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.
At Blue Agave Cantina & Tequila Bar, chefs prepare heaping platters of Mexican and southwest cuisine, whereas mixologists craft margaritas from hand-squeezed sour mix and pure agave nectar. Mouths warm up with fresh avocado deep-fried in beer batter, and spoons refrain from perching on patrons' noses by diving into the chicken-corn-tortilla soup, a hearty blend of hominy, avocados and sour cream. Chimichangas star chicken or steak swathed in a fried tortilla, and the huevos con chorizos peppers scrambled eggs with zesty chorizo sausage. Dining duos can clink bottles of Dos Equis lager or tipple cocktails such as the top-shelf margarita, a blend of Herradura Blanco and Patrón Citrónge more moving than the tears of a Mexican wrestler.
Jerry's Restaurant opened in 1961, and since then it's served family-style meals, which incorporate some of the 15+ vegetables the kitchen uses. The team cooks breakfast, lunch, dinner, and whatever meal humans think up next. Their food ranges from cheesy spaghetti and lemon-pepper chicken entrees to potato skin and onion ring entrees. Jerry's serves the popular J-Boy sandwich—a double-decker cheeseburger with a special sauce—and even a hot fudge cake.
The flavors found in El Chico’s 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. Meals arrive on a sizzling skillet touting succulent morsels alongside a cadre of colorful veggies, rice, frijoles rancheros, and a hearty dollop of pico de gallo and guacamole.
The spirited tunes of live mariachi music occasionally float through the dining room at Sierra Fria, fostering a fitting atmosphere for the menu of authentic Mexican cuisine. Chefs embellish traditional recipes with fresh toppings of avocado and pico de gallo to beget an extensive roster of classic fare, such as burritos, enchiladas, and fajitas. They construct an ample array of seafood dishes with shrimp, salmon, and tilapia alongside steak and chicken specialties blanketed in a rainbow of spicy sauces, while bartenders mix fruity margaritas and dole out domestic and imported brews. At the West Tiverton Way location, exposed-brick walls neighbor colorful murals of matadors and pastoral scenes which spill onto booths, tabletops, and plates' dreams.
Chef Rafael Hernandez creates a shareable menu of fusion tapas paired with tempting drinks in Habana Blues's new location. Shareable small plates such as sushi-grade tuna tartare marinated in sesame oil and crème fraiche make taste buds swoon while diners battle their companions for temporary custody of datiles rellenos—dates stuffed with goat cheese and Spanish chorizo, drizzled with smoked honey, and wrapped in bacon. A trio of black bean, garbanzo, and roasted-red-pepper hummus slathers wedges of pita bread accompanied by olives and red onions. Guests can select a sippable treat from a menu of sangria, wines, beers, and cocktails such as the sumptuous coco martini with vanilla vodka, coconut cream, and nutmeg, or make a filibustering toast to the freedom of speech with a classic Cuba Libre.
Each day at Taco Punk, Chef Gabe Sowder makes every component of his tacos anew. He mixes produce sourced from local farmer’s markets into salsas and mole, and smashes masa, corn flour, and wheat flour to make tortillas. But it's his taco fillings that stand out more than his prep methods: sustainable Pacific cod, all-natural Amish chicken, and grass-fed beef braised in Goose Island beer—all accented with hand-smashed guac or fresh salsas such as pineapple-habanero.
Chef Sowder's gourmet approach to finger food is no accident. Years spent working in upscale eateries had given him an idea: "There were people I knew who were musicians and artists who didn't have the money to come in and experience something awesome," he told Food & Dining Magazine in 2012, "So I decided to take the ideals of fine dining and apply them to the quick-service model."
As he shared in his appearance on Secrets of Louisville Chefs Live, Chef Sowder emphasizes healthy food, too: there are no deep fryers or butter-powered ovens at Taco Punk. Instead, meat and vegetable fillings are generally smoked or grilled, and none are injected with chemicals or preservatives. After a hearty and healthy meal, diners are invited to indulge in ice cream and other frozen treats from The Comfy Cow.