Part Mexican cantina, part Irish pub, and all cop, Garcia Brogan's blends disparate cultures in both its menu and its decor, which features murals and folk art from Mexico and Ireland. Whether guests want a glass of Irish whiskey or a fine tequila, Garcia Brogan's bartenders keep the drinks flowing, pouring a river of alcohol in which tacos and shepherd's pie bob appetizingly. The restaurant hosts pub trivia nights and live Irish music on the weekends.
Mexican chefs prepare Mexican food that's served in a dining area enclosed by walls decorated with Mexican art. Wooden hot plates keep tile-topped tables and overzealous servers' heads safe from fajita skillets that emit the sounds and scents of sizzling chicken, beef, or shrimp. Patrons may enhance their authentic meals with sprinkles of salt and pepper shaken out of repurposed Coronita bottles and complement their cuisine with oversized margaritas—crafted at the wraparound bar with a selection of more than 40 tequilas.
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The burritos at Ixtapa Mexican Grill & Cantina aren't the handheld fast-food variety. Far from it, actually. The sauces and melted cheeses that smother the tortillas make them best eaten with a fork. Some of the burritos are stuffed with classic fillings, such as chicken or slices of grilled steak, whereas others are more innovative: the Atlantic Burrito is filled with shrimp, crab, fish, and scallops. There's even a fried apple-caramel burrito for dessert.
Though Ixtapa's chefs eagerly experiment with their dishes, there's no "Tex-Mex" on the menu?every taco, chimichanga, and enchilada is a remnant of an old family recipe. Each one can be traced back to its inspiration in Guadalajara and its namesake resort in Mexico. Margaritas complement the food with flavors of blackberry and kiwi, and range from the classic hand-shaken lime margarita to El Presidente, made with Cuervo 1800 tequila and delivered via motorcade.
In the dark of night, the brightly lit façades of The Fat Cactus locations glow like a beacon, beckoning diners to come and sample their classic Mexican and Tex-Mex foods. The restaurants' interiors are no less eye-catching. House-specialty fazzizzles—short for sizzling fajitas—top tables in dining rooms filled with vibrant reds and yellows. Rows of hubcaps glisten on walls next to strings of lights. And hundreds of emptied tequila bottles dangle from the ceiling, testament to the popularity of the menu's dozen specialty margaritas. For extra entertainment, musicians fill ears with their tuneful crooning every night, and a room with classic arcade games lets kids play at adult tasks, such as driving a car or helping zombies file their tax returns.
Low-key Mexican fare at its best is found at Zocalo Cocina Mexicana in Arlington's East Arlington neighborhood. Zocalo Cocina Mexicana also caters to those with sensitive stomachs, where a number of gluten-free options are featured on the menu. You won't need to get a sitter before heading to Zocalo Cocina Mexicana — kids are more than welcome at this family-friendly establishment. Bask in the sun (or moon!) light when you dine on Zocalo Cocina Mexicana's outdoor patio.
Whether it's just you and a date or you're bringing the whole gang, it's best to call ahead and make a reservation. Casual dining at its best, Zocalo Cocina Mexicana customers are free to enjoy themselves in jeans and a T-shirt. The restaurant has catering services as well. For those in a rush, the restaurant lets you take your food to go.
There's nearby street parking available as well as a valet service.
Menu items at Zocalo Cocina Mexicana tend to be mid-priced, so expect to plop down about $30 per person to dine here.