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.
Burnt-orange walls and white table linens pop from the storefront window of El Ranchito, where owners Jorge and Ana Argueta present a menu of traditional Latin-American dishes. Under the protection of clay roof shingles, chefs prepare entrees that draw on Colombian, Mexican, and Cuban influences. They pack seafood or steak into fajitas, and cook lean ground beef Cuban-style to create picadillo. Sirloin steak, pork sausage, pork rinds, eggs, and plantains also unite to form the bandeja paisa, a dish as popular as the head cheerleader's soup bowl.
Iguana's Mexican Cantina houses a mouthwatering menu of authentic Mexican fare built from fresh ingredients. Nibble on an order of cheese-bedecked chicken nachos ($6.15 full order; $3.75 half) before excavating a hidden city of deep-fried pork tenderloin carnitas from the gustatory layers of mexican white rice, black beans, and guacamole trapped inside flour tortillas ($11.25). The eatery's substantial seafood selection collects oceanic treasures like a hoarding Poseidon, including the Iguanas chimichanga ($19.99), a tortilla stuffed with deep-fried scallops and lobster, all drizzled with cheese. Satisfy your meat tooth with three tacos de carne asada ($9.70) stocked with steak and a choice of garnishes such as black beans, pico de gallo, or salsa picosa.
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.
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.