El Chico's culinary artists paint their tortilla canvases with melted cheese and spiced meats to curate a menu of fiesta-worthy Mexican feasts. Sizzling fajitas surf in to tables on hot skillets, announcing their arrival with aromatic waves of seared beef, chicken, shrimp, or baby back ribs ($15.99) before lying out to sunbathe on soft flour tortillas. Forks and knives slam against chili relleno enchiladas ($9.99), which burst like savory piñatas with cheese and mushrooms or beef. Chipotle-wine sauce imbues the chicken burrito ($10.49) with an air of sophistication as it commingles with tender spiced chicken, rice, and frijoles rancheros. Boulders of fajita steak and avocado speckle the corn-tortilla landscapes of three tacos ($9.49), and pork-tamale trios ($9.99) unwrap their husks to reveal elaborate cave art scrawled in a thick sauce of chili con carne.
Even though he was just four years old when his family emigrated from Puebla, Mexico to the United States, Alfredo Aquilar prepares Mexican food as though he’d lived his whole life there. Under his supervision, chefs at Las Cazuelas prepare authentic dishes such as nopalitos salad—sliced cactus marinated overnight and mixed with cilantro and tomatoes. Abuelitas pollo, whose name means “little grandmother’s chicken” in tribute to its inventor, Alfredo’s own grandmother, is a boneless chicken breast topped with a guajillo pepper sauce. In the kitchen, shrimp snap against hot skillets near pots of slowly roiling chipotle sauce. To wash down steaming feasts, customers tote in bottles of wine or bring along tequila to add to complimentary pitchers of nonalcoholic margarita mix served Sunday–Thursday.
Inside the dining area, blue shutters frame murals of South American cathedrals, rolling countrysides, and maps of Mexico. An outdoor patio offers people-watching opportunities, and the second-floor balcony lets you look people in the eye when telling them you know they are actually a bunch of children stacked up under a big coat.
The Adobe Cafe's chefs find a way to accommodate nearly every diner without sacrificing the piquant flavors and aromas attributed to southwestern cuisine. They skillet-sear filet mignon and marinate chicken breasts and duck before tossing the seasoned meat with black beans, sautéed green peppers, and white onions for fajitas. But they also alter their traditional Mexican-inspired fare by substituting ground beef, chorizo, flank steak, and carnitas with seitan and tofu for vegetarians or meat eaters' pet goats. The chefs' use of ranchero sauce, roasted peppers, jerk seasoning, and even barbecue has earned the eatery a number of awards; The Adobe Cafe was recently named Best Southwestern Restaurant in Philadelphia by LocalEats.
Underneath its red awning, Mexico On The Square's large front window bears the words Tacos, Burritos, and Tortas in thick block letters. Inside, the menu shows much of the same: classic Mexican dishes with a foundation of thick, housemade tortillas that envelop savory fillings, such as a carnitas sope's deep-fried pork, refried beans, and pico de gallo. The menu also includes burritos, tortas, and picaditas packed with savory steak, shredded chicken, or veggies. American favorites such as burgers and hoagies offer more familiar bites, and in the morning, omelets and egg platters provide pleasant wake-up calls that are the culinary equivalent of a rooster's soulful saxophone licks.
Los Taquitos de Puebla Restaurant was praised by the Philadelphia Weekly as a destination for great pork, specifically the "succulent cilantro-flecked tacos al pastor." These traditional pork tacos are decorated simply with succulent pineapple and crisp onions. Inside the restaurant’s small and colorful dining room you can order quite a variety of tacos from the menu including some that feature cactus and chihuahua cheese, beef short rib, and smoked pork chop.
Santa Fe Burrito's cooks assemble fresh ingredients daily to fill made-to-order burritos with generous portions of chicken, turkey, shrimp, vegetables, beans, and tofu. Menu options range from traditional burritos with black beans and cheese to ultimate burritos stuffed with Adobo shrimp, chicken chili, or turkey burger.