Aromas of home-cooked Mexican fare waft through the air at Lopez Restaurante Y Cantina. In the dining room, servers shuttle platters of cheesy enchiladas sidekicked with heaps of beans and rice, as well as tacos crammed with carnitas, chicken, and beef or prepared al pastor style. Throughout the meal, barkeeps churn out frothy margaritas, sudsy beers, and texturally ambiguous wines.
The chefs at Los Amigos source recipes from the restaurant's Oaxacan and Southwestern origins to present a menu of delectable selections. Diners can feast on classics such as fajitas, burritos, and huevos rancheros, or sample traditional dishes such as chili verde, which covers tender chunks of pork in a flavorful tomatillo sauce.
In 1982, Alfonso Castaneda opened Dona Esther Restaurant, which he named after his grandmother in honor of her life and love of cooking. Popular dishes include carne asada made with rib-eye steak and the Dona Esther Special, a combination platter that hides its plate beneath a piping-hot chicken enchilada, taco, and burrito and bed of rice and beans. Customers looking for something more comforting than a mariachi band that lulls them to sleep can always order a steaming, fragrant bowl of menudo—a traditional Mexican soup seasoned with onion, cilantro, and crushed red pepper. But if music's your thing, live musicians fill the room on Saturday nights and during the Sunday brunch buffet. The traditional tunes add to an atmosphere epitomized by rustic carvings and paintings, as well as lush greenery that spills out of pots in search of salsa.
The culinary team at Nuevo Southwest Grill concocts a menu of Mexican-American fusion cuisine that spurs taste buds onward through a land of tortilla vistas dotted with grilled veggies. Prepare palates for future forkfuls with the flavorsome crab-and-fish-cake appetizer, garnished with a fiery jalapeño tartar ($7.95). The sazonado grilled chicken breast arrives glazed with a zesty chipotle orange sauce and topped with goat cheese and mushrooms ($13.95). Lunchtime victuals, such as the burrito stuffed with salmon ($8.25), quells stomachs before they bellow like Luciano Pavarotti after stubbing his big toe. Served until 2 p.m. on weekends, Nuevo’s brunch engages freshly woken bellies with buttermilk pancakes topped with fresh fruit ($6.95).
Vivas's burrito builders wrap local, organic produce, all-natural meats, and organic rice and beans into bountiful burritos. Dining duos can peruse the menu's panoply of tortilla-wrapped options, including a fish burrito hewn from organic tilapia, beans, rice, cabbage, and fresh salsa. Meat eaters and brachiosauruses can choose the regular burrito with a choice of meat enlivened with dashes of fresh cilantro, and herbivores and health-conscious visitors can bite into meat- and dairy-free vegan burritos. Twosomes wash down these delectable eats with a pair of fountain drinks that are as sweet and bubbly as a chocolate statue of Katie Couric.