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.
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.
"Know your strengths" is sound advice that Mexican Caf? has taken to heart?they mix more than 12 types of margaritas. These variants go beyond their signature margarita (prepped on the rocks, with or without salt) by imbuing sips with citrusy flavor. The orange crush, for example, is made-to-order with freshly squeezed oranges, whereas the agaverita replaces Triple Sec with agave nectar. These join imported beers, sangria, and specialty cocktails on a sprawling drink menu, which guests can peruse inside the vibrant dining room or on the outdoor deck.
When it comes to food, the caf? continues to embrace variety. Tacos come stuffed with chicken, steak, pork, and even chopped shrimp, sprinkled with traditional garnishes of cilantro and onion or Americanized toppings of lettuce, and tomatoes. Burritos satisfy vegetarians and meat-eaters alike with spinach and steak versions, including the "Sunken" burrito, served beneath Texas-style chili.
The Flores family never dreamed that 15 years after they emigrated from Mexico, Maryland state senator Jim Robey would be on hand at their restaurant opening to whack a celebratory piñata. Yet that's exactly how the business started—with an explosion of candy foretelling a boom of happy customers.
Named for the Flores’s hometown of Nayarit, El Nayar was designed as a reflection of the clan’s personality, which they describe as "authentic Mexican, laid-back, and down-to-earth." They’re proud that amid the exposed-brick columns and blue- and red-tiled counter, immigrants can be found enjoying cactus and eggs beside American businessmen talking shop over tacos and quesadillas. It’s this mentality, along with sizzling fajitas and house-made spicy sauce, that has earned the restaurant an award as a Top 10 Mexican Restaurant by the Baltimore Sun.
Also honored with a Healthy Howard award for the dietary excellence of its menu, the BYOB establishment encourages diners to supplement meals with glasses of a favorite red wine, good for the heart, or shots of tequila, good for hand-walking skills and adding into specialty margaritas.
Former commercial airline pilot Rodrigo Albarran, copiloted by his family and team of chefs, flies vibrant Mexican plates across the runway of R&R Taqueria's eight-stool counter. Though the salsa-spangled morsels emerge from a pair of modest eateries situated at an Elkridge Shell station and the White Marsh Mall food court, the dazzling menu garners praise from a bevy of media palates, including that of Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and the Washington Post. Critics laud the zingy salsas prepared throughout the day, tender handmade tamales, and pastor beef marinated slowly in a blend of onions, dried chilis, and pineapple. R&R also loads fresh tacos with lamb or beef, then dapples each with onions and sprigs of fresh cilantro, following the culinary traditions of Mexico City and Mexican-cheese support groups alike.
Three menus, one location. That might be a lot for some restaurants to handle, but not for Alonso's and Loco Hombre. Both welcome guests during lunch and dinner with their own menus?with some overlap?and a third that takes care of hungry dwellers in the bar area. With all those options, It can be hard to make just one dining choice here. Alonso's dinner menu is home to American classics and Tex-Mex flair, with an emphasis on the kitchen's famous burgers and pasta dishes. Then there's Loco Hombre, whose menu adds on a section for anything served in or on a tortilla. The jewels here include a broiled salmon burrito and tacos available with one of eight fillings. But the real action happens at the bar, where drinks are shaken, poured, or blended, be they margaritas or domestic craft beers served in fancy glasses.