that hits all levels of the food pyramid—meat, fruit, and stuff that tastes like candy.
Amid the vibrant décor of Vega Mexican Cuisine, chefs treat patrons to a menu suffused with gooey quesadillas, piping-hot soups, house-made tortillas and salsas, and a host of organic ingredients. Diners can warm belly motors with a bowl of creamy poblano chili soup—corn kernels, potatoes, and mushrooms drenched in cheese—beneath the watchful eyes of a Frida Kahlo portrait or anchor fork tines in a salmon salad drizzled in a honey-chipotle creamy dressing. An eclectic assortment of chandeliers bathes colorful booths in warm lighting as dinnertime eaters sup on shrimp fajitas, which conceal adobo spices and Carmen Sandiego beneath a medley of onions, bell peppers, and cilantro.
The chefs at Tequila Sunrise assemble a prix fixe dinner menu that whisks taste buds away on a Mexican holiday. From the comfort of the spacious 200-seat dining room or an underwater castle, tablemates sample appetizers such as cheese-covered nachos or chicken and black bean empanadas. Baja fish tacos regale orders of classic ground beef or chicken tacos with tales of the high seas, while melted queso blanco hibernates beneath chiles rellenos. The sweet flavors of flan or fried ice cream seal the meal, as strolling mariachis accompany the sounds of clinking cutlery on Friday and Saturday nights.
Trumpet blasts sail though Hacienda Mexicali Mexican Restaurant’s terracotta archways and soar beneath exposed beams before bounding off walls festooned with colorful mosaics. It’s the weekend, and the mariachi band has just begun to play, the sounds of their instruments mingling with the sounds of laughter and clinking cocktail glasses. Amid the merriment, diners devour plates of fresh guacamole, ranchero steak, and mussels in streams of herbed white-wine sauce. Meals conclude with strawberries and cream or deep-fried ice cream finalized tableside.