Before becoming the proprietors of Villa Del Mar Mexican Grill, Marcos and Mary Medina traveled all over Mexico to find recipes that would supplement their old-fashioned family culinary traditions. One of their two children might deliver the chips and salsa or hand-smashed guacamole that precede signature dishes such as the mole poblano: chicken in a housemade sauce with seven types of chilies and seven types of spices. Diners use their hands or a rope-and-pulley system made out of straw sleeves and napkin holders to lift bites of silverware-free fare including fried corn sope with chorizo, pausing only to sip limonada made with freshly squeezed lime juice and pure-cane sugar.
The bright-orange and yellow walls hold a plethora of Mexican-style art and old photographs. They have been painted to appear as though patches of brick are peeking through, giving the space a welcoming, rustic feel.
Hass avocados, cilantro, and fresh lime juice are just a few ingredients diners might recognize as a chef whips up guacamole right before their eyes at Poblano's Mexican Bar & Grill. From the restaurant's grill come specialty dishes including the alambre mixto, a dish typically found in Mexico City that combines grilled steak, chicken, shrimp, and chorizo with grilled peppers, pineapples, and melted cheese. The taqueria offers up five suggestions for specialty tacos that include carne asada, pork carnitas, shrimp, sliced pork, and grilled fish. Poblano's also delivers fresh flavors via catering for special events such as luncheons, parties, or the day fifth graders win their citizenship by reciting the preamble to the Constitution.
From the Spanish word meaning the appetizer, La Botana references itself as "a modest little restaurant with big flavors." Modest is right. With its vegetarian menu alone boasting more than 25 dishes, the eatery was named the Readers' Choice for Best Mexican Food in 2011 by the Winston-Salem Journal, among a slew of other awards.
The full menu, which is rife with mole-slathered entrees, sizzling fajitas, and lime-infused seafood, comprises multiple regions of Mexico, including Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon, and Oaxaca. North Carolina craft beers are also available to wash down spicy morsels or put out small table fires caused by rubbing your hands in anticipation.
On Val Panizzut's first visit to his wife’s Mexican hometown, the co-owner of The Prickly Pear vowed he would name his first restaurant after the delicious fruit borne from cacti. Today, the fruition of that fruit-inspired idea offers expansive views of Lake Norman from its generous windows or patio seats, as well a menu of Mexican cuisine. Not content with just offering traditional tacos and burritos, the kitchen crafts modern Mexican dishes that have earned it numerous local press mentions. They pair the usual flavors of cotija cheese, chipotles and cilantro with, for example, fruits such as pear, mango, and pineapple, all in an effort to add savory, piquant, or sweet depth to shrimp dishes and adobo-rubbed chicken. To augment the adventurous atmosphere, live musical acts entertain guests on Thursday and Sunday nights—but they never say in advance exactly where in the restaurant they’ll hide as they play.
The chefs at Flying Burrito cultivate a spicy menu of mouth-watering Southwestern cuisine. The freighter of rolled cuisine, known as the flying burrito, swoops onto tables with a cargo-load of hand-pulled beef, pinto beans, salsa, melted cheese, sour cream, green onions, lettuce, and tomato ($7). Juan's avocado ensalada leads leafy compatriots to victory with fresh ahi tuna or shrimp, and avocado, red peppers, tomato, green onions, queso fresco, and mixed greens served in a flour tortilla shell with lemon-cilantro vinaigrette or jalapeño ranch dressing ($9). The crispy fried-fish tacos accommodate two flour or corn tortillas slathered in yucatan slaw, habanero mayo, lettuce, and tomato ($7), and the Azteca enchiladas sing a vegetarian ballad of broccoli, zucchini, squash, carrots, melted cheese, black beans, mashed sweet potatoes, and a choice of red mole or spicy vegetarian green chili ($8). Stodgy palates receive a wakeup call when confronted with the sweet burrito⎯-a fried, cheesecake-filled tortilla topped with cinnamon, sugar, chocolate syrup, and two scoops of vanilla ice cream ($5).