Chef Pedro Ramirez can often be seen hovering over a crackling spit, tending to the pig that roasts over its flame in the open air. When the bounty is finished cooking, Ramirez whips it up into pork sandwiches and platters—a Ramirez Restaurant specialty for nearly two decades. A retired US Navy Chief, Ramirez now leads his kitchen staff as they craft fresh ingredients into authentic Cuban, Mexican, and Puerto Rican dishes infused with homemade spices akin to the ones used by Ramirez's ancestors from Santo Domingo. In the dining room, designed in the style of a beach bungalow, Latin paintings hang over tables topped with homemade sangria and margaritas, and an outdoor patio supports the tropical atmosphere with flags and strands of lights as powerful as a billionth of a sun.
The chefs at Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant sling a sizzling menu of fajitas and fish tacos alongside guacamole, chips, and salsa that are made fresh daily. Patrons can take a peek into a whale’s refrigerator with an order of ceviche acapulco ($7.99), where fresh shrimp marinates in lime juice with tomatoes and onions. Tortilla-chip detectives easily see through the avocado’s clever disguise as guacamole dip ($3.50 for small, $6.49 for large), although teeth might request numerous bites of the vegetarian fajitas to confirm the tasty presence of sautéed onions, zucchini, and bell peppers ($8.99). The filete relleno entree ($11.99) culls ingredients from the sea, the field, and the rare dairy flower, presenting a grilled filet of mahi mahi topped with spinach, pico de gallo, and cheese sauce.
Over the last century, many traditional Mexican dishes have found a comfortable home in American kitchens, from nachos covered in savory toppings to enchiladas and many variations of tacos. Luckily, when visiting El Porto Mexican Restaurant, guests don’t have to choose one of their favorite Mexican dishes over another. Instead they mix and match the shop’s combination dinners. Chefs pair tacos filled with carne asada, marinated pork loin, or fish with enchiladas, chalupas, and chili rellenos.
Chefs even create pairings specially designed for vegetarians, subbing in mushrooms, bell peppers, and spinach for the traditional meats of their dishes. The one thing that doesn’t come with these pairings is desserts, and options range from caramel-kissed flan to deep-fried tortillas filled with bananas, honey, strawberries, and whipped cream like the blimp in a great dream.
New Mexico-grown chilies, Alaskan king crab, and Iowan beef sizzle and pop in the skillets at Campeche Bay Cantina, whose home-style kitchen turns out both traditional dishes and unexpected takes on familiar flavors. Chorizo quesadillas and carne asada tacos compete for diners' affections with chicken or steak fajita sandwiches and the key lime or mud pies.
Paco's Mexican Grill dishes out a laid-back, beach bar–style vibe alongside its refreshing Baja fare in a prime seaside location. Before asking the ocean for change, seasoned beach bums begin their day with the ever-popular dawn patrol breakfast burrito, a tortilla stuffed with energizing eggs, potatoes, bacon, rice, cheese, and black beans ($5.59). Paco's lunch and dinner menu boasts a bounty of folded fare, including Baja-style fish tacos with cabbage, cheese, and white sauce ($3.29), or meaty al pastor tacos conjoined with cabbage, queso fresco, and guacamole ($3.39). Nibble Poseidon's favorite midnight charbroiled fish burrito snack, served with rice, cabbage, beans, and guacamole ($6.79), or bring the long-warring factions of land and sea together with a surf 'n' turf combo, a savory peace accord of carne asada and your choice of Baja, blackened, or charbroiled fish ($8.49).
Cyclones Tex Mex Cantina entwines Mexican cuisine with flavors of the Lone Star state with a menu of traditional burritos, fajitas, and tacos, spiced up with spreads of charbroiled chicken and bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp. Food ferriers walk through brick archways balancing platters of handmade chicken or pork tamales ($9), presenting them to diners lounging in comfy green booths. The Camarones Mazatlan sees six jumbo shrimp marinated in garlic and butter, then skewered on a lance by a miniature knight and brought to the table with tomato slices and avocado ($13). The Tacos Gringos enfold a vegetarian mix of beans, cheese, tomatoes, and guac ($8), while a sweet duet of flan ($4) and Texas Oil mud pie ($5) fill out the menu’s desserts section. Barflies can perch or headstand on stools at a corrugated-tin counter and lick the salt from Cyclones Tex Mex Cantina’s specialty margaritas.