Border Cafe is ostensibly named after the border between the United States and Mexico. Dig a little deeper into the legend, however, and you’ll find that the restaurant’s history lies squarely on the border between truth and mythology. It all started with a man named Jose Creole—at least that was what people called him when he emigrated from Mexico to Louisiana in the 1930s. He didn’t just bring plain old Mexican food with him; instead, he combined his recipes with the Cajun soul food of his new neighbors in Lake Charles, and a legend was born. Jose Creole’s blend of Mexican and Cajun cuisines is now the cornerstone of Border Cafe, where chefs honor tradition by preparing his spicy dishes from scratch. The menu features fusion specialties that would be hard to find elsewhere, such as blackened-catfish fajitas and crawfish quesadillas. Even the margaritas are a bit offbeat—the New Orleans version is blended with Cointreau and served over chilled Mardi Gras beads.
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.
If you’re lucky, owner Roberto might be waiting with a glass of complimentary wine when you arrive at Cantina la Mexicana. But don’t fret if he’s absent—there’s still organic Mexican food to devour, fruity margaritas to sip, and more than 30 tequilas to throw back.
Taking its name from the Spanish word for a young colt, El Potro treats diners to zesty feasts of sizzling steak fajitas, saucy chilaquiles, and tacos filled with spicy peppers and marinated meats. Festive Mexican d?cor surrounds diners, with red tile floors and orange walls framing chunky, solid-wood chairs that feature hand-painted images of horses, galloping vaqueros, and lasso-swinging centaurs. Alongside spreads of food and margaritas from the full bar, diners can revel in karaoke on Thursday or Sunday nights or swinging jams from the house band Mariachi Estampa de America on Fridays and Saturdays.
Even before you step inside, Tu Y Yo proves its authenticity. According to The Phoenix, a handwritten note on the door warns guests, “No burritos served here!” But with grasshopper tacos on the food menu, and micheladas (Mexican beer cocktails) on the drink list, the burritos will hardly be missed.
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.