The chefs at Acapulcos Mexican Family Restaurant & Cantina aim to cook authentic Mexican dishes unaltered by any Tex-Mex influence. Their recipes reach back generations within the owners' family and several miles into their underground tortilla vaults. Spanish-speaking servers deliver simple combinations of protein or veggies, topped with vibrant sauces: carne asada steak dressed in green pepper and guacamole, tender pork loin in tomatillo sauce, chicken in chocolate mole. The chefs' adherence to tradition doesn't preclude experimentation. Case in point: the dessert burrito, a lightly fried tortilla wrapped around apple-cinnamon or creamy cheesecake filling.
Both the menu and the decor change slightly from location to location?a painting of Mexico here, a tiled mosaic there. Each one, however, has a full bar where bartenders mix margaritas and flat-screen TVs broadcasting sports overhead.
Inside Sierras, an antlered chandelier overlooks cream tile-plated tables, ocean blue floors, and walls festooned with antlered skulls and colorful plates in pale blues and vibrant reds. The meals are just as colorful, from the dollops of sour cream, pico de gallo, and chili that top a tower of homemade corn nachos to the roasted red peppers, sweet corn, and Monterey jack cheese that pops out of burritos.
As their name implies, the staff at Blue Agave mix up margaritas using blue agave tequila and a dash of French orange liquor. Their bar also brims with Mexican sodas, sangria, and imported beer. While cooks craft dishes such sizzling fajitas and enchiladas topped with mole, servers make guacamole table-side after opening avocados with a search warrant. The restaurant also features a private salon where guests can host parties and enjoy a buffet of savory and sweet items.
Owner and head chef of Viva Mexican Grill and Tequileria, Carlos Mendez grew up in Mexico watching his mother and aunts as they concocted labor-intensive food without batting an eye. He would even venture off to the countryside to collect any wild mushrooms they might need. Now at his restaurant, he keeps his culinary traditions alive with his menu of Central Mexican cuisine. Fresh guacamole made table-side prepare palates for forthcoming entrees. Handmade masa pancakes topped with queso fresco join slow-cooked pork carnitas and tricolor plates of chilis en nogada with creamy walnut sauce. Thirteen types of margaritas and chilled coladas and daiquiris cool tongues coated in hot spices.
The festive decor of earthy deep blues, red clay tiles and adobe-colored walls also pays tribute to his homeland, as does a mariachi band. These musicians rove between tables, serenading diners with romantic string and vocal harmonies and the occasional rap battle.
For the cooks at Mezcal Tequila Cantina, guacamole means more than just avocados given a firm, loving hug. Half a dozen different varieties mix in inventive fixings such as toasted coconut and smoked almonds. That deft blending of traditional dishes with unconventional flavors extends past the appetizer round. Classic burritos and quesadillas arrive heaped with everything from asian beef to barbecue-duck confit. Even familiar ingredients are used in surprising ways, as with the chorizo and sweet corn stirred into risotto.
But food is only half the menu at Mezcal. The other half is dedicated to more than 100 tequilas, a selection that Worcester Magazine calls “by far the best list in Worcester, and undoubtedly in Central Massachusetts.” Aside from pouring smooth and smoky liquors, Mezcal’s bartenders mix margaritas from real fruit purees and house-made syrups.
Dining at a Mexicali Fresh Mex Grill is a different experience in every city. While every location shares the same Guadalajara based menu?with plates of authentic enchiladas, fajita burgers, and flautas covered in ranchero cheese?the decor of their dining rooms varies from location to location. In Spencer, Massachusetts, diners gaze at warm-toned desert paintings and statues of running horses, whereas the Ware, Massachusetts, location treats the eyes to views of blue-tiled divides and potted plants. In Holden, Massachusetts, a look around the dining area gives customers views of brightly painted walls on which ponchos and hats are hung, simultaneously providing colorful scenery and ideas for repurposing their old swimming trunks at home.