The cooks in Taco Shop’s kitchen stuff burritos, tacos, and tortas with traditional Mexican meats ranging from carne asada and carnitas to barbacoa and al pastor. They also pile these seasoned proteins onto towering platters of nachos and hide them inside gooey quesadillas. In the dining room, tangerine-colored walls brighten up the space and make guests feel like tiny pieces of pulp.
Though it’s a national brand with locations sprinkled across 14 states, Chevys Fresh Mex doesn’t succumb to shortcuts at any of its restaurants. The expert chefs at each eatery gather together fresh ingredients to prepare the entire menu from scratch, whether they’re infusing chicken enchiladas with chipotles or simmering fragrant cauldrons of their homemade tortilla soup. Even though this hands-on approach harkens back to the foundations of Mexican culinary traditions, chefs also give each dish a contemporary twist—tacos meet flavorful drizzles of chipotle aioli, slow-roasted carnitas mingle with fresh oranges and lemons alongside fajita platters. Meanwhile, bartenders engage in serious agave innovation with top-shelf margaritas in flavors such as prickly pear and spicy mango.
When Latin House Burger & Taco Bar originated more than 20 years ago, it wasn’t even a house. Instead, Chef M and his wife, Bella, served their fusion of American and Latin cuisine from the window of one of Miami’s first food trucks, easily eclipsing the still-fledgling industry's typical fried fuzzy dice and mud-flap sandwiches. Nowadays, they've traded their wheels in for chairs, on which patrons sit before savoring plates of tacos, burritos, and tostadas with fillings ranging from cilantro-lime chicken to calamari. As a testament to the eatery's dual cultural influences, Latin House's burgers—usually cooked to a juicy medium-rare—dwell under taco-style toppings such as crema and avocado as well as traditional American accouterments such as bacon and cheese.
You're immersed in the lively flavors and atmosphere of Mexico the minute you walk into Frida Mexican Restaurant. The bright pink walls?adorned with a painting of Frida Kahlo herself?mirror the spicy ingredients chefs use to season succulent cuts of carnitas, spit-roasted al pastor pork, and savory fish tacos. Chefs layer these meats atop tortillas for the house tacos, as well as on slices of fried masa huarache to create a hearty dish similar to a flatbread. For drinks, however, staff veer away from these spicy flavors in favor of cooling glasses of beer, thirst-quenching bottles of Jarritos, and beer cocktails. These can incorporate anything from a splash of lime juice and salt to a blend of hot sauces and shrimp reminiscent of a bloody mary.
Salsa Fiesta is a family-owned, fast-casual restaurant that serves up urban Mexican food. All of the ingredients are fresh and the tortilla chips are made in house. The menu offers a wide variety of burritos, tacos, salads, soups and homemade salsas. The comfortable environment makes it easy to sit and enjoy one of its Jarritos (sugar cane soda imported from Mexico), imported beers, wines or margaritas, and happy hour last from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Salsa Fiesta only has one dessert offering, Mayan rolls — two chocolate filled crispy flour tortillas with whipped cream and dulce de leche—but it is sure to leave your sweet tooth satisfied.
Back in the kitchen, the chefs at El Vato Tequila and Taco Bar grill up only antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken and angus beef for their tacos, fajitas, and piñatas, all part of their commitment to humanely raised food. They also give vegans a chance to taste their Mexican street tacos and gooey quesadillas by offering the option of Smart Ground veggie protein and Daiya non-dairy cheese for any of their dishes. Liquid sustenance is just as important as the food here, and bartenders can be found pouring blanco, reposado, and anejo tequilas or mixing margaritas with ingredients such as lime juice, fresh cucumber, or chipotle spices. The Miami New Times described the eatery’s decor as a “Tijuana dive re-imagined as a backdrop for a music video,” thanks to the graffiti-like artwork behind the bar and the Buick Riveria-turned-banquette in the dining room.