The ruleta wheel at Pancho Villa Mexican Restaurant sends tablefuls of friends into a frenzy when one of the bunch is chosen to take a spin. Landing on the right space in this wheel can grant the entire table free drinks from a selection of specialty margaritas and cocktails. This is just one of the ways the staff amps up the festive atmosphere in the restaurant—there's also karaoke every night Thursday through Sunday. And thanks to the flat screen televisions, patrons can keep an eye on their favorite teams as they face off with rivals or trade secrets for keeping their shoelaces tied.
Patrons come as much for the atmosphere as they do for the menu of chicken flautas, cheese enchiladas, shrimp chimichangas, pork ribs, and other traditional Mexican cuisine. When the weather's nice they can dine outside, where umbrellas protect their entrees from the sun's sticky fingers. Regular lunch specials and the Monticello location's lunch buffet make midday dining even more enticing.
The Mexican Village Too! pillages hunger with a menu loaded with authentic tacos, fajitas, and burritos. Consume culinary mosaics such as the Mexican chalupa, which ensconces a crispy corn tortilla in an avalanche of delectable fillings and speckles the masterpiece with black olives and shredded cheese ($6.95). Recruited for their unparalleled packing abilities, former professional snowball fighters turned seasoned chefs display peaceful consolidation with tightly rolled chimichangas, stuffing a large flour tortilla with meaty fillings and frying the palatable parcel to a crispy golden finish ($9.25 each).
At El Burrito Cubano, a family of epicureans funnels three decades of restaurant experience into a menu of build-your-own burritos and classic sandwiches. The clan's Cuban heritage infuses sandwiches stuffed with roasted pork, ham, swiss cheese, and pickles, which diners may recognize from the lunch menu of one of their other restaurants, Conga Latin Bistro. Brimming with seafood ceviche, curried tilapia, or shrimp creole, the Burrito Marinero summons maritime flavors as vibrant as Poseidon's party yacht. Tropical beverages such as pineapple-mango smoothies and strawberry-melon punch add a dose of sweetness.
Drawing on their love of tequila and Latin street fare, Ryan Burnet and Tim Rooney founded their first Barrio restaurant in 2008. The duo aimed to create a space where chefs pair gourmet Mexican small plates and entrees crafted from organic and local ingredients with more than 150 tequilas. By spring of 2010, Tim and Ryan were running two Barrio locations and the Barrio Taco Truck, which distributes its gourmet grub to summer festival attendees and adrenaline-addicted snowmen.
In fall 2010, Ryan and Tom opened Cocina del Barrio, or "Kitchen of the Neighborhood," which builds upon its sister restaurants' success with a new slate of large plates, salads, and ceviches. Its dining room is adorned in bull-themed artwork and accommodates guests for brunches, lunches, and dinner. A cozier event space comes equipped with a flat-panel television and iPod connection and treats up to 18 visitors with a custom menu of Barrio favorites.
Renato Zagal, originally from Morelos, Mexico, opened Gorditas El Gordo in 2004. In the kitchen of the unassuming restaurant, chefs knead corn flour into masa dough for fresh tortillas, huaraches, sopes, and other vehicles for savory meats and grilled vegetables. Diners choose from fillings such as beef shoulder, pork ribs in red sauce, or longaniza— a Mexican sausage. Mexican sodas, horchata, or refreshing hibiscus water washes it all back.
Cocina Latina has been featured in Mpls.St.Paul and Heavy Table for its authentic and affordable Ecuadorian dishes. Gently dip your taste buds' toes into the menu's waters with a trio of empanadas ($4.50) or maduro con queso, plantains so lovingly fried they make bananas yellow with jealousy ($3.99). Bandera combines rice, goat stew, beef-tripe stew, and shrimp ceviche into an adventurous appetite's dream come true ($11.99), and bandeja latina presents a mix of pork cracklings, fried egg, rice, beans, corn cakes, avocado, and sweet plantains so hearty it will stick to neighbors' ribs ($12.99). Despite the restaurant's mastery of meats, vegetarian options exist, such as plato vegetariano, a four-legged-friendly medley of rice, beans, red potato, avocado, plantain, and cassava root ($9.99). Finicky tykes unimpressed with cultural authenticity can nibble chicken fingers or mac 'n' cheese ($3.99 each).
A renowned chips and salsa bar stocked with eight spicy sauces forged from fresh ingredients winds through Baja Sol Tortilla Grill, where customizable tacos, faijtas, and burritos showcase marinated meats, crisp vegetables, and homemade tortillas. A variety of meat-free, gluten-free, and sentience-free entrees and sides compile the concise menu, and catering services amp up soirees with crowd-pleasing caches of hard-partying quesadillas and churros.