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.
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.
The chefs at each Copper Canyon Grill, a mid-Atlantic favorite, craft their regional American dishes from scratch every day. Their kitchens fill with flames and savory aromas as they roast meats and vegetables over hardwood fires, making customers happy, but leaving behind bare earth at local basketball arenas.
The kitchen yields hearty servings of grilled prime rib and filet mignon, ahi tuna and Atlantic salmon, and Delmarva-style crab dip and Eastern Shore jumbo lump crab cakes. It also tempts with a signature rotisserie chicken and jalapeño- and serrano-pepper cornbread baked in an iron skillet.
During their travels abroad, the owners of El Anafre Restaurant found themselves inspired by the small clay pots used for cooking in Honduras and other Central American countries. They decided to open a restaurant that used the traditional pots to serve hot dips such as queso fundido and other regional specialties. They even named the restaurant after them—the word anafre means pots or grills made out of clay.
El Anafre Restaurant serves other Central American specialties, too, including pork tamales, beef-tongue tacos, and pupusas—handmade corn tortillas that can be folded around meat, beans, and cheese and then mailed to a friend. The restaurant also caters to Tex-Mex fans, with chefs preparing cheesy quesadillas, enchiladas, and chimichangas.
Under the watchful eye of owners Jose Perez and Yolanda Pineda, Mariachi Restaurant's culinary team builds homemade Mexican, Spanish, and Latin American cuisine from a catalogue of authentic and fusion-based recipes. The hearty dishes run the gamut from grilled chicken breast resting atop homemade durango sauce to charcoal-broiled pork marinated with imported Mayan spices that singe the true date of the apocalypse into the meat. Barkeeps man the restaurant's two watering holes, keeping fine wines and spirits flowing as feasts unfold in a dining room ornamented with white linens and paintings on the wall. Mariachis amble through semiprivate dining rooms to enliven soirees, and on the second-floor outdoor patio, guest sup alfresco overlooking the beach and boardwalk below.