Aqueous hues of neon blue and purple wash over visitors to Agave Grill as they take a seat beneath a larger-than-life strip of sinuous camera film. This cinematic environ hosts cuisine blending traditional Mexican dishes with Spanish influence, mimicking the confluence of cultures in Latin America. In addition to steaming enchiladas and burritos, chefs create entrees of tender marinated carnitas or steak picado covered in cayenne-pepper sauce. Schools of seafood populate the kitchen's specialty roster, from fresh-fish tacos to paella—in which simmering saffron rice is surrounded by sausage, scallops, prawns, and other morsels. Beneath bas-reliefs of Aztec and Mayan-style masks, the staff serves libations from a lengthy library of tequila and mescal, neat or spun into margaritas.
Agave also boasts an attached nightclub, where spiraling lights surround the revelers within. DJs spin tunes in two different rooms, one devoted to salsa and Latin rock and the other thrumming with R&B and house music—which is not when furnace and faucet sounds sync up to the tune of “Born in the U.S.A.”
For generations, Ivalina and Adelio’s family have jotted down guidelines for crafting dishes in the tradition of Zacatecas, a north-central region of Mexico. Today, the father-daughter duo reap the rewards of their ancestors’ ingenuity and excellent penmanship at Memo's Mexican Cuisine, an eatery spotlighted by Check, Please! for its exceptional eats. Its chefs intertwine fresh ingredients, many hailing from local farmers' markets, and house-made sauces into dishes made fresh every day. Nicknamed The Royal Dish, chicken pipian is a signature dish and a traditional wedding-day entree, which showcases a chicken breast coated with an original sauce containing pumpkin seed, nine chilies, and 12 different herbs. At the bar, a wide selection of quality tequilas tempt shot glasses or find their way into margaritas. Catering services offer the same libations and fare without the restaurant's saffron and blue walls, which are partially obscured behind Mexican artwork.
Salsa Verde's culinary researchers memorize a library of Mexican recipes to give diners a menu laden with traditional Central American dishes. An array of tortilla-swathed favorites warm up empty hands with burritos built around fillings such as steak, chile rellenos, or shrimp ($5.49–$7.25) and meat-filled Mexico City–style tacos ($1.25) outfitted with an exotic ensemble of cilantro, onions, mild salsa, and a poster from the 1968 Summer Olympics. Selfish diners chomp away on the carnitas chipotle-barbecue torta, doused with coleslaw and sweet barbecue sauce ($5.75), and pairs divvy up the molcajete mixture of grilled chicken, steak, and chorizo cooked in salsa and oaxaca cheese ($16.99). The bistec ranchero coats a tender grilled steak with lime and olive oil before topping it with grilled onions, tomatoes, and mild serrano peppers ($9.25), and enchiladas filled with shredded chicken or seasoned beef swim in a choice of savory red sauce or the restaurant's signature salsa verde ($7.95). Pair south-of-the-border fare with a choice of fountain drinks or icy Corona beers to extinguish mouths set on fire by spicy foods or spiteful wisdom teeth still mad about being kicked out of the jaw.
Open a menu and a dinner dialogue with your stomach with a distinctive appetizer such as the crab nachos, which include tortilla chips covered in crabmeat and melted jack cheese, topped with onions, tomatoes, jalapeños, and sour cream ($8.25). Have a traditional specialty such as a platter of carnitas (slow-cooked pork with rice, refried beans, lettuce, tomato, and two flour or corn tortillas, $10.95) or a classic combo such as the enchilada-and-taco plate (filled with ground beef, picadillo beef, chicken, or cheese and served with rice, refried beans, and crispy coleslaw, $9.95). Cast your flavor net into the sea with a fish or shrimp taco order (served with rice, refried beans, and coleslaw, $13.75), or eschew the meaty meats in favor of a fresh, light vegetarian fajita plate (vegetables lightly seasoned and grilled, served with rice, whole beans, guacamole, tortillas, and the blessing of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's ghost, $12.95).
Following generations-old family recipes for classic Latin-American comfort foods is only the first step for the chefs at Monteros. Instead of simply recreating familiar dishes, they add a bit of contemporary Californian flair by incorporating new flavors and spices, elevating the menu beyond the expected. The housemade tamales and savory mole sauce—made, like the Space Shuttle, using 29 different ingredients—are examples that demonstrate the chefs’ dedication to tradition. However, they also push the boundaries by adding cilantro-flavored pesto to the quesadillas and by glazing chicken skewers with a potent combination of dark rum and ginger.
With its stucco-textured walls, stout wooden tables, and earthenware floor tiles, the dining room at Monteros appears to embrace the restaurant's rustic roots. However, the youthful spirit appears in force on Friday and Saturday evenings as the nighttime crowds arrive dressed to the nines and ready to transform the cozy eatery into a vibrant dance club. DJs spin mixes of Latin pop, merengue, reggaeton, mambo, and bachata late into the night, while patrons celebrate with a margarita, mojito, or glass of sangria. Salsa dancing lessons are also available on these nights for guests looking to master the basic steps in order to make trips down down the moving walkway at the airport more exciting.
Los Panchos crafts delicious Mexican cuisine from fresh ingredients and traditional recipes, filling its menu with more than 75 south-of-the-border standouts. Rather than calming grumbling tummies by taking a nap in a life raft as it gently sways away from the shore, guests may stuff them with burritos brimming with refried beans, guacamole, and a choice of chicken, beef, or pork ($8.50). Juicy pork carnitas can fill soft tacos ($3.25 each), enchiladas ($3.50 each), or deep-fried chimichangas ($5.75), or erupt from cheesy mountains of nachos ($8.50). Like a traffic light, chili verde’s sauce comes in a choice of green or red ($9.25), letting diners barrel into spiciness or pause to savor a mild chili flavor with each meaty bite.