Since 1974, Viva Zapata’s interior has cloaked diners in rustic comfort, complete with brick walls and wooden beams from a 200-year-old barn. A suit of armor stands guard at the eatery’s entrance, scaring away door-to-door jousters but allowing all others to enter the softly lit dining area bedecked with Mexican tapestries and antiques. Candlelight flickers across wooden tables that support homemade enchiladas, burritos, and marinated steak flanked by grilled peppers and onions. Baskets of complimentary peanuts beckon guests to throw spent shells on the ground as they did in the days before legumes grew naturally in prepackaged canisters, and barrel lamps at the bar illuminate a selection of domestic and imported beers and freshly concocted margaritas.
Helmed by Prasad Chirnomoula—accomplished owner and executive chef of multiple area restaurants—Oaxaca Kitchen infuses palates with the flavors of Mexico. Guests can dig into hanger steak one of two ways--marinated and grilled with jalapeno pan juices or cooked with avocado and maguey leaves—before tippling tequilas from the sizable drink menu. Huevos rancheros and bloody marias make appearances at brunch while live music, like the desire to shout “TGIF!” unironically, crops up on Friday nights.
Fresco's chefs strive to recreate the flavors of Mexico City using fresh ingredients. Diners can bite into fajitas, pork chops with an orange chili sauce, or opt for an entrée such as chicken marinated in coconut rum and baked inside a coconut shell. Rich, red mole sauce simmers with gulf shrimp, and roasted peppers and onions compliment chorizo sausage that's made on-site. House-made drinks made with fresh ingredients are poured at the bar, mixing margaritas from a tequila bar with over 50 different tequilas to choose from.
Bartenders fill shakers with icy pomegranate and Midori margaritas. Servers deliver cast-iron skillets sizzling with spicy chicken fajitas and barbecue-pork-stuffed quesadillas. And in the kitchen, the cooks at Los Mariachis Bar and Grill craft a plethora of Mexican mainstays, including their signature soft tortillas and salsa verde. They pair these specialties with dishes such as crunchy tacos and fish burritos, which they fill with sautéed tilapia and avocado. Housemade fried ice creams finish off meals on a sweet note.
The cuisine isn't the restaurant's only draw. Red walls with colorful paintings of traditional Mexican vases give the eatery a warm atmosphere, which was even featured in the independent film Burial Boys. And, the outdoor patio boasts umbrella-topped tables for dining alfresco while keeping enchiladas out of sight of hungry paratroopers.
To build the menu’s classic Mexican dishes with a southwestern twist, the chefs at Senor Panchos dusted off the recipes that have been in their families for generations. The resulting meals include beef fajitas marinated in a secret blend of spices, and beer-battered fish tacos filled with cabbage, pico de gallo, and chipotle ranch. Chefs smother enchiladas in six different housemade sauces, from a pumpkin seed-based option to the spicy adobo sauce’s agglomeration of ground tomatoes, sautéed onions, guajillo chiles, chile de arbol, and cinnamon. While chefs prepare dishes, diners can catch the latest game on a squad of flat-screen televisions inside the dining room that's also bedecked with a rustic wagon wheel hanging above the tables, and gecko figurines scattered across the walls. During the warmer months, guests can enjoy margaritas in more than 20 flavors out on the patio, where umbrellas shade mosaic-tiled tables and chairs.
The chefs at Acapulcos Mexican Family Restaurant & Cantina aim to cook authentic Mexican dishes unaltered by any Tex-Mex influence. Their recipes reach back generations within the owners' family and several miles into their underground tortilla vaults. Spanish-speaking servers deliver simple combinations of protein or veggies, topped with vibrant sauces: carne asada steak dressed in green pepper and guacamole, tender pork loin in tomatillo sauce, chicken in chocolate mole. The chefs' adherence to tradition doesn't preclude experimentation. Case in point: the dessert burrito, a lightly fried tortilla wrapped around apple-cinnamon or creamy cheesecake filling.
Both the menu and the decor change slightly from location to location?a painting of Mexico here, a tiled mosaic there. Each one, however, has a full bar where bartenders mix margaritas and flat-screen TVs broadcasting sports overhead.