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.
After nearly 40 years of combined experience in the restaurant industry, Dave and Pam Keohane knew how to please their patrons when they realized their dreams of restaurant ownership and opened Greenhouse Grill in 1990. Inside, cozy booths and warmly toned walls encourage diners to linger over dessert and chat over draft beers and expertly mixed margaritas. All-American starters such as bacon cheese fries and crab dip stop stomach rumbles long enough for guests to peruse the menu, which mingles hand-cut steaks, seafood specialties, and sandwiches accompanied by bottomless fries. The chefs also toss pasta specialties with meats and seafood such as crab and shrimp, and several homestyle specialties ensure whole families or incomplete sets of green army men have plenty of options to choose from.
The sushi chefs at East Moon Asian Bistro know it's fun to play with your food. Presenting beautiful, interesting, and playful displays of their labors, caterpillar rolls are arranged to emulate their namesake, while dry ice adds an air of mystique to colorful plates. Aside from the sushi bar, East Moon's chefs in the kitchen prepare a huge variety of pan-Asian dishes, such as Thai-style panang curry, sweet and sour chicken, and wonton soup.
Colorful, pan-Asian dishes piled high with generous portions emerge hot out of the wok from the kitchen at Chopstixx Cafe. Sifting through the pages of the vast menu, diners will find familiar classics composed of super-fresh ingredients, including spicy General Tso's chicken and pad thai, as well as specialty dishes such as the steamed "Revolution Diet," which features tender shrimp and an array of healthy veggies. The kitchen also whips up crave-worthy bubble teas in fancy flavors such as lychee, passionfruit, and red bean.
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.
For the chocolatiers at The Chocolate Pumpkin, quality always trumps quantity. That's why they specialize in handmade, bite-sized treats that ensure a proper balance of flavors. The chocolatiers also put extra effort into their confections' appearances, molding chocolate into tiny truffles and crafting long-stem chocolate roses. This attention to detail, both in recipes and artistry, helps them create memorable gifts perfect for anniversaries, birthdays, or other days that can be circled with hearts on calendars.